by Ben Taylor
Free basic education
Earlier in 2015, a new national education policy was launched, including a commitment that from January 2016, basic education from Standard 1 to Form 4 would become compulsory and would be provided free of charge. This became a major campaign promise in the presidential campaign of the CCM candidate, Dr John Magufuli.
With President Magufuli now in office and showing a new level of commitment to efficiency and good governance, fulfilling the promise of free basic education will be an early test for the new administration.
In particular, the pledge covers both school fees and the contributions (“michango”) demanded of pupils and parents towards building maintenance, desks, examinations, watchmen, and other school running costs. Typically, while school fees may be only TSh 20,000 per year, these other compulsory contributions could be as high as TSh 300,000. “When I say free education, I indeed mean free,” said President Magufuli at the official opening of parliament.
The Ministry of Education has issued a directive to all government schools forbidding them from asking for fees or contributions from pupils and their parents. Circular No.5 specified that “provision of free education means pupils or students will not pay any fee or other contributions that were being provided by parents or guardians before the release of new circular.”
President Magufuli spoke publicly to reassure parents and schools that funds would be available, saying the government had already been making savings elsewhere that would cover the cost.
“The funds for providing free education are being set aside, already we have TSh 131bn. We have planned to transfer these funds directly to all the relevant schools, with copies sent to the Regional and District Commissioners, and to the council Director. This is why we say they will study for free. All the money for capitation grants, money for chalk, money for examinations, money for everything, we are sending it. We will send it each month starting this December. Money for food. I am certain that those being sent the money will use it well, I warn them not to use it badly.”
There are currently just over 10 million children in government primary and secondary schools, according to Zuberi Samataba, the Deputy Permanent Secretary (Education) in the Ministry for Regional Administration and Local Government. Anecdotal reports in the media suggests there is likely to be a significant increase in this number in January, when parents see that fees and contributions have truly been abolished. (The Citizen, The Guardian, BBC)
Pressure on private schools over fees
The government has also been putting pressure on private schools over the fees they charge. A circular (no. 6) was issued requiring all private school operators to submit by December 16th their proposed fees for 2016 for review and approval by government. The schools have also been barred from any fee increases in 2016.
Private schools have warned that they will be forced to close if the government prevents them from setting fees that cover their costs. The Tanzania Association of Non-Government Schools and Colleges said that they would not accept any fee structure if they were not involved in its preparation.
However, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education, Prof Sifuni Mchome, said the government will not bar private schools from increasing fees if they have justifiable reasons. He noted that it has been a tradition of private schools to increase fees at the end of every year without justification. (The Citizen, The East African)
Primary School leaving exam results up
Publication of Primary School leaving exam results saw an increase in the pass rate, up from 57% in 2014 to 68% in 2015. A total of 518,034 pupils passed the exams, out of 763,602 who sat them. The pass rate among boys (72%) was a little higher than for girls (65%).(The Citizen)