Archive for Education

EDUCATION

by Naomi Rouse

New report highlights effects of free learning
When authorities introduced fee-free education from primary up to Form IV of secondary school, they expected the teacher-pupil ratio to double, from 1:50 to 1:99. But a new study by HakiElimu shows that Grade One enrolment in Dar es Salaam has in fact tripled, with an average of one teacher for 164 pupils.

Unlike previous measures to abolish fees, this move was not accompanied by a teacher recruitment drive. HakiElimu raises concerns about the impact this is having on the quality of education.

The study was conducted in 56 schools from seven districts randomly selected to achieve geographic representation. It aimed to understand implementation of the fee-free basic education policy, and stakeholders’ views on its impact on teaching and learning.

HakiElimu found that there was confusion between basic education and free education, and only 44% of headteachers understood the policy. Receipt of capitation grants was varied, but overall, primary schools received less than they were expecting, and secondary schools received more. Education stakeholders asked the government to respond with a full strategy to address the challenges highlighted in the report. (The Citizen)

Only 27% of Form IV candidates qualify for high school
National Form IV exam results released in January show a modest (2.5%) improvement on previous year’s results. 408,372 students sat the exams, and 70% passed with Division I – IV. However, only 27% of candidates achieved good enough passes (Division I – III) to proceed to Form V. Gender disparities are clear in the results. 51% of candidates were girls, reflecting the progress made in increasing girls’ enrolment. However, girls’ performance lags behind. Only 67% of girls passed (with Division I – IV), compared with 73% of boys. A greater disparity is seen in the higher grades, with only 22% of girls achieving Division I – III compared with 33% of boys.

Results were annulled for 126 candidates who were accused of cheating.

The top 10 schools nationally are: Feza Boys, Shamisiye Boys, Thomas More Machrina, Marian Boys, Marian Girls, St. Aloysius Girls, St. Francis Girls (Mbeya), Kaizirege Junior (Kagera), Kifungilo Girls (Tanga) and Anwarite Girls (Kilimanjaro).

Alfred Shauri (Feza Boys), expressed disbelief and excitement at coming top in the Form IV exams, saying he had worked hard over time, and carefully following the instructions of his teachers. Given his strengths in science, his friends and family are urging him to become and engineer, but he is keen to pursue business and entrepreneurship.
Top girl Cynthia Mchechu, was also overwhelmed with joy, and aspires to become a lawyer specialising in real estate, recognising the lucrative housing market in the country. (The Citizen)

Dar es Salaam achieved its worst results for several years, with 6 of the worst performing schools being from Dar. As head teachers were summoned by the Regional Education Officer to account for the results, some came out publicly out to defend their position, blaming results on factors beyond their control such as long distances, truancy, and shortage of teachers. Other teachers declined to comment, with one saying “I am totally confused with these results.”

One teacher remarked that it was difficult for the calibre of students who were enrolled at the school to pass due to their low pass rates in their Standard Seven examinations. In another school, most students live almost 20 kilometres from the school, which was cited as making it difficult for teachers to monitor students’ behaviour after school hours.

Mock results had also been poor, prompting District Executive Directors to write letters to heads of schools to ‘pull up their socks’ to avoid negative outcomes in the final exams. (Daily News)

Sexual abuse and corporal punishment ‘widespread’ in Tanzania’s schools
Human Rights Watch report calls on UK and other aid donors funding ambitious education programme to put pressure on government to halt abuses. The report found sexual abuse, harassment and corporal punishment to be widespread in schools in Tanzania. The report also found that more than 40% of adolescents in Tanzania were left out of quality lower-secondary education, despite a decision to make this schooling free.

The report, “I Had a Dream to Finish School”: Barriers to Secondary Education in Tanzania, picks up on compulsory pregnancy tests in some areas and expulsion of pregnant girls, as well as the widespread use of “brutal and humiliating forms” of corporal punishment. The report said female students were exposed to widespread sexual harassment, and that male teachers in some schools attempted to persuade or coerce them into sexual relationships.

Tanzania is one of Africa’s largest recipients of aid, and DFID is set to spend £150million on education in Tanzania between 2013 and 2020. HRW called on the UK government to leverage its donor position and call on the Tanzanian government to urgently address the most critical issues exposed in the research, particularly corporal punishment and sexual abuse. (UK Guardian)

Students protest the transfer of their headteacher

Students at Bariadi School assist their fellow student suffering the effects of tear gas (Simiyu news blog http://www.simiyunews.com)

More than 600 students from Bariadi Secondary School, Simiye Region, blocked the main road holding up community activities for several hours in a protest against the transfer of their head teacher. Students tried to march on the District Executive Director’s Office but were prevented by police.

Students had been refusing to enter class since the day before when the transfer of their existing head was announced, saying they did not want to let him go because he was hard-working. They carried banners refusing the new head, and threw rocks at the police before the police arrested and beat some students and released teargas to disperse them. The District Commissioner visited the school to calm the students and asked them to return to class, as their request was granted and the head would not be transferred after all. (Mwananchi)

Government orders submission of pregnancy report
The Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu has ordered the Director of Children to supply a report on pregnancies within one month. Schools are legally required to report the number of schoolgirl pregnancies on a quarterly basis, with head teachers facing possible imprisonment for non-compliance, but Ms Mwalimu challenged colleagues to ask who had followed up to see that reports were actually being submitted as required. She emphasised the importance of following up, to ensure that laws to protect girls from early marriage and pregnancy are being enforced. While stakeholders often point the finger at parents, she held institutions responsible for not following up on implementation of the law, which requires stiffer penalties for men found marrying or impregnating schoolgirls. Tanzania has one of the highest child marriage prevalence rates in the world and according to the 2016 Tanzania Demographic Household Statistics (TDHS), one third of all girls in the country were married when they were still children. (Daily News)

7,000 tertiary students risk expulsion
The Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU) has reviewed student eligibility and published the names of 7,000 students who have been found to have been admitted into programmes that they don’t qualify for. The named students have one week to prove their academic credentials, or risk expulsion. 52 higher learning institutions across the country are affected. (Daily News)

Loan recovery drives up collections
New procedures for deducting loan repayments from salaries have successfully increased collections by the Higher Education Students’ Loans Board (HESLB). Monthly collection has increased from Tsh 3.8bn to TSh 12bn, with the total amount collected over 8 months standing at TSh 49bn. With the new measures, the board is optimistic of further progress, stating “If we proceed with this trend, we are certain that by June we will have collected TSh 100bn for a period of one year since the campaign started. Previously, the board used to collect that amount in ten years”. At the annual rate of TSh 100bn collections, the board will be able to finance the loan issuance budget by between 20 and 25 per cent. Currently, the government funds almost the entire amount required to lend to students from its budget.

Comments

EDUCATION

by Ben Taylor

Anti-fraud drive in higher education reaches back in time
The government’s efforts to put a stop to corruption and fake certificates in the higher education sector has moved in a new direction, after the government started asking all civil servants to provide proof of their identity and qualifications. The exercise seeks to identify those who gained entry into higher education without meeting the full requirements, or those who used a certificate belonging to someone else, so they can be stripped of their qualifications and potentially also their jobs.

“We won’t spare anyone…we will go through all the names from freshers to finalists currently in universities, and graduates. Entry qualifications are very clear so there will be no room for manoeuvring,” said Minister of Education, Prof Joyce Ndalichako.

The National Examination Council (NECTA) issued a statement issued asking Tanzanians with information about people who were using other people’s academic credentials to send details to the council.

It is reported that forgery is a widespread problem especially among civil servants. Such documents are used for admissions in schools, colleges and universities as well as for securing employment. (The Guardian, Daily News)

Beating recorded on smartphone prompts national debate on corporal punishment
A video of several trainee-teachers violently punishing a secondary school pupil in Mbeya has ignited a new debate on the use of such punishments in Tanzanian schools. The video, shot on the mobile phone of another teacher, shows some male teachers throwing the boy to the floor and beating him with sticks or with their fists while others held him down. A female voice can be heard pleading for the teachers to stop. The video was posted on social media, where it circulated widely.

Reports suggest the “punishment” stemmed from unfinished homework that had been issued by one of the trainee teachers.

The footage drew outrage online, with many demanding that the government take action against the culprits. In response, the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Mwigulu Nchemba and the Mbeya Regional Commissioner (RC), Mr Amos Makalla, issued separate statements condemning the act and directing the police to arrest the culprits.

Mr Makalla later reported that the police in Mbeya Region were holding several teachers, including the school’s headmaster, for interrogation, and getting a statement from the student. “I want to assure the public that the police will find the trainee teachers involved in the matter so that they face the full wrath of the law,” he said.

The Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, condemned the corporal punishment, explaining that her ministry did not condone such violent acts against defenceless children.

“We are not saying that children shouldn’t be punished. But what those teachers did amounted to an act of violence against a child and not punishment as such,” she said. “There are regulations on caning students and on particular parts of the body,” she explained, adding that she could not herself bear to watch the entire clip because of the cruelty involved.

A later government statement said the head teacher had been suspended for “not taking action even after being aware of the incident”. (BBC, Daily News, The Guardian, YouTube)

Comments

EDUCATION

by Ben Taylor

Crackdown on under-qualified students in higher education, alleged corruption in student loans
Thousands of university students have been expelled, after a review found that they did not possess the correct qualifications for admission to their courses. In one case – the University of Dodoma (UDOM)’s special teacher training diploma course – over seven thousand students were expelled in a single day, leaving just 382 students in place on the course, less than 5% of the original number.

University of Dodoma (UDOM) administrative offices

University of Dodoma (UDOM) administrative offices

The Minister for Education, Science, Technology and Vocational Training, Prof Joyce Ndalichako, explained that a vetting exercise had established that the 382 students allowed back were the only ones who were actually qualified for admission to the university’s special diploma. The rest had been wrongfully enrolled, she added.

“Since the (admissions) review established that 382 students passed at least two science subjects with divisions I and II … these are the only students who will be allowed to re-join UDOM and complete their studies at the university,” she said.

The special teacher training program was aimed at reducing a shortage of science, mathematics and technology teachers countrywide.

The chairperson of the University of Dodoma Academic Staff Association (UDOMASA), Edson Baradyana, was critical of the government move to expel the students. He put the blame on the government officials who spearheaded the teacher training programme. “This was the government’s plan from the outset and they stated the required qualifications for admission to the programme, so the university should not bear the blame,” he said.

According to Baradyana, there could be some confusion over the grading system used by the government team that carried out the verification exercise. He suggested that those enrolled in first year were admitted using GPA qualifications, but the government had since reverted back to the old division system.

He added that since he had been personally involved in the initial admission process, he could vouch for it. He added that government officials previously did not listen to warnings from UDOM academicians that the teacher training programme was flawed in the first place.

Earlier, it had emerged that 1,000 O-level students were wrongfully enrolled to pursue undergraduate degrees over the past two to three years without passing through A-level education. The parliamentary Social Development and Services Committee announced in the National Assembly that the students were admitted to various universities and colleges in the 2013/2014 academic year contrary to admissions guidelines issued by the state-run Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU).

This news came just a day after President John Magufuli disbanded the TCU’s governing board and sacked or suspended several top commission officials over a related student enrolment scam discovered at the privately-owned St Joseph University in Tanzania. 489 students from St Joseph’s were expelled as a result.

The shadow education minister Susan Lyimo questioned the government’s decision, calling for an explanation from government as to why TCU and the education ministry appeared to have cleared the university of any wrongdoing last year, only to take action now. “Who is going to compensate these students for wasting their time, and what is the fate of these institutions?” she asked

The scandal also spread to the Higher Education Student Loans Board (HESLB), which was accused of issuing loans to “ghost students” and underqualified students.

A special audit, conducted by the Controller and Auditor General (CAG), found that TSh 23bn (£8m) in loans supposedly issued by the HESLB could not be accounted for. This includes loans issued to non-existent students, unrecorded repayments by former students, and accounts showing amounts owed by some students to be half the value of the loans issued.
There are also cases of one student’s name appearing among loan beneficiaries in more than one institution of higher learning, and one bank account being used by more than one student to receive loans from HESLB, according to Minister Ndalichako. A total of 2,619 students with loans totalling TSh 14.4bn appeared to have used the same Form Four index number to receive the loans while with two different colleges, she said.

She directed the board management to close the loopholes in the loans issuance and debt collection systems, and to provide an explanation on 168 suspected fake University of Dar es Salaam students who appeared to have received TSh 531.3m in loans and another 919 from the University of Dodoma who apparently received TSh 2.5bn. Both universities have reported that they had no record of the students.

The audit also found serious weaknesses in HESLB’s procedures for recovering loans from graduated students. Over 100,000 students with loans taken out since 1994 have not begun to repay the loans.

Primary school enrolment soars
President Magufuli announced that the response to the abolishment of school fees had been a massive increase in enrolment, stating that pupil enrolment in Standard 1 has soared from 1,282,000 in 2015 to 1,896,584 pupils in 2016. He reiterated the government’s intention to offer free and quality education to all Tanzanian children, stressing that his administration would make sure that the goal is achieved.

He made the announcement while handing over 60,000 desks to MPs, paid for by the National Assembly reducing its expenditure for four months. He also noted that the rise in enrolment raised new challenges for the sector, notably a shortage of 1,400,000 desks, as well as shortages of classrooms and staff houses.

“It is quite clear that there are many challenges facing the education sector. We are doing everything in our power to resolve them,” he said.

Foundations initiative bears fruit
A new study found that basic Kiswahili literacy among Standard 2 and 3 primary school pupils has improved over the last three years. A pre­liminary report of the National Early Grade Reading Assessment found that targets set for 2015 under the “Big Results Now” initiative had been “met and surpassed”.

The aim was to reduce the number of pupils scoring zero on word read­ing to 26%, and this target was exceeded with only 18% scoring zero in the recent tests. On oral reading fluency, only 16% of pupils scored zero, significantly better than the target of 26%. Similarly, in reading comprehension, only 26% scored zero against the 37% target.

Comments

EDUCATION

by Ben Taylor

School fees abolishment – popular but problematic
A new survey by Twaweza, a non-governmental organisation, has found that the abolishment of school fees and related parental contributions is a highly popular move. In their regular Sauti za Wananchi (Voices of the People) panel survey, Twaweza found that 76% of citizens believe that making education free will improve quality. Further, 88% were confident that the new policy would be implemented on time.

Nevertheless, a significant minority (15%) expressed concern that free education will lead to a surge in enrolment that will stretch resources and lead to a decline in the quality of schooling.

This concern would appear to be born out, at least in part, but evidence from primary schools across the country when the new school-year started in January. The Citizen newspaper reported that enrolment in Standard One had tripled in some schools. One school in Dar es Salaam previously enrolled 250-300 pupils per year, and had planned for around 400 this year anticipating the effect of the school fees’ abolishment, but found itself enrolling over 600 pupils. The school has been forced to cram over 150 pupils into each of four Standard One classrooms. The paper reported similar situations in primary schools nationwide.

Mr George Simbachawene, Minister in the President’s Office for Regional Administration and Local Government, said he had directed all district and regional commissioners to fast-track construction of new classrooms to address local shortages.

Earlier, the government disbursed TSh 18bn (approx. £6m) to schools across the country, as part of TSh 137bn set aside by the government to implement the free education promise, covering the first six months. Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa stated that the government had calculated the amount needed and was comfortable that it could afford the cost of providing free education.

As part of the new policy, the government has promised to cover examination fees and has abolished parental contributions towards school expenses. Parents are still required to cover some costs, including the purchase of school uniforms, exercise books and pens, and medical expenses.

The same Twaweza survey found that nine out of ten parents reported previously paying contributions to school running costs, including school security, tests and desks. 80% reported that this came to under TSh 50,000 per year, while 8% reported that it added up to over TSh 100,000. Half the parents surveyed (49%) said they didn’t think schools were using these contributions for the correct purposes, with many suggesting it was used instead to supplement teachers’ income.

When asked to advise the government on how to best improve the quality of education, 82% focussed on teacher-related issues. This group was split between those who said the main focus should be on monitoring teacher performance (40%) and those who said improving teachers’ pay and conditions should be the priority (32%).

Form Four (O-level) results show small decline
The National Examinations Council released Form Four (O-level) results for students who took the exams late in 2015. The results showed a slight decline in the pass rate, from 70% of students passing in the previous year to 68% this year. Only 25% achieved divisions one to three.

Mathematics had the lowest pass rate by some distance, with only 17% of candidates who attempted the subject passing, down from 20% in 2014. Kiswahili had the highest pass rate after 78% per cent of candidates passed, up from 70% the previous year.

The Minister of Education, Prof. Joyce Ndalichako, said she was not impressed with the results. She was reported as saying that for many years government-run schools had been performing badly.

The Minister said she would begin by inviting head teachers based in Dar es Salaam to a meeting to discuss how the region could set standards for performance.

HakiElimu programme manager for Research and Analysis, Mr Godfrey Bonaventura, argued that ward schools were the places where most of the division fours and failures were produced, so the Minister needed to give them a special focus. He said the schools started taking in students even before they were complete.

“A decade ago, when ward level secondary schools were established, what mattered then was seeing to it that the schools had classrooms, some teachers, toilets and students. But that is not all it takes to provide quality education. A simple visit to such a school today will reveal a sad reality as buildings are in a poor state, they are ill-equipped and staff are demoralised. It’s sad.”

He challenged the government to increase funding in the Education sector, saying the focus should not only be on urban-centred schools but even those in remote areas.

Official data shows that Standard Seven national examination pass average declined from 54% in 2007 to 31% in 2012. Form Four national examination pass rate declined from 90% in 2007 to 43% in 2012, before rising sharply when new grading systems were introduced.

New exam scoring system abandoned
The grade point average (GPA) system, introduced in 2014, will no longer be used to score candidates in O-level and A-level examinations. Instead, the previous “division” system will be reintroduced. This was announced by the Minister of Education and Vocational Training, Prof. Joyce Ndalichako. The Minister said the decision was based on the failure of the National Examinations Council, NECTA, to justify the GPA system. She said many stakeholders did not understand the GPA scores.

Prof. Ndalichako added that the shift to GPA appeared to have resulted in a lowering of the cut-off point for passing exams, leading to many students appearing to have performed better than was truly the case. The move was applauded by education sector specialists, many of whom focussed on how the introduction of GPA had been used to cover up a lowering of standards.

HakiElimu acting director Godfrey Bonaventura said that the GPA grading system was unjustifiable. “We’ve many challenges in the sector that need to be addressed, scheming to hide the declining quality of education through adopting a new grading system without justification was wrong,” he said.

Professor Issa Omari of the Open University of Tanzania said that in some ways the debate was academic, as the GPA and division systems were entirely interchangeable, but that he supported the Minister’s move on the grounds that the division system was well understood by stakeholders in Tanzania.

Prof. Omari emphasised that the key point was the cut-off points for passing examinations, and criticised the previous administration for lowering the standards required for a pass. “We are cheating ourselves and the public by playing around with cut-off points, as students will have a hard time out there in the world of work,” he said.

Executive Secretary of NECTA, Dr Charles Msonde, appealed to education stakeholders to continue working with Necta and advising it, saying this would help the council to improve its performance. He said he welcomed feedback from stakeholders as part of efforts to bring about positive and desirable change in the education sector in general.

Delivering better outcomes in education – what works?
A newly published study by Twaweza has investigated alternative approaches to improving learning outcomes in Tanzania.

The organisation compared students’ learning outcomes between four different interventions: one in which they provided schools with extra resources through capitation (per-pupil) grants, one in which they provided teachers with a bonus based on the performance of their students in an externally administered exam, one in which schools received both programs, and the control group which received no support.

The study was conducted as a randomised controlled trial (RCT), in 350 government-run primary schools in ten districts of Tanzania between 2013 and 2014. The study found that improving delivery of inputs (funding) to schools had no significant impact on learning outcomes, and nor did providing bonus payments to teachers. However, in schools where both interventions were implemented concurrently, there was a significant positive impact on learning outcomes.

The research, known as KiuFunza (Thirst for Learning), was carried out in partnership with Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology, the Ministry of Education and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), a US-based research organisation.

Comments

EDUCATION

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)

Comments (1)

EDUCATION

by Ben Taylor

Are children learning?
Only 1 in 5 children in the third year of Primary School in East Africa have acquired the literacy and numeracy skills expected of children in the second year. This was the main conclusion of the latest annual Uwezo survey of learning outcomes among primary school-age chil­dren in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

The survey also found that only 24% of children completing seven years of primary schooling have mastered Standard 2 reading and numeracy skills.

Mbeya Urban district in Tanzania was the best performer, but Kenyan districts outperformed the region in overall assessment. Most Tanzanian districts ranked in the middle – below Kenya but above Uganda.

The survey found that poverty was a major factor in learning outcomes, with children from wealthier households performing substantially bet­ter than those from poorer households.

Data was collected on learning outcomes, school conditions and house­holds in 2013, including testing of over 325,000 children aged 6 years to 16 years in 150,000 households in 366 districts.

Shortage of space in Form 5 as O-level results improve
Around 16,000 students will miss out on places in Form 5 this year as record numbers achieved qualifying grades. Of just under 200,000 stu­dents who sat for O-levels, over 70,000 qualified for A-level admission. However, there are only 55,000 spaces available.

An editorial in the Daily News described the situation as “a colos­sal waste”. “It is high time the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training and other responsible stakeholders seriously addressed this problem of shortage of Form Five slots in public secondary schools. Frankly speaking, something must be done – and fast – to find a solu­tion to this very challenging situation.”

This is the second year for such a shortage to emerge, following a major change to how O-level candidates are graded. The new grading scheme, introduced from 2013, substantially lowered both the standard required to achieve a grade in each subject and the number of subject passes required in order to qualify for A-level entry.

Parents prefer English
A new survey by Twaweza, a non-governmental organisation, found that 89% of parents said their children found it difficult to switch from Swahili as the medium of instruction in Primary School to English in Secondary School. When asked what measures should be put in place to address this challenge, 63% stated that Primary Schools should adopt English as the language of instruction.

In contrast, the new Education Policy, launched earlier this year, signi­fied a shift to make Swahili the language used through Primary and Secondary schooling.

Death caused by caning reignites debate on corporal punishment
The death of a Secondary School pupil in Kiteto district, after he was punished for failing a Swahili test, prompted a fresh debate on corpo­ral punishment in Tanzanian schools. The boy, a Form 2 student, was reportedly given 12 strokes of the cane by his teachers, after failing a Swahili test. He died soon after.
“We have for years urged the government to abolish this form of pun­ishment in schools because it’s against children’s rights, but we have been ignored,” said Dr Hellen Kijo-Bisimba, Executive Director of the Legal and Human Rights Centre.
Coordinator of the Tanzania Education Network (TEN/MET), Cathleen Sekwao, said local NGOs, UN agencies and others have been campaign­ing against lashes to no avail. “Though we want the punishment elimi­nated, communities are letting us down because some parents think caning a child is the right thing to do.” (The Citizen)

Comments

SWAHILI AS THE MEDIUM OF INSTRUCTION IN SCHOOLS

by Ben Taylor

As part of the recently launched new education policy, the Tanzanian government announced that the language of instruction in secondary schools would switch from English to Swahili. The change has drawn both criticism and support from commentators. The following are excerpts:

Dr Aikande Kwayu
The emphasis on Kiswahili as the language of instruction (in addition to properly teaching English) is a wise move highlighting the true spirit of Tanzania. Research and literature has it that the language of instruction should be what is spoken at home – in our case, Kiswahili. Teaching our kids in Kiswahili will improve learning for the masses.

Ali A. Mufuruki, Chair of CEO Roundtable, Dar es Salaam
The changes were not made in good faith, nor was enough preparation done to make sure all systems are in place. We are going to put current and future generations of Tanzanians at a disadvantage from which they will not be able to recover easily. The arguments made by the proponents of the new policy are devoid of logic and paint a picture of a people who have very little or no understanding that we live today in a globalised world, where Tanzanians do not have the luxury of being able to create their own reality that can be kept safe from the effects of competitive forces that are a dominant feature of today’s life.

The change may be nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction of policy makers to the steadily falling pass rates at both primary and secondary schools over the past twenty years and is therefore a wrong solution to the problem. Just as you cannot cure a gangrene wound by applying aspirin to it, you cannot turn around Tanzania’s failing education system by replacing English with Swahili as a medium of instruction. I am very curious to see if those responsible for this policy change are going to move their children from the private English Medium schools to the Kiswahili-only public schools where the rest of the country’s children go.

Prof. Kitila Mkumbo, University of Dar es Salaam
The decision to recognise and promote both Kiswahili and English languages in teaching and learning seems to have been reached as a compromise to please the two sides of the debate. As a consequence, I can bet that English will continue to be used as a medium of instruction because it still is largely associated with ‘being learned’ and because it is much more available in the literary world than Kiswahili. Furthermore, the case for Kiswahili as a medium of instruction has always been made on the basis of cultural activism and romanticism, rather than on solid evidence-based scholarly discourse.

Prof. Karim Hirji
The manner in which the issue language of instruction is being posed and discussed is a diversion from much more fundamental issues. The primary requirement for Tanzania is to have a genuinely sustainable, implementable and integrated economic policy (agriculture, industry, commerce, transportation, services and communication). The nature of the education system (at all levels) has to reflect and be embedded within the context of that policy.

In the present foundational condition, it is possible to utilize either a national, local or foreign language to achieve the goals of imparting effective, high quality education and raising the standard of living, health status and general level of well-being of the broad masses of the people. And in the absence of such a foundational condition, you will end up with a mass of unemployed, unemployable youth (including graduates), generalized poverty and social unrest.

Whether you know your physics well in Swahili or English is immaterial so long as you are out in the street having nothing to do. Even a bilingual system of instruction is feasible in that context. Just consider the history of education systems and nations throughout the world and you will see the validity of my assertions. Let us not discuss the issue of language of instruction in isolation from that of economic policy and the nature of the education system as a whole.

Personally I am in favour of utilization of Swahili as the medium of instruction throughout the East African Community. But given the chaotic, fragmented and externally dominated economic policies that prevail at present, I do not think that goal is easy to achieve. Whatever language we use in schools, our streets will be flooded with semi­literate, literate and well-qualified youth selling socks and what not.”

Chambi Chachage, PhD Student, Harvard University
We all want Tanzanians to be fluent in English and Kiswahili – and, if possible, other languages too, both local and foreign. How can we achieve that when we are “backward” as far as such bilingualism – let alone multilingualism – is concerned. I took Mathematics in both O-Level and A-level in English but some of our teachers used Kiswahili when they realized we did not understand them. We could communicate – and understand each other – easily in Kiswahili by saying, for example, ‘diferentieti’ and ‘intagreti’, which were our own ‘Swahilized’ versions of the English words. For us what mattered was communicat­ing and understanding.

I support the usage of Kiswahili as the language of instruction simply because it facilitates communication relatively more easily and con­nects with our environment. At the same time I support the effective teaching of English as a second language to make us really capable of using it. What we now have in the classroom is what language experts call ‘subtractive bilingualism’ in contrast to ‘additive bilingualism’. Put simply, the former makes one end up knowing little Kiswahili and very little English, but the latter makes one gain both ways – Knowing more Kiswahili as well as English. More significantly, the former subtracts knowledge and the latter adds knowledge through effective communication. So, why should we get ‘lost in translation’? Let us teach English and teach in Kiswahili. Both can be done.

Biyi Bandele
Until every single mathematical theorem and every single theory in astrophysics and cosmology, [and] in medicine and chemistry, and in every single sphere of knowledge, is written or available in translation in Kiswahili and Igbo and every other African language, I personally will always reject and abhor that easy [and easily comforting, xenophobic language] that dresses itself in the ultimately empty and cheaply sentimental rhetoric of noble nationalism.

Richard Mabala
People who advocate the use of Kiswahili are not saying that Tanzanians have failed to master English. We are saying that if people do not have enough English to start with in secondary school, to use it as a medium of instruction is self-defeating as they do not have enough language to address other subjects. In fact we are saying that if they are taught English well, they will have better English than if it is used as a medium of instruction.

Why are those who argue for English prepared to continue putting the majority of our students today … not tomorrow, not in 25 years time … through four years of not understanding what they are taught. Everyone knows that language alone is not the issue – there are many, many more – but it is the point of entry to comprehension of whatever little teaching they may or may not get.”

Comments

EDUCATION

by Ben Taylor

New education policy
The government has officially launched a new Education Policy. National examinations for primary school leavers will be abolished, and “compulsory basic education” will be extended to include four years at secondary level. This means that students will sit their final examination after 11 years in primary and secondary school, School fees for public secondary schools will be abolished. The use of different text books will also be abolished, with a single textbook for each subject.

President Kikwete said the new policy was in line with Vision 2025 and takes into account global economic, social and technological changes. “In the next seven years, we will have built capacity whereby every child who starts Standard One will reach Form Four.”

It has been widely reported that the policy makes Kiswahili the medium of instruction from primary school to university level, thereby ditching English —which has dominated Tanzania’s education system from secondary to tertiary level. However, the policy also states that the use of English as medium of instruction will continue. [For more on the apparent change in the language of instruction in secondary schooling, see separate article in this issue.]

O-level results announced
The National Examinations Council of Tanzania (Necta) released the 2014 Certificate of Secondary Education Examination (O-level) results showing that performance has improved by 10% since 2013. Private schools dominate the list of best performers and no public school appears in the top ten.

297,365 students registered for the examinations and 196,805 (68%) passed. In 2013, 235,227 students (58% of those who sat the exams) passed. Performance varied greatly between subjects. 69.7% of those who took Swahili passed, more than in any other subject. Only 19.6% of those who took Mathematics passed.

The grading system has changed from the previous division system, where pupils were assigned to Division I, II, III, IV or fail, based on their performance across seven subjects. The new grade point average (GPA) system follows other changes introduced in 2013, which reduced the exam scores required to achieve a grade A from 81% to 75%. A meaningful comparison of exam results from 2013 and 2014 with results from earlier years is impossible. (The Citizen)

Early years learning
The Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda, launched a national programme to raise the level of reading, writing and numeracy skills among Standard One and Two pupils. Commissioner for Education Eustella Bhalalusesa said the programme will attract TSh 150bn – to be injected directly to education funding. All preparations for the programme, including the syllabus for Standard One and Two and the teacher’s guide, are com­plete.

The programme is being financed by the Global Partnership for Education, the UK Department for International Development, UNICEF and USAID. (Daily News)

Comments

EDUCATION

by Ben Taylor

Secondary School fees to be scrapped
President Kikwete announced in August that his government plans to waive school fees for public Ordinary Level secondary education. This will mean Tanzanians receive free education both in primary and secondary school, save for the last two years of Advanced secondary education. The president made the announcement at a meeting with students and staff of Mzumbe University in Morogoro Region. “At the moment we are working on scrapping school fees in all public second­ary schools as a way of ensuring that every child who joins standard one reaches form four.”

Government changes policy on school books publishing
The government has resumed producing and publishing school text books after claims that private firms have failed to produce quality materials. The duties will now be handled by the government itself through the Tanzania Institute of Education (TIE) from September 2014.

Announcing the Minister of Education’s decision, Commissioner for Education Eustella Bhalalusesa said “Following the policy changes, the Tanzania Institute of Education (TIE) will produce and publish text­books (one book for every class and every lesson) for Early Education level, Primary, Secondary and Teachers’ Training”.

Primary School exam results
The National Examination Council of Tanzania (NECTA) on Wednesday announced improved performance by 6.3 % for Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) held in September.
NECTA Executive Secretary Charles Msonde said that of the 792,122 pupils who sat for the examination, 451,392 passed. The pass rate in 2013 was 50%, which rose to 57% this year.

Drop in Form Four entry
The number of students sitting the National Form Four Examinations has dramatically reduced from 427,679 last year to 297,488 this year as a result of many students having repeated in Form Two. Deputy Minister for Education Jenista Muhagama said that the decline was a result of restoring the Form Two National Examinations which at one point had been cancelled. It is expected that more candidates will sit for the 2015 exams to fill this year’s gap.

Comments

EDUCATION

by Ben Taylor

Form 6 exam results surprise
Form 6 (A-level) exam results for 2014 were released in July, showing record high pass rates. The pass rate for all candidates was 96%, up from 87% in 2013. Those who achieved the best passes – Division 1 – numbered 3,773, up ten-fold from 325 the previous year. 27% of candidates achieved Division 2 passes, up from 12%.

Representatives of the Tanzania Teachers Union (TTU) greeted the results with some scepticism. Ezekiah Oluoch, TTU Deputy Secretary General, called for the results to be investigated, arguing that the input was very different from the output. ‘I’m finding it very difficult to believe the results, majority of schools have no science laboratories, plus we are currently experiencing a shortage of over 5,000 science teachers for Form Five and Six level. We need to inquire a number of things, like the kind of standardisation used this year and the nature of the questions asked. Also was the marking system and grading “massaged”.’

The much-improved results are possibly linked to the introduction of a new grading system. The scores required for Grades A, B, etc. have been lowered. But students now need a better combination of grades in individual subjects in order to achieve Division 1, etc.

Previously, a score of 81% or higher on a particular exam was required to achieve Grade A in that subject, now a score of 75% is sufficient. In past years, a score of between 60% and 80% achieved a Grade B, while now a score between 50% and 75% achieves that grade. For an overall Division 1 pass, 9 points (Grade A=1, B=2, C=3, etc.) from three subjects used to be required.. This has now been reduced to a maximum of 7 points for Division 1. (The Citizen)

Low employability of university graduates
A survey of employers across East Africa has found widespread dis­satisfaction at the employability of university graduates. The study, by the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), polled employers in five countries.

In Tanzania, the study found that 61% of graduates lacked basic job market skills, compared to 63% in Uganda, 55% in Burundi, 52% in Rwanda and 51% in Kenya.

The report claims that the quality of university education has fallen as student numbers have risen, blaming the lack of adequate teaching staff. (The East African)

Comments