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Broken promises

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My nephew turned nine last December.  He is a class three student at a public school on the outskirts of Tanzania’s capital Dar es Salaam. School hours start at 8am but he has to get to school before 7am day after day before other students grab a few available seats. When he isn’t lucky enough to get one, he sits on the concrete floor as he learns. It makes him tired to write while sitting on the floor, so he gets himself a mud-brick from outside the classroom to use as writing table.

But he is never alone. His class has over 120 students but with only 30 desks.

As a means of ending the desks crisis at his school, the school administration asked each parent to make a contribution of about TShs 15,000 for buying desks at the start of each academic year.

His parents have been paying the money for desks for the past two years now but nothing has changed. Because of the high number of students in his class, ten books that his arithmetic teacher comes to class with are not enough. Students sit in a group of 12 and each group gets one book.

His school was one of the schools built when the government embarked on the Primary Education Development Programme (PEDP). The programme was introduced in 2002 after the United Nations ratified a set of eight objectives – called the Millennium Development Goals at the United Nations Millennium Development Summit in September in 2000. Goal 2 targets to make sure that boys and girls complete primary education.

Tanzania is one of the participants but more than halfway to the 2015 deadline to achieve the goals, it is unlikely that the country will meet them.

The United Nations education wing, UNESCO estimates that school enrolment rate is above 98 percent in the country but recent government estimates show that 30 percent of all children enrolled in primary school fail to finish seven years of primary education. Unfortunately, most of these are girls, who abandon school because of pregnancy, teenage marriages and child labour. Truancy and poverty are also big factors that have increased the dropout rate.

Although the government has removed most contributions in schools, including school fees in primary schools most parents are too poor to afford buying school uniforms.

There is lack of proper plans on the side of the government to ensure that poor children are retained in schools. In the end, most of these children dropout to work for food and some of them live on streets where it is largely unsafe for them. Many get raped.

A report by Amnesty International puts figure of girls driven out of school because of early pregnancy at 14,000 between 2003 and 2006.  The girls are never allowed to go back to school even after giving birth. Society views them as loose and they are sometimes disowned. Men who make them pregnant are let off and there are no records to date showing men who have been put on trial for such acts.

One of the commitments of Primary Education Development Programme was to provide USD 10 per student every year for buying learning materials but my nephew has neither seen the money nor the learning materials.

One of the reasons why my nephew doesn’t get the money could be corruption in education. UNESCO’s 2007 report named “Corrupt schools, Corrupt Universities: What can be done?” concludes from six years of research that funds in Tanzania meant for teachers and school development were being lost within government’s own backyard.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Loy Nabeta

    10/06/2010 at 11:09 am

    I think this calls for more investigation – and who better than yourself as we can see your heart inside the story. Pole for the nephew and all the other kids, but as a journalist, I can only say get off your haunches and get onto the story, man!

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