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Where it is cattle and harvest first then school

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IN class six, about 40 mostly pupils, with white-turned brown uniforms and others with ‘yebbo yebbo’ as shoes , squeeze themselves on a bench in the classroom.
Others, with an air of absent mindedness, crane their necks to catch a glimpse of strangers pass by.

Almost half of the pupils are not attendance,and present colleagues say are pupils who stay behind to look after family cattle on given days.
According to the ministry of education and Vocational Training, pupil absenteeism and indiscipline in schools is among the causes of poor performance in national examinations in schools.

And like some other schools in rural Bariadi, district at Sanungi Primary School in , things are not different on the two days I visit.

Consequently, such cases continue to make the region trail in national examinations performances and affecting the future of pupils and students.

According to standard VII national examination results released in December,the region trailed for another year in performance.

A new Shinyanga Regional letter to all district lays out ways on how the region should tackle its education problem including absenteeism and lacking of enough classes. ‘This problem should be over completely with in one or two years.’he ordered.

The region’s Agricultural officer Mashaka Mary says that education, it has been decided, is the only way to also tackle problems of low quality farming and the low living standards of majority of people in Shinyanga. “The RC says that ,in order to change our people,even in the farming practices,we have to concentrate on education” she says.

The region is growing at an annual rate of 3.3 per cent, far above the already worrying national average of 2.9 percent. Its illiteracy levels are at 56 percent and poverty levels 42 percent, majority of who are farmers.

“Its worrying, yet some parents want their children to concentrate on cattle” she says, adding, ‘Imagine we have got cases of parents bribing head teachers so as to indicate that their children are attending school yet its not the case.

She also adds that there are parents who have warned their children not to ever perform well in their national exams. They tell them that.if you perform well in the exams,it will be the beginning of your exit from my home.’she quips

‘This is worrying,’she says. But a number of parents are shunning education in the face of their local government’s efforts.’Some prefer routing them to cattle rearing,its an attitude, its like a culture that only must change.’The Agriculture Officer who has been in the region for 22 years says.

Some got married, others dropped out due to lack of interest in school.

Poor performance consistent
According to the ministry of education official results documents for 2009,some 25,418 students (10,836 girls and 14,582 boys), did not seat for their exams for various reasons, including absenteeism.

The results show that Dar es Salaam, which scored 69.81 percent, maintained its first position nationwide, followed by Arusha (65.68 percent) and Iringa (59.65 percent) respectively.

The standings were the same last year.

Manyara came next (56.36 percent), Ruvuma (56.02 percent), Kagera (55.49 percent), Tanga (55.36 percent), Coast (53.04 percent), Mwanza (51.59 percent) and Morogoro (51.70 percent) followed in that order.

At the bottom positions is Shinyanga among others,whose scores ranged from 31.88 to 47.60 percent.

In the previous year, Shinyanga, Lindi and Mara occupied the last positions in that order.

Local mini Surveys show that while the local government has prioritized education to change parents’ attitude, some of the parents were not interested in their children’s education but instead had prioritised cattle grazing and early marriage.

“During the cotton harvesting season, almost three quarters of the children do not report to school because they are helping parents to harvest or rear cattle” says Dotto Majabala, a parent at Mwamapalala in Bariadi.

“The pupils stay at home during those days and this has affected their studies.’he said

Said he, ‘People are concerned that it is some parents who have notoriety for causing their children’s absenteeism, which is now being reflected in the performance of the region in national exams.’

‘Parents are to blame for the poor grades in national exams.’it’s the attitude.’says Robert Mayugi,a farmer at Malampaka,Maswa.

He points out that many of school going children on the rural sides either spend most of April, May,June either rearing cattle or harvesting cotton instead of class. Records show the region produces 174,000 tons of cotton and significant numbers of families prioritizing cattle rearing.

James Kwaku a village leader at Sanungi in Bariadi , says the cattle craze usually greatly affects academic performance because it leads to high levels of both pupil and teacher absenteeism at school.

Kwaku says that while the parents’ income has been boosted by earnings from sun flower,maize and cattle sales , very few spend it on their children’s education.
“There is an attitude problem because most parents here don’t consider education a priority, they see children, especially girls, as valuable for marriages and boys tending home gardens or producing children,” he says.

In the last three years,the region has been trailing in national exams along side Tabora and some southern regions.

Ms Mashaka Mary,the region’s Agriculture Officer, says while the cash from cotton and cattle sales are a huge boost to the farmers, education is one that a number of parents have to be told about..

Lihepa Peter a teacher laments that the level of absenteeism is extremely high during the harvest days .

He quips that some parents refuse to make any contributions towards their children’s education, believing that government will provide all the necessities.

Way forward

In a bid to avert the poor performance trends, district authorities have taken measures such as engaging local leaders to sensitise parents on the value of educating their children.

The Bariadi District Director Dr Bakirirehi Ferdinard told this writer they expect to prioritise education and control absenteeism and work on the number of classes with on one year or two.

The Shinyanga Regional Commissioner Dr Balile Yohana is calling for implementation of an extraordinary programme towards changing rural people into populations that love education and get access to it.

“Through the local leaders, we should mobilise all children to go to school,’ explains his letter.

They are also sensitising the parents to support their children with uniforms, food and career guidance. The teachers are supposed to be at school when needed while the Police are supposed to implement the rules.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. mkama

    18/11/2010 at 12:37 pm

    Good story Orton, nice observations and flow. What do you mean in the first sentence: ‘…mostly pupils.’?

  2. orton

    26/12/2010 at 11:50 am

    “IN class six, about 40 mostly pupils, with white-turned brown uniforms and others with ‘yebbo yebbo’ as shoes , squeeze themselves on a bench in the classroom.
    Others, with an air of absent mindedness, crane their necks to catch a glimpse of strangers pass by.@……..
    Thanks Mkama…..i meant that most of the pupils have white turned brown shirts…Reread the sentence,with that in mind

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