In August 2019, the Government of Tanzania organized field visits in six regions of the country as a lead up to its joint education sector review (JESR). This presented a key opportunity to assess the annual implementation of the targets outlined in the 2017-21 education plan, while observing best practices and challenges from several programs implemented in education institutions.
To gain a holistic overview of the status of the education sector, several schools, including primary, secondary, technical vocational and teacher colleges in both urban and rural areas were visited. The visits were led by JESR teams consisting of representatives from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the Presidents Office for Regional and Local Government (PO-RALG), development partners, civil society organizations, private sector and faith-based organizations.
The JESR teams employed various methods to gather data including focus groups discussions, interviews with beneficiaries, along with document analyses and observations. The data gathered during the visits fed into the joint sector review meeting organized in late September.
The strong emphasis on data collection contributed to developing a reliable evidence base to inform planning and decision making.
Opportunities and challenges
Several positive aspects contribute to improving the quality of education and were observed by stakeholders during the field visits. They included:
Teachers showed a strong commitment to improve children’s learning. Many of them work overtime and teach remedial classes without being remunerated. In schools where teachers were well-supported, their productivity increased and students performed better; proving the strong role teachers play in unleashing children’s learning potential.
This is the case of the Kisimba Primary School in the Mpanda region where today 99% of students passed the primary school leaving examination. Similarly, a reading and writing assessment conducted by EQUIP -T, an education quality improvement program supported by DfID at the school showed that only a small number of children couldn’t read or write in grade 2.
School feeding programs were launched in collaboration with parents in a number of schools. These programs seemed to have a positive impact in improving both students’ attendance and performance. On the other hand, in schools that didn’t offer feeding programs, children showed low levels of concentration and poor classroom behavior.
Additionally, the introduction of the fee-free basic education policy in 2015 has played a key role in encouraging more girls to remain in school and transition to higher levels, and therefore has helped improve gender parity.
Unfortunately, several challenges remain:
An acute shortage of both school infrastructure and teachers was witnessed which led to classes having to be taught in shifts and sometimes outside. For example, at the Kivukoni School in Mpanda, there were only 13 teachers for nearly 1,500 students and only 5 classrooms in the whole school. Similarly, at the Kisimba Primary School, there were some 2,800 children and only 26 teachers. More infrastructure is also needed despite 4 new classrooms having recently been built, bringing the total number of classrooms to only 10.
A number of schools lacked pre-primary classrooms and lessons were taught in standard classrooms without age-appropriate learning materials, making the lessons less interactive and interesting for small children. The lack of learning materials was also observed in secondary schools.
Some districts reported a high level of drop-out rates at the lower-secondary level mainly caused by the long distance to schools, overcrowded classes, early pregnancy, and other factors specific to each region.
To address these challenges, several initiatives were proposed including deploying more teachers, conducting in-service teacher training programs, and constructing additional classrooms and laboratories along with housing for teachers.
Other initiatives included developing national school feeding guidelines to help stakeholders implement programs as well as distributing teaching and learning materials including textbooks in secondary schools.
The benefits of the JESR
The JESR field visits helped partners witness the challenges hampering the quality of education in schools from the ground up. The visits also proved to be a useful platform to exchange ideas, prioritize interventions, and plan for future actions in a collaborative manner.
In addition to providing support to the joint sector review, GPE is supporting Tanzania with a US$90 million grant which will improve the quality of pre-primary, primary and non-formal education. The grant will help strengthen teacher training and professional development, distribute more quality teaching and learning materials to underserved areas and improve planning and management in education.
The benefit of these joint field visits is that they enable me as an official from the Government to try to understand the other people — what do they perceive on the ground? So, I think this is beneficial for the government and for the sake of making improvements in the sector. And because this is done by the education sector committee members, we are able to see things in the right perspective for all of the stakeholders in education.
Even if all of us were living and working in Dar Es Salaam, how many times would we be able to meet informally and have time for a conversation without an agenda? On these visits, we all know why we’re here and what we’re doing. And this is exactly the purpose—seeing what is happening and sharing new ideas.
It is a very collegial process, so you can build relationships. And that’s the most important thing in my job. Building relationships. Especially because I’m not in the country so I have to trust and work through the partners. It’s the relationships that really, really matter. And it takes time to build them.
As government we have done a lot in education, but still there are so many challenges so we need to work together with the partners and with the CSOs to see what the government has done and what are the other things that our partners can advise us how to solve some problems that arise.