Monday, September 15, 2014

Education stakeholders blaspheme Kikwete’s plans

As the government is working on formalities to scrap off school fees in all public secondary schools in the country, stakeholders on education sector have revealed that, the move might hit a snag owing to a number of problems which remains unsolved for lack of money. The government’s plan was announced three weeks ago by President Jakaya Kikwete and the move sets ground for Tanzanians to receive free education both in primary and secondary schools in the country. The President acknowledged that a major hurdle for most families is financial constraints. The education stakeholders were contacted with a view to see if the move is applied what could likely be the consequences in terms of schools’ development. Some interviewed stakeholders who reacted over the matter said in Dar es Salaam mid this week said that, due to high running operational costs incurring public schools in the country, even with the current chargeable fees are not enough to cater for the entire needs. The Second Headmaster (Academic) of the Benjamin Mkapa’s Secondary school in Dar es Salaam, Luande Joel said that, the government has failed even to subsidize the amount of money it promised, how the situation could be suppose it scraps off the available paid fees, he queried. He said due to shortage of money, most schools do depend on other sources notably from student’s contributions to cater for other costs of school operational needs. He mentioned such needs as costs for medicines, examinations and laboratory tools for practical. Other expenses he noted are money to buy text books, students’ desks, payments of security guards, money for maintaining school compounds, health and environment care (fumigation) and a reserve for emergency purposes that includes entertainments.  However, he noted that with all these the money paid is not enough and for some instances they have to depend on government’s subsidies which it keeps on promising and has never remitted its money to schools. In view of this, however, he termed the President’s call as being politically motivated and which is not fruitful bearing the fact that, even teachers are not paid, so where would it get money to run schools if fees are removed. He analyzed the figures that revealed that, in his school they spend about Sh. 20 million per year for both mock and national examinations (academic) alone for forms four and six respectively, these he said are used for allowances and costs for stationeries. To cater for other expense that includes salary payments for security guards, medicines, environmental care and other aforementioned needs the school spends about Sh. 25 million in total per year. However, he analyzed that the total fee paid by all 1,800 students is approximately Sh. 36 million per year. The Executive Director of Twaweza organization, Rakesh Rajani noted that, reducing the cost of secondary schooling for the poor is a noble goal. But the President only spoke of removing official school fees, which constitute only a fraction of the actual cost of schooling.  However, he noted that a  typical parent has to pay a large number of official and informal contributions such as books, desks, examinations, construction, security, uniforms, events, and many others that could easily add up to more than Sh. 300,000 per year.  So abolishing the Sh. 20,000 (day student) or Sh. 70,000 (Boarding student) fee will only be a small relief. In contrast, parents would benefit more if the contributions were regulated better and their use was made more transparent.  Other expenses parents have to incur for their children are in boarding schools parents have to buy bedsheets, mattresses, blankets, mosquito nets, utensils, buckets and water where the supply is inadequate, hoes and the prices are dependent on the location's market prices. 

Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete

At a ward secondary schools, some of which are very far, parents would opt to hire a room that would be rented on a monthly or term period. As such the parent would buy a bed and cooking gear, firewood or charcoal and pay the electricity bills. These schools are relatively far away from where students live, therefore parents would have to pay for transport daily bus or bodaboda and contribute food for lunch in kind or  money at a rate fixed by the school.  The Principal Fund Allocation officer of the Tanzania Education Authority (TEA), Anne Mlimuka said, ‘there are a number of effective strategic plans needed to make successful the President’s plan’. She noted that, as the move tend to relieve parents of the great burdens entitled to them bearing the fact that there are many contributions assigned for their children once selected to join secondary schools, the government should clearly know where it would get other sources of money to subsidize. However, she has warned that, politicians should not hijack the idea and drive a motion as a political agenda, added that , but rather should help facilitate the implementation with more seriousness to avoid cheating. She also noted that, the idea is good as it is the obligation of every country in the world to educate its people. She gave an example in mid 1970s during the time of her schooling in secondary school the government used to provide freely necessities such as accommodation, food and transport fare of going and returning back from school during vacations to selected students. “It is just a matter of setting an effective budget plan for the country has enough money to plan for its development” she said adding that, all forms of corruption should be tackled to curb the spread of flow of government fund which is diverted into wrong uses. However, she cited countries like German, Scandinavian countries and other countries in Europe which she said are providing free education to their citizens, and queried why not Tanzania. On her part the Associate Dean and Senior lecturer at a School of Education of the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Dr. Aneth Komba said that, the move by the government has a great potential in it. She said that, the biggest challenge over the matter to be faced by the government is how it could refund the money waived to keep going the schools which to a certain extent have become more dependent on the money paid as fees to run the entire operation for their development Meanwhile, in line with the government’s move,  the ministry of Education and Vocational Training is currently working to review the exorbitant fee structures being charged by private schools in order to make them more affordable to the majority of Tanzanians. The Ministry’s spokesperson Ntambi Bunyanzu said recently that, a consulting firm has been selected through tendering to evaluate the indicative best fee structure for the running schools in the country judging from the kind of education and the facilities being provided by the said schools in the country.  The ministry has also tasked the Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU) to carry the same exercise for the higher learning institutions in the country. The initiative being undertaken by the government is to relieve local scholars of the great burden of the amount of money which they currently pay as school fees and which ironically only few parents in the community manage to afford.

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