HakiElimu: The hope for education in Tanzania

| Mary-Jane Matsolo
Mchangani school. Photo by Mary-Jane Matsolo.

Mary-Jane Matsolo recently visited Tanzania and met members of an extraordinary education activist movement called HakiElimu.

HakiElimu means the right to education in Swahili. This is the name of an organisation in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania dedicated to promoting education as a human right. Having an education system tainted with political interference, corruption and mismanagement, the organisation’s work is crucial to the survival of not only the educational system, but also the quality of education.

Teaching in Tanzania is not considered an attractive career. While it used to be a respectable occupation, it is now seen as a wasteland for failed high school graduates. Government introduced a system of sending high school graduates on seminars and workshops in an effort to turn these young graduates into qualified teachers.

HakiElimu took up a campaign against the enrolment of unqualified teachers, because the organisation believes children cannot become teachers.

Another big campaign this organisation is currently working on deals with the number of children passing school after seven years at primary level. After primary school, children go into secondary level being so illiterate, they can’t even write their own names.

Elizabeth Missokia, Executive Director of HakiElimu, told me that the problem is that there is too much political interference in Tanzania where politicians cannot separate politics from development. “Recently eight ministers have been sacked and we’re now seeing a lot of ministers resigning due to the communities being vocal about their dissatisfaction with the education system,” she explained.

HakiElimu has also influenced political parties. By giving out accurate information about the shortcomings in the education department, HakiElimu believes education and politics in Tanzania are inseparable issues. Unless there is democracy and transparency within the education system, people will continue to struggle. Everything is linked to education and, explained one staff member to me, the ruling party did not win this year’s election because of HakiElimu and the role they played in exposing the shortcomings in the education system.

Missokia explained to me that another huge problem in Tanzania is that the government keeps changing the curriculum without retraining teachers. This results in a number of different books being produced depending on which tender deal manufacturers manage to secure in certain districts. This causes books to have a lot of errors. Different companies publish text books with different information.

Another headache within the system is for the first seven years of a learner’s life in primary school, learners are taught in Swahili. After that, the last two years in secondary school are taught in English in a country that has 124 different languages.

Mchangani is a primary and high school. It receives 120 US Dollars towards the purchasing of school materials and stationary every four months. Despite the many challenges, this school is determined to provide quality education to their students. With class rooms that pack up to 110 learners at a time, the only way the teachers can cope is by dividing the class in half. Due to a lack of textbooks, teachers struggle to set assignments.

Marking and providing feedback to each learner is also very difficult. Mchangani’s primary school, however, is one of the few that is overcoming the problem of learners going to high school while still illiterate. This is because of the dedication from the teachers, despite government not recognising their efforts. The teachers have made special arrangements for classes to start at 06:00 until 18:30, without any extra pay. As a result of the extra effort, the high school has seen a steady rise in its pass rate.

The school itself is situated in a poor community that has a high HIV prevalence rate with many learners coming from single parent homes. Many parents do sex work to survive. The school also has a number of orphans that have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.

HakiElimu established a library in the school that is also being used by neigbouring schools. The school does not have enough books in the library though, particularly for the young learners.

HakiElimu offers hope for the future education of Tanzania.

TOPICS:  Education

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