Our Constitution prescribes education as a basic human right. Are we all, therefore, and the government, in particular, not morally obliged to ensure that every child is given good quality education up to the age of 18?
If we approach this question from the economic and political angle, we are reminded immediately of the country’s enormous natural resource endowments which if properly exploited will make ours one of the richest countries in the world. As has been demonstrated by all nations which have achieved rapid growth and development, education is the key to unlocking our enormous potentials.
Fifty one years after Independence which was welcomed with such great hopes and expectations, Tanzania is yet to begin to deliver on the promise.
This makes it increasingly important for our nation to critically examine and evaluate the challenges facing the educational sector holistically, realistically and comprehensively.
Educational resources such as classrooms and libraries, school supplies and equipment, science laboratories, dormitories, teacher to student ratio, and teacher motivation (salary, accommodation, sponsorship for continued education), are either not enough or non-existent.
At this juncture the stakeholders of the educational sector, and especially teachers should join the debate as technocrats whose voices should not only be heard when they want to embark on a strike.
The stakeholders should not allow the political parties alone to play on the keyboard of people’s emotions since they are in the habit of making promises they cannot always fulfill or formulating some kinds of “logarithmic” theories on the situation in attempts to divert people’s focus.
The first question that arises is: What should be the role and place of education in a developing country like Tanzania?
In attempting to answer the question, we are immediately reminded of the enormous natural resource endowments of our country, which if properly exploited and allocated could make it one of the richest countries in the world.
Yet the severe decline in quality of education is a product of under-funding, inadequate production of qualified teachers, decline in the status and relative remuneration of teachers which impacted negatively on their commitment and productivity.
The situation today is that all our primary and secondary schools are in very poor state and thus generally delivering poor quality education except for a very small number of very expensive private institutions which cater for children from rich families.
There is, therefore, an urgent need for the government to re-order its priorities. Better governance, less corruption, less bloating of public procurement, and friendly and prompt processing of enquiries from potential investors will accelerate development and give us access to greater revenues to revamp the education sector and get back on the development path.