July 31, 2015
By Deogratias Mushi originally posted on DailyNews
IN May, this year, I attended the climax of Education Week in Dodoma, where President Jakaya Kikwete insisted that ward secondary schools countrywide stand a better chance of recording outstanding results in the national examinations, if they solve some of the problems they face.
One of the problems that the president called for the ministry of Education and Vocational Training to address was the need to build enough classrooms in these schools, to enable students to study comfortably and avoid the temptation of dodging classes because the learning environment is not conducive.
To demonstrate how these schools can improve performance, President Kikwete gave an example of Igowole Secondary School in Mufindi District, Iringa Region, which emerged among the best performers in the 2014 Advanced Certificate of Secondary Education Examination (ACSEE) results.
He emphasised the need for more efforts to sustain the good pace, urging education authorities in the country and the management of ward schools to build enough classrooms that accommodate all students, creating an environment that helps them to study comfortably.
Such schools have been facing some problems which hinder students from attending classes effectively, especially girls and that is why organisations like Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) has launched a campaign to make sure those girls are assisted to attend class without problems.
According to TAMWA’s outgoing Executive Director, Ms Valerie Msoka, girls studying in ward schools are discouraged from continuing with their studies especially when they don’t have enough classrooms or enough desks to sit on while following what the teacher says.
It is in such circumstances that girls in ward secondary schools can be tempted to establish relationships with bodaboda drivers who eventually make them pregnant, thus ending their dreams to acquire further education.
Recently, there was an advert sponsored by TAMWA which was running on some TV stations, portraying a girl who, because of abject poverty and poor learning environment, is offered a ride by a man riding a motorbike and after some days, she gets pregnant, then she starts crying without knowing what to do.
These are some of the issues that the society needs to address when struggling to look for solutions facing girls studying in such schools. Surrounding villages are called upon to contribute some money to construct enough classrooms.
Decision makers need to understand that inadequate and unreliable learning environment for girl students in various cities and towns in Tanzania has been one of the chronic problems which hinder their academic progress.
It also causes some other social problems such as poor academic performance, teen pregnancies and other delinquencies such as students fighting with daladala conductors.
Girl students take many risks including getting punished when they are late, as well as personal safety, as they have to wake up very early and come home very late.
The community at large should encourage them to continue with their studies, while efforts to build enough classrooms are progressing.
It is undeniable fact that such students study with divided attention, as they are unable to follow up their teachers because they are at times crowded in one learning lecture hall.
When it rains in some schools, things get worse because some classrooms lack windows. In some ward schools, students lack adequate time and motivation for doing their homework and doing their personal academic revision, simply because they do not have decent areas to carry out such activities.
Poor nutrition and health among school-girls contribute to the inefficiency of their educational system. Girls and generally students with diminished cognitive abilities and sensory impairments naturally perform less well and are more likely to repeat grades and to drop out of school than children who are not impaired.
If classrooms have better facilities, they can help students perform better. Decision makers also need to understand that there is a persistent decline in Science, Mathematics and English subjects performance to girl students in ward schools.
Poor performance in the Form Four national examinations in the last two years reveals that most of the ward secondary schools students and especially girls do not have adequate teaching and learning resources including competent teachers.
There is a need to take radical measures of ensuring that there is adequate investment in ward secondary schools to avoid such performance in future.
Parents, with whom the government shares responsibility in running ward schools at times complain that they are too poor to put in an extra buck for the schools.
However, as good citizens, ward school challenges are a burden for everyone as they are an alternative for thousands of boys and girls who would otherwise be loitering after missing a chance to proceed to secondary school.
In the world of modern communications technology, most ward schools where girls study are deprived of the many benefits of the information including access to TV, radio newspapers and others.
Nobody talks about current affairs and the world seems to begin and end in the ward where a school stands. Is anyone interested in hiring these youth who have subsequently dropped out of school? Where do these thousands of boys and girls go?
Once those pertinent questions are answered, we might agree that by introducing a different mode of learning, even if it means cutting the schools off from the ‘O’ Level curriculum, a new dawn for a prosperous future would be ushered in.
A ward school can be a centre of excellence, post primary or polytechnic for agromechanics, agriculture and animal husbandry, carpentry, tailoring, business entrepreneurship, food and nutrition, masonry, ICT, etc.
Certainly, students will like the set-up as exams will be based on what is actually taught. In the end, everyone who finishes from these schools goes home with a certificate that could help them get employed or they could settle for self employment.
To start with, model schools may be set up with the aid of district councils where all development money is poured into by the central government.
Then parents will be asked to participate as such projects are supposed to be of benefit to their children. All this comes as a second thought for ward schools which are absorbing thousands of youth but with very little or no viable end results.
Tanzanians are talented. The youth will be meaningful to the nation only when we accept constructive criticisms and adapt to changes.
It is encouraging to note that following the public outcry over lack of hostels in Community (ward) Secondary Schools, the Tanzania Education Authority (TEA) has decided to throw its weight into constructing the facility for female students.
Though the initiative started way back in 2011, the authority has stated that the programme would continue up to 2015 whereby a total of Sh 2.3 billion is expected to be raised and spent to accomplish the need.
TEA Information and Communication Manager Sylvia Lupembe, was quoted recently saying that the amount to be raised would also benefit other educational institutions, including those serving people with disability and teachers colleges.
Almost 80 per cent of the TEA activities is driven to ward secondary schools which are remotely located in the vicinity of the urban centres and the aim is to focus female hostels.
However, she stated other problems are that most female students do not get enough time for studies if they stay at home as they are kept busy with their parents to contend with some domestic work.
Another reasons she cited is the increased pregnancies which leads many of them to drop out from schools, she said in an exclusive interview when asked by this reporter who wanted to know why have they mostly concentrated on women and she said that, for the last three years, TEA has financed 119 schools and institutions with the educational facilities which include teaching materials and other learning materials.
So far, TEA has spent over 1.9 billion shillings to support the purchase of the tools and supplied them to the respective colleges and schools, a move that helped to solve some of the problems faced.