Read it and weep

Published on Swahili Street, September 21, 2010.

Anecdotally, it is widely felt that Tanzania’s schools are struggling – despite notable increases in enrollment and an annual budget of over a billion dollars (that’s US, not Hong Kong) for education.

Uwezo – an initiative of Twaweza – decided to measure it and launched their findings just this morning (in the luxury of the Kilimanjaro Kempinski – always a questionable choice for NGO affairs, I feel). Their survey of over 22,000 households and their 42,000 children confirms suspicions. 80 percent of primary school leavers (that is, they have completed all seven years) can read to a level they should have reached in their second year, and maybe higher. And 70 percent of primary school leavers can deal with second year mathematics. 

In other words, 20 percent of primary school leavers can’t read this: Hapo zamani za kale, samaki waliishi nchi kavu. Waliishi kwa kula wadudu kama vile panzi, mende na sisimizi. Siku moja, wadudu hawa walikaa kikao na kupanga namna ya kuwaondoa samaki. Katika kikao chao wengi walicangia. Ikafika zamu ya sisimizi. Sisimizi alisimama na kusema, “umoja ni nguvu na utengano ni udhaifu”. Wote walisimama na kupiga kelele, “samaki wauaweee”. Samaki waliposikia hivi walikimbia na kujificha majini. Hadi hivi leo samaki wanaishi majini.

And 30 percent of those who get past primary can’t work this out: 15 x 4 =

It is a sensitive time for them to do this. Five years ago the NGO HakiElimu found itself proscribed from carrying out any activities in Tanzanian schools after it released a report that was in parts critical of Tanzania’s Primary Education Development Programme. HakiElimu, like Twaweza, was founded by Rakesh Rajani.

The report’s first recommendation is that we stop and think. Hopefully this can be achieved but during the rough and tumble of an election campaign, that may not be so easy. On the other hand the wide range of collaborators, from the Ministry to the private sector, hopefully indicates that findings have already seeped out into the right places and a ruckus can be avoided. But no doubt, turning around such a situation will necessitate some tense conversations to say the least …

… A summary of the report can be found on the Twaweza website, but not the Uwezo site, which tells us today  that the findings will be out later this year. Tech innovations and all that. I hope I can update this very soon.

Update 22 9 10:

The report and summaries are available on at the Tanzania Education Network/Mtandao wa Elimu Tanzania (TEN/MET).

This takes you to the full report, 67 pdf pages (English).

This takes you to a summary of findings, 8 pdf pages (English).

This takes you to a summary of findings, 8 pdf pages (Swahili).

(article’s full text).

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