Monday, April 30, 2007

Ramping up education

The School of St Jude has been established at a critical time for Tanzanian education. Just when the school was established in 2002, the Tanzanian government was able to remove fees for primary schooling and has welcomed an additional 2.8 million children into primary schools. As you would expect in ANY system, this has put a massive strain on the existing schools and teachers as they have been swamped by new students.

The government has been building schools and training teachers, but teacher/student ratios have risen from 46 to 59 during the transition, as I outline here.

Well-appointed classroom at School of St Jude

Now attention is beginning to turn towards secondary schooling. Last Tuesday, African education experts from 20 countries called on African governments and development agencies to pay greater attention to the large number of children who fail to proceed to secondary school because of limited opportunities. (Reported here).

The experts, who are meeting in Addis Ababa, said African governments need to consolidate the gains made in universal primary education by abolishing school fees for secondary education, investing more in vocational and technical education and job training.

Countries like Tanzania have succeeded in increasing primary school enrolments largely by abolishing school fees and recruiting more teachers. However, the transition rates for children from primary to secondary school remain relatively poor.

Burundi, Mozambique, and Tanzania were cited as countries that have transition rates of below 35 %, meaning less than four out of every 10 children make it to secondary school.

As you know, Gemma is planning to build a secondary school for her kids. Not only will this give them a continuation of the excellent education they have received so far, but it will free up places in the government run secondary schools.

Here in Australia, we really have no idea of what conditions are like in the very poorest countries. I have read blogs of Peace Corps teachers in Tanzania who note that the local teachers often don’t turn up for work, or if they turn up, they hang around socialising with each other and don’t actually go to the classroom. Apparently this is a major and pervasive problem because I read about it in India, too. One solution tried in India was to tie salary to evidence of being at school. In 60 schools, teachers had to ask a student to take a photo of himself/herself along with at least eight other students at the start and end of school, which had to be at least five hours apart.

Over 18 months, the 'camera' schools recorded teacher absence of 22%, against 42% for similar schools not in the camera program. Teachers are paid poorly, given few resources and not supervised – so they barely show their face in the classroom.

Unimaginable for us, but normal in desperately poor countries.

I am hugely grateful that Gemma has the passion and skills to address the huge difficulties in trying to provide excellent education in a third world country.

As she says in her book, it is a million times harder than she anticipated. And SHE was well-prepared by some years teaching in Uganda, and supported by her Tanzanian husband and family. Who else in the world could do what she is doing?

So, if you want to see something different happening in the next generation, give this woman all the support you can. Her teachers turn up every day.

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1 comment:

Megan Bayliss said...

Hi Gillian
I've posted today on my child protection site about World of Children Award.
I would very much like to see St Jude nominated. Can you check the nomination form to see it they fit and nominate them please.