There is a disturbing video clip going around social media in Tanzania showing how a group of men (trainee teachers) are beating a single boy with school uniform (student). A formal police investigation report will reveal the whole truth about it. Hearing bad news relating to education is becoming almost a trend- we have had reports on high failure rates in form four exams, we have read learning assessment reports that show that most of our children in primary schools do not learn, etc. In short, education sector in Tanzania is facing a lot of crises.
The recent government administration has flexed its muscles in showing commitment to address issues in education. This include its efforts to have enough desks in schools alongside free education policy- which has increased enrollment rates in standard one. Having desks in schools is a good step. However, whether it is a priority amongst many other issues facing education and individual schools is debatable. I once argued that desks are not necessarily needed in our schools. Recently, I’ve been to a school which has many desks but no classrooms to put all of the available new desks. In that school, the early childhood class pupils sit on the desks outside under a tree while one classroom – out of only two in the entire school – has so many desks that some are piled up at the classroom that accommodates students of standards 3, 4, 5, and 6 together. The kids packed in that very hot classroom have to be in school from 7am to 3pm and there is no school meal. On lunch time, from 12:30pm they are given a break of which they could go home for lunch, but most of them wont find any lunch at home and some stay back in school because their homes are at least one hour walk to school. So most of the kids will be staying hungry till evening when they have dinner at home. Such reprehensible situation underscores the question – what are the priorities in addressing education issues in Tanzania?
That question is a crucial one for every concerned citizen of Tanzania. The impact of poor education and low learning is extremely negative to the country’s development in many aspects. Of course, the positive and high returns on education is a well discussed and accepted fact that I don’t have to re-emphasized here but I want to go further and show how low learning is a security issue.
In International Relations discipline, as I’ve explained before here and here, we have a theory known as New Security Agenda, which bring in non-traditional security issues in the security agenda- such as diseases (epidemics), extremism, and poverty. Securitization refers to the decision of a government to give a certain matter/issue an extraordinary reaction. In this light, our point of reference here is “extraordinary”, so we need to ponder whether, as a country- government, stakeholders, and all concerned citizens, have taken extraordinary actions in addressing education issues in Tanzania. The need to take extraordinary action is because lack of proper education contributes to some of the security issues in the country. For example: Harmful beliefs- which lead to deaths (e.g. the recent killing of researchers in Chamwino) are closely linked to lack of education. Education, for the most part, frees people from such beliefs, which are unfortunately, widespread in Tanzania.
Since the country acknowledges the role of Education as a key weapon in fighting poverty (see MKUKUTA II and Vision 2025), it has to take an extraordinary reaction when such a crucial weapon in its number one war gets messed up.