On the first International Day of Education: Tanzania should make access to quality education a leading priority
On January 24, 2019 the world marked the first International Day of Education following the proclamation by the United Nations General Assembly to celebrate the role of education for peace and development. As we celebrate the very first international day of education, 262 million children and youth still do not attend school; 617 million children and adolescents cannot read and do basic math; less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school and some four million children and youth refugees are out of school. Their right to education is being violated.
In Tanzania access to education has progressed in budgetary allocations and the government's increasing financial commitment is consistent with the recommendations formulated in 2015 by the Committee on the Convention on the Rights of the Child that advocated for increased budget allocation to education in line with the country’s growing population. Also the Government’s fee-free education policy for the first four years of secondary school has increased enrolment of students to secondary education and encouraged gender parity in enrolment.
Despite the positive developments, the right to education is still faced with numbers of challenges which largely affect children, women and people with disabilities as follows;
Enrolment to school; still few children are enrolled especially in pastoralists communities where formal education is considered less important. Despite the Parliament passing a law that criminalises sexual relationship with girls in primary and secondary schools, in most societies girls end up forced into early marriage instead of being taken to school. Even when they are taken to school, findings shows that children from poor families are three times less likely to attend school than those from the wealthy households.
While it is estimated that 7.9 per cent of Tanzanians are living with disabilities, less than 1 per cent of children in pre-primary, primary and secondary school have disabilities this means that children with disabilities are hardly enrolled to schools. This is also associated with Tanzania having insufficient special schools for persons living with disabilities while the normal schools most do not have environment that support children with disabilities.
Early marriage and teen pregnancy keep girls out of school; teen pregnancy led to almost 3,700 girls dropping out of primary and secondary education in 2016. More than one third of all girls are married by the age of 18. Poverty has been cited as the biggest reason for early marriages and teen pregnancy because girls from poor families are as twice likely to be married early as girls from wealthier homes. The President’s declaration that prohibit Girls to return to school after giving birth have kept many girls out of school.
Poor infrastructures and facilities for both pupils/students and teachers; few classrooms in many schools which make most of primary education on shifts and toilets/toilet holes for pupils and students are not sufficient. Other challenges include shortage of desks and classes, shortage of teachers and shortage of teacher houses. These are mainly caused by increased enrolment following introduction of fee-free education. There is also a problem of insufficiency of grant provided to schools for fee-free education, according to LHRC’s Bi Annual Human Rights Report 2018.
Distance to and from school affects Children; Most public schools are located far away from communities thus making student walk a long distance to and from school and this leads to an increase in school drop out and poor performance. Girl children suffer the most as they fall in the hands of men who want to take advantage of the difficulties to bribe girls in exchange for sex.
Corporal punishment; this also affects access to education as it affects the growth of children both psychologically and physically. In 2018 for instance, several incidences of corporal punishment that led to physical impairments and even deaths to students were reported.
Sexual violence; girl students from all levels of education thus from Primary level to University level face issues of Sexual violence’s and sextortion. Girls student are raped while going to school, sometimes by the teachers and other men who mostly hunt students with promises of gifts.
To ensure quality education to all and achieve goal 4 of the the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, LHRC calls on all right holders that is individuals and communities; duty bearers that is law makers and law enforcers as well stakeholders that is CSOs, development partners, media, religious institutions, academic institutions and corporates to play their active role.
Exceptionally, LHRC would also like to remind the Government to consistently continue ensuring access to quality education for all by doing the following:
- Nullify discriminative statements for example the statement by President Magufuli banning pregnant students from reentry to government schools.
- Amend the law of marriage Act, 1971 and protect girls from child marriages that mean putting the age of marriage to 18 instead of 14 and 15.
- Amend the Education Act, 1978 which allows corporal punishments.
- Increase public awareness and sensitisation on the right to education.
- Improve infrastructures and facilities to accommodate people with disabilities.
- Ensure Justice for women who face sextortion in Universities and other levels of education.
LHRC believes that, access to education is for all people and the right to education should be enjoyed by all without discrimination.
The International Day of Education was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 3, 2018 to celebrate the role of education for peace and development.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Sustainable Development Goal 4 strives to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030. This only means that all people have the right to education. Without inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities for all, countries will not succeed in achieving gender equality and breaking the cycle of poverty that is leaving millions of children, youth and adults behind.