- Published on Sunday, 22 July 2012 01:58
- Written by HERMAN MEZA
- Hits: 1216
OCCUPYING the bottom rung down the ladder in the education sector since i n d e p e n d e n c e , Shinyanga Region is nonetheless endowed with numerous natural resources.
The region is rich in diamond and gold and has fertile land suitable for agriculture with crops like paddy, cotton, tobacco and sorghum thriving very well. Located to the south east of Lake Victoria, Shinyanga is however, grappling with illiteracy, standing at 45 per cent approximately.
It also is facing a serious problem of residents who are non-believers; they are neither Christians nor Muslims. The residents are engrossed in their traditional and cultural beliefs and practices. That being the scenario, it is easy to link the region’s failure to make improvements in the education sector.
The three districts of Kahama, Kishapu and Shinyanga have maintained the last position in Standard Seven National Examinations for the past five decades. That strange performance prompted the Tanzania Gender Networking programme (TGNP) in collaboration with a team of journalists from electronic and print media to conduct a survey with the aim of finding the root cause and make appropriate recommendations.
Available data show that after it was split into two regions, namely Simiyu and Shinyanga, the latter has remained with a population of approximately 1,850,000 people. While the female population stands at 51 per cent, that of men is 49 per cent.
According to Kishapu District Education Officer Mr Anderson Mwalongo, some of the challenges in the education sector include poor teaching and learning, lack of conducive infrastructure, outdated customs and beliefs, poor performance and lack of professional ethics on the part of teachers.
In addition, poor governance at the level of school committees and district councils, has also contributed to poor performance. The team visited several primary and secondary schools in Sogwa, Mwadui - Lohumbo and Mwigumbi wards.
Residents revealed a number of obstacles that contribute to poor performance that denies chances of good opportunities to the present and future generations. It is quite a vicious circle. Members of the community have bad influence on elders, pupils, parents, political and religious leaders.
Poor performance of teachers too, particularly, at primary schools in Sogwa and Maganzo villages is something to look at critically. Out of 10 teachers, for example, only four were hard working, committed to their employment and were accepted by parents and the student community.
The rest did not attend classes and were busy with trivial issues which, unfortunately included drinking. But even then, it would be difficult to take action against careless teachers as no serious supervision from the higher authorities is conducted.
“I cannot supervise my school due to lack of transport,” said Neema Obeda, Sogwa school ward inspector and education coordinator. The inspector-cum- coordinator said she hardly monitors the performance of primary school teachers due to the long distance she must cover to reach the schools.
“I would make trips to the schools if I had my own motorcycle. Otherwise hiring a ‘boda boda’ (motorcycle) means I have to use my own money. This is not possible,” Ms Obeda said. According to the inspector, effective school supervision may cost up to 150,000/- per month in transport.
However, this amount is not being provided by the district council. As such, it is not easy for her to efficiently perform her duties. She has not only failed to monitor the progress of the schools but also take to task the head teachers and teachers, to ensure they comply with the requirements of their profession.
Another bottleneck that hinders progress in the education sector in Shinyanga Region is the problem of loan repayment. Due to availability and accessibility of soft loans to teachers, almost 90 per cent of them have secured the service from commercial banks after receiving guarantee from the District Education Officer and the District Executive Director.
However, due to high interest rates charged by the banks, the teachers’ salaries have also been slashed accordingly. In the end, the net pay has tumbled tremendously, leaving them with almost nothing to take home.
The result is that teachers become frustrated and opt to look for other means of survival, like boda boda and weekly market business, leaving a yawning gap in their desperate schools. In Sogwa and Maganzo villages, parents are also a problem as some of them have forced their children to abandon classes and run errands for them.
It was surprising to find schoolchildren herding cattle instead of going to class. Some were working on their family farms while girls joined their mothers selling food in mama lishe business. Unfortunately, Sukuma people, the indigenous tribe in Shinyanga, value their cattle more than education.
In many circumstances, parents deny their daughters a chance to attend school, hoping that they would get married and bring more cattle home in the form of dowry. Also due to poverty, parents prefer their children to remain home and help with chores.
“We assist our parents in the weekly market business and cattle herding. Our homesteads are reeling in poverty and we cannot just avoid rendering a hand,” said Amana Mgaya, a Form Two student. The lack of learning facilities and equipment is another setback in Shinyanga.
Most primary schools in Kishapu District are without desks, teachers’ houses, classrooms, water, latrines, chalk and text books. “At present we have 243 teachers’ houses, but we need 1,380 more,” said District Education Officer (primary) for Kishapu, Mr Anderson Mwalongo.
He said there are 774 classrooms in 116 primary schools, adding that the actual shortage stands at 1,397 classrooms. He also said schools in the district have 710 pit latrines while the actual demand is 2708 pits.