- Published on Tuesday, 28 August 2012 03:13
- Written by Correspondent Said Ameir
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The government is this week, conducting its fifth post independence Population and Housing Census. The main objective of the Population and Housing Census which started on Sunday 26th August, as was in the previous ones, is ‘to contribute to the improvement of quality of life of Tanzanians through the provision of up to date and reliable data for development planning, policy formulation, planning and service delivery as well as for monitoring and evaluating population programs.
Population Censuses in Tanzania date back to the early days of Colonial rule. However it is argued that the demographic data collected before 1957 were no where near ‘Census’ in the true meaning of the word since they lacked key characteristics including designed and printed schedules. The first demographic count was done in Zanzibar in 1910 followed by other two in 1924 and 1931.
In Tanganyika there were African population counts in 1921, 1928 and 1931. In 1948 British colonies of East Africa namely Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika conducted Census under East Africa Statistical Department which was established in 1947. The exercise was done in three phases. The first phase involved only non African population. Phase two was a complete Census of the African population where hut-to-hut visits were made by trained enumerators with printed schedule.
The information compiled in this general enumeration was however confined only to the tribe, sex, age group and marital status of the person enumerated. Phase three was the re-enumeration of selected sample areas where more details on the information on the characteristics of population was obtained. Another Census was conducted in 1952 but involved only non African population with Africans living in urban areas. After 1948 and 1952 Censuses another Census was held in 1957.
As was in the previous Censuses, non African population with their African servants were counted earlier in February while the entire African population was counted in mid August. Unlike today where Census results provide vital demographic information used in policymaking, administration and devising programs to address identified needs and challenges during colonial time censuses were mainly used to collect data of adult population as a means to identify tax payers.
That was why in both population counts of 1910, 1913,1921,1928,1931 as well as censuses of 1948 and 1957 were discriminatory in nature where African population was counted differently from others to easily achieve that goal. Whilst its discriminatory characteristics, the 1957 Census was however the first modern or scientific Census. It was carried out under Statistical Act Cap V of the Law of the High Commission which gave the Director of the East African Statistical Department mandate to carry out all Censuses in the East African Territories.
Since independence United Republic of Tanzania has managed to conduct four Censuses in the years of 1967, 1978, 1988 and 2002. Though the 1967 census was the first since independence but was very successful in terms of its methodology as well as its output (results). The census adhered to most recommendations by United Nations and its Economic Commission for Africa. Additionally, the 1967 census had specific importance as was the first census since United Republic of Tanzania was born following the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 26th April 1964.
During this census, the country was divided into 18,500 Enumeration Areas (EAs) each with a recommended size of about 500 hundred people. The census were conducted on de facto basis, that is to say, the respondents were enumerated at the place where they spend the night of 26/27 August irrespective of their nationality, race or color. It is a normal custom that Censuses are held after every ten years. However some time due to unforeseeable circumstances countries fail to follow this tradition. As you may have noticed above Tanzania is no exception.
The 2012 Census will be the fifth since Independence and held in accordance with Statistical Act, 2002 Cap 351 which gives the responsibility to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in collaboration with Zanzibar Office of the Chief Government Statistician (OCGS) to conduct Population Census in the country. The organization and management of Population and Housing Census in Tanzania has undergone qualitative changes overtime. Today more and more data are captured during censuses than before.
Indeed Census activities have also benefited from the advancement of science and technology from manual data entry and processing in 1967 to the use of computer in 1988 and use of scanning machine and Optical Mark Reader in 2002 (OMR). The 2012 Census’ data processing will also be done using OMR. It must be emphasized here that it has been always central to the government to ensure censuses address fundamental questions namely “what is the census for and for whose need?”(1988 Population and Housing Census: Preliminary Report). Great attention is dedicated to the quality and accuracy of the data.
That is why, for example, during 1978 and 1988 censuses three and two pilot surveys were respectively carried out to improve methodology and overall organization of censuses. For 1978 census, the first was held in January 1977 with the objective of measuring estimated time for completing the draft questionnaire in rural and urban areas, and to identify the nature of problems encountered in asking questions related to age, fertility, mortality, migration and housing condition.
The May survey concentrated on organizational aspect of the census and the third (pilot) was in August-exactly a year before the main census took stock of general preparations for 1978 census. For 1988 census, two pretests were done in January and August 1987. Whereas the January Census was aimed at testing the best design, acceptance and reliability of answers the August one was carried out to test the entire census activities.
Following the best practice approach in conducting census in Tanzania the two censuses achieved high quality results. One of the striking achievements of 1988 census was the fact that unlike the previous censuses all chapters of 1988 census analytical report were done by Tanzanians. The 2002 census had more features than the 1998 but what is more significant with 2002 census was the fact that it was the first time in the history of census in the country to produce district profiles. It can be noted here that in previous censuses only national and regional profiles were produced.
The initiative of producing district profile was in line with the government’s policy of district focused development planning. Therefore it became imperative to introduce district profile to provide planners, at the district level, with realistic and reliable data for social and economic development planning. Hence it was a big achievement! It must be stressed here that all these government efforts of collecting accurate and reliable data are aimed at both enabling government to pursue a more scientific approach to development planning as well as attracting wide usage of data from various stakeholders including researchers in different fields of study. This is the fifth since independence.
It is worth to mention here that the post independence Tanzania has witnessed a long history of successful planning and execution of Population and Housing censuses. Key to these successes was government commitment to involve and collaborate with various stakeholders within government, private sector, development partners as well as entire population. The government is doing the same in preparation for the 26th August census.
With such a history of successful census taking, the experience it has gathered from the past censuses coupled with adaptation of latest technology in population data processing, Tanzania sets to conduct yet the most successful census in its history this year.