One of the challenges the country faces in the education sector is how to get each child attending school a desk to sit on and the required textbooks to comfortably engage in the learning process.
For going by media reports, the problem of desks seems to be overwhelming. In the just ended week, we saw troubling pictures of children, crouching or on their knees, their exercise books on the classroom floor, painfully struggling to copy lesson notes from the notice board as their teacher scribbled them out.
Though experts have stated many a time that it is very difficult to expect such children to develop legible handwriting, it is also true that the posture is physically exhausting. It interferes with the children’s learning process.
In short the images of the children on classroom floors imply that the campaigns mounted by the government, NGOs and private individuals to provide desks to all schools must be scaled up if we are to get on top of the problem.
We are relieved that soon, unless something goes seriously wrong, more of our school children will get not only desks, but textbooks too, thanks to the impending release of the radar money.
Last week Tanzania and Britain finally agreed that the billions of shillings relating to the controversial purchase of radar equipment from UK’s BAE Systems will go into educational projects in the country, buying among other items, desks and textbooks.
It was stated that the money will be used to buy textbooks for all 16,000 primary schools in the country, benefiting 8.3 million children.
The emphasis will be placed on the key subjects of Kiswahili, English, Maths and Science.
Besides textbooks for the pupils, the funds will also be used to provide all 175,000 primary school teachers with teachers' guides, syllabi and syllabi guides to help improve their teaching skills.
“Up to £5 million will be spent on the purchase of desks to benefit primary school children living in nine districts where the need for investment in education is considered greatest,” the statement said, adding: “The availability of these materials will support the Government of Tanzania's priority to improve education quality in primary schools.”
But positive as the infusion of the resources is, the desk deficit remains huge, especially when considered against those needing replacement.
That is why two steps must go together-bigger drive for desk funds and close monitoring of the funds raised through institutional and individual efforts, to ensure that they are used for the intended purpose.
For it is true that while efforts by well meaning institutions and individuals have raised millions of shillings towards the campaign, it has also at times proved difficult to ascertain proper use of the funds in ensuring desks among other facilities are acquired.
That is why we welcome the statement by the governments of Tanzania and UK that the procurement of the education facilities will be rigorously and independently monitored to ensure monies are used solely for the benefit of the Tanzanian people.
Secondly, it must be noted that textbooks, teachers’ desks have a lifespan. Therefore a sustainable replacement plan must be put in place now as we make efforts to fill the gap.