Before a toddler reaches school going age, his or her mind is normally blank or empty, comparable to an empty shell.
The inside of the head normally begins to change, in a remarkable manner, when he starts going to school.
At school, a teacher acts as an industrialist to groom the young blood at tender age on the good and bad, as well as taming him or her to become a responsible adult.
Since the toddlers come from different surroundings back home, it is teacher’s duty to direct them on how best to live in this uncertain world.
Essentially, teachers act as guardians, parents, doctors and even magistrates who when situations arise, are often called upon to solve minor disputes among the pupils.
It is through them that millions of Tanzanians are now literate - with thousands of them holding vital positions in society.
Four, five decades ago, a Standard Four graduate could be trained as a carpenter, a driver, a plumber or a mason.
During the time, education was education, where teachers, themselves educated up to Standard IV or Standard VI at most, took their jobs seriously.
The old timers and the teachers we have today, all share a common interest – one of teaching pupils.
But the prevailing situation is, to the eye of a sober person, an eye sore. Theirs is a case which can appropriately be compared to the surroundings under which doctors and nurses work – a case where a side person or expectant mother may be admitted in hospital when there are no beds to sleep on.
Some people attribute this kind of situation to the government’s inability to cater for its
people due to meagre resources at its coffers. But critics say the situation is brought about by sheer lassez-faire attitude on the part of implementers of government policies.
Imagine you are a nurse and have to sit on the floor to administer an injection to a patient sleeping on a hospital ward’s floor. The government has all along, been giving statistics to show that it has made strides towards provision of education to its citizens, an implementation to its ruling party’s Election Manifestos.
Indeed, nobody with a clear mind , literate or illiterate, can deny the fact that there are now more primary schools- plenty of them – in the whole country, compared to those which existed almost two decades ago.
But critics, especially non governmental organisations (NGOs) have always said the quality of education offered in these schools leaves much to be desired.
“The problem has been on quality - a requirement that should be maintained to enable pupils attain the standard required,” according to Evelyne Mwaimu, a retired school inspector and now coordinator of the Tanga-based NGO, Women and Children Legal Aid Trust (WOLEA).
A student has to prove that he or she has covered the entire syllabus from Standard I to 4 before he or she is allowed to join Standard 5, a policy which was removed in early 70s resulting to nothing less than poor performing during the Std V-VII course.
“People should not be surprised to find that most students in ward secondary schools perform poorly; for having been in a class comprising over 90 pupils in primary school, what do you expect?” she queried.
Outwardly, efforts by the government to sensitize wananchi build ward secondary schools is a move aimed at eliminating illiteracy – a component contained in the CCM Election manifesto.
But implementation of the policy is hard to come by. For example, while pupils leave homes and go to schools where teachers are expected to teach them on various subjects as stipulated in particular syllabuses the children may find that the teachers are, after all ,in many cases not in classes.
A survey conducted in primary schools in Same District, Kilimanjaro Region, depict a sad picture where in most schools visited, not all teachers were at their appointed places of work.
The survey showed that on average, a school whose establishment is eight teachers, had only three teachers.
“This school has seven teachers. But some have gone to Moshi to finalise their loan applications with private financial institutions while two them are attending their sick toddlers,” said a head teacher at a hilly primary school, near the famous Shengena Nature Forest.
In another school, a head teacher said her teachers were simply late; but a parent near the school told the paper that some of the teachers do not report for duty daily because of indebtedness.
“Businessmen who owe some of the teachers money, follow them in schools, so they stay back home to avoid insults or harsh words from the retailers who occasionally supply them with food items”, she said.
Teachers who spoke to this paper on condition of anonymity admitted that most of them absent themselves from their working stations to go and borrow from friends.
According to the teachers, a total of 277 teachers in the district, owe the government over 378,580,436/- in terms of salaries and disturbance allowances since September 2005.
They said since they were transferred from their old working stations, they had not been paid the relevant payments.
“Out of total amount claimed, 212m/- is unpaid salaries for 170 teachers from 2005 to September 20011,” said Aggrey Mchome, one of the teachers.
“A total claim of 166m/- is disturbance allowance for 108 teachers for a period 2009 to 2011.
In an interview recently, Same district Education Officer Octavian Leole admitted that the government was owned by the teachers.
“The Ministry of Local Government and Administration has directed the Kilimanjaro Regional authorities to promptly pay up the debts,” Leole said.
“It all happened that the funds allocated for Same District, had been erroneously routed to other districts,” he explained, adding that a directive had already been issued to the effect that the funds, instead of being returned to the Treasury, should now be sent to Same District.
“TAMISEMI has directed me to inform the teachers in involved to exercise patience since the issue was receiving urgent attention,” he said.
Recently, the government issued a directive countrywide to financial institutions to stop entering into lending contractual agreements with teachers in a bid to ensure teachers remained at their appointed places of work.
According to the government, many teachers who were indebted by the institutions absented themselves from duty for fear of facing the lenders.
But the teachers’ representative body, CWT, said teachers were forced to take loans from the institutions because salaries paid to them was meagre.
Gratian Mkoba CWT President said recently that the association had recommended 100 percent salary rise, 30 percent for those working under difficult conditions and a teaching allowance of 50 percent.