School education in Tanzania

Vailet gets on her bike in the morning and makes her way to school. Together with 44 pupils, she goes to school 7 hours a day. The fact that the class is so small and the quality of teaching so high is not self-evident. Vailet attends a private school.

The Tanzanian school system promotes a two-class society through the strict division into state and private schools and the very different teaching levels associated with this. This is the reason why attending private schools plays such an important role in our activities. Thanks to individual donations and sponsorships, Meteli, Masingisa, David, Mary, Pastor and Dennis can now attend private primary and secondary schools from the Hope Home in addition to Vailet!

The Tanzanian school system is marked by British colonialism.

The children start preschool with “Nursery School”, where they learn writing, reading, mathematics and English. From the age of six they attend primary school and secondary school for seven years. The secondary school comprises a total of four or six school years. After four years, students have to pass a central examination before they can attend the upper school (12th/13th grade). Once they have successfully completed the upper level, they are allowed to study.

Signs of deficiency at state schools

Attending school in Tanzania is a privilege and for many in the poor country the only hope for social advancement. Even though attendance at state primary and secondary schools has been free since 2016, it is an extreme financial burden that poor families with many children are often unable to cope with. Parents have to pay for school uniforms, food, school books, learning materials and school transport from primary school onwards. In addition, the upper grades at state schools continue to be subject to fees. Especially in rural areas, where teacher shortages and lack of money are greatest, many children do not go to school any more. This is especially true for girls. This development is also reflected in Tanzania’s literacy rate, which, according to UNESCO, was only 80.3 percent in 2015 1.

Despite the costs for the families, many state schools lack basic necessities such as books, furniture, drinking water, toilets and hygiene facilities (e.g. for washing hands). Even a warm meal can only be offered by a few schools, so that many pupils have to make do without food the whole day. The quality of teaching in state schools is also declining: Due to the poor pay and the resulting acute shortage of teachers, it is not unusual for a teacher to teach up to 70 pupils in one classroom. In addition, many of the state primary school teachers themselves are still very young, inexperienced, unmotivated and poorly educated.

The effects are particularly noticeable in English lessons: pupils should learn English as early as in primary school, which is not done sufficiently due to a lack of teachers and quality. After all, at secondary schools the entire teaching should be in English. This also rarely happens in state schools. On the one hand, the teachers are not sufficiently qualified, on the other hand, many of the secondary school pupils do not understand the language well enough to follow the English lessons. After all, they lack the basis that should be laid in primary school. Students therefore have little chance of following the subject matter in the end and have little chance of passing the national final exams which entitle them to attend upper secondary school (12th and 13th grade).

Good education is only guaranteed at private schools

Private schools subject to fees are much better equipped than state schools, can pay teachers better and can therefore afford better trained teaching staff. Students are taught there by qualified and motivated teachers (also in English) from first grade onwards and receive a high-quality education that prepares them optimally for intermediate and final examinations. In contrast to the young people at state schools, the majority of private pupils pass these tests. Attending a private school (primary and secondary school) therefore makes a decisive contribution to enabling the children to realise their full potential and gain a perspective for their future. Unfortunately, most Tanzanian families cannot afford the fees for private schools, which are the equivalent of several hundred euros per year.

Young people who do not obtain a university entrance qualification can attend one of the so-called “colleges”, which are also subject to fees, after completing their schooling. In these training centres they are trained in certain subject areas – even if they do not graduate with an academic degree. This applies in particular to skilled trades, but also to training as tour guides or teachers.


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