Annihilating Ignorance – Tanzania?s war against an ?enemy of the nation?

    For the people of Tanzania, educating our people for a sustainable future has been a lifelong preoccupation. Indeed, access to quality education, and empowering people with knowledge, was part of the rationale for the struggle for independence from British colonial rule. No wonder, therefore, that at independence ?ignorance? was proclaimed enemy of the nation together with poverty and diseases. Strategies were laid, plans were drawn, and investments were made to expand education in the country. The nation witnessed unprecedented increase in schools, both primary and secondary, as well as the establishment of the first university. Primary education was made universal and schools were built in every village. Adult education [was introduced] to impart literacy to the many unfortunate adults who did not see the inside of classroom because there were not enough schools.

    The result was high enrollment rates in primary schools and remarkable literacy rates in the country. At the same time the nation was able to increase the number of professionals and technicians in the country. By the mid-1980s, Tanzania was one of the countries in Africa with high literacy rates.

    With the on-set of structural economic reforms in the mid-1980s it became evident that there was need to review of the education system and recommend ways to make further advances. In 1991, the government selected a taskforce to look at the critical problems affecting the education system and came up with a number of proposals on how to create an efficient and effective system. In 1995, an Education and Training Policy was formulated to serve as the framework to implement the recommendations of the taskforce. The policy focused on improving access to education at all levels, providing education equitably, boys and girls being given equal opportunity, providing quality education, and improving management including the financing of education.

    This policy and other subsequent sub-sectoral policies formed the basis for education reforms in Tanzania. In 1997 the government developed the Education Sector Development Program to translate the policy intentions into feasible and coherent development framework. The program is in line with Tanzania?s Development Vision (2025) and The National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty, popularly known as Mkukuta. The Tanzania Development Vision (2025) proposes the elimination of poverty through education by 2025. Tanzania Development Vision (2025) clearly puts forward that education should be treated as a strategic agent for mindset transformation and for the creation of a well-educated nation, sufficiently equipped with the knowledge needed to competently and competitively solve national and regional development challenges.

    Despite our successes, there are still a number of challenges facing our education system. Allow me to mention some of them.

    * Poor performance in science, mathematics and English. * Inadequate science and language laboratories. * Shortage of teaching and learning materials. * Shortage of teachers, particularly for secondary education. * Low enrollment at advanced secondary education. * Shortage of teachers? houses at primary and secondary schools, especially in rural areas.

    [We are taking measures to address these challenges.]
    Emboldened by our successes in secondary education, we have decided to focus on the expansion of university and technical education with stronger emphasis. This is very important because we know our progress as a nation hinges on training a critical mass of qualified, university-educated professionals and technical experts. We are putting final touches to a five-year (2007-2011) Higher and Technical Education Development Program. Encouraging progress has been registered to date. In 1990, we had only three universities in the country, all public. Today, we have about 32 universities and colleges, of which 11 are public and 21 are private. Thanks to policy reforms, the private sector now participates actively in higher education development in the country.

    We have given ourselves the objective of ensuring that 12.5 percent of high school leavers get access to higher education by 2010. To this end we have opened a new university in Dodoma. We want this to be largest University in the country. We just started constructing it. We are using our own limited resources while soliciting support from friends and well wishers wherever they may be.

    Despite the increased enrollment in higher education, the participation rate, meaning the number of cohort in higher education per 1000, has remained very low, at 1.2 percent in 2006/07. We have a big challenge of catching up with our neighbors and peers. I believe the programs we have put in place would take us there if implemented successfully.

    The above is an edited excerpt of the speech given by H.E. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, president of Tanzania, at the African American Institute?s awards gala in New York on Sept. 19.

    By His Excellency Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete