Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Survey reveals literacy shame

By Fariji Msonsa ,The Citizen Reporter

Dar es Salaam. Tanzanian pupils lack basic education skills because the existing education system has failed to deliver; yet, education inequalities persist as children from private schools, urban areas and wealthier families outperform their peers.

This was revealed yesterday when Uwezo Tanzania launched the third annual learning assessment report dubbed “Are Our Children Learning?”

The 2012 research was meant to test basic literacy and numeracy levels among school children between the ages of seven and 16 nationally. It was revealed that by Standard Seven, one out of four children (25 per cent) could not read a Standard Two Kiswahili story book.

Speaking during presentation of the findings, Uwezo coordinator in Tanzania Zaida Mgalla said the performance was poor across the country in all three subjects tested; Kiswahili literacy, English literacy and numeracy where Standard Two materials were used across the grades.

She said, though the government was making efforts to improve education quality in the country, including increased school enrolment, children in Tanzania and East Africa at large were not learning to satisfactory levels.

She noted that many children were being denied the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and expectations they had at the time of joining school.

“Children are not learning as per the expectations they had when enrolling in school, neither does the education they receive offer them a chance to fulfill their dreams,” said Ms Mgalla.

She said, though the performance was poor in all subjects the pupils were tested on, English literacy was significantly poor compared to Kiswahili literacy. She added that there was a slight improvement in mathematics compared to 2011, yet it remained poor.

Only 13 per cent of children in Standard Three could read a Standard Two English story as compared to 26 per cent for a Kiswahili story. But 44 per cent of children in Standard Three could not solve a Standard Two multiplication equation.

On the other hand, Ms Mgalla said that the poor performance revealed during the research could be linked to massive failure of national exams witnessed in the recent past.

Even at the Standard Seven level, half of pupils were not able to read a Standard Two English story and understand it. Eleven per cent could not do a multiplication equation, she said.

But the regional manager for Uwezo East Africa, Ms Sara Ruto, said the situation was almost the same in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda as similar research was done in the other two countries.

She said, in general, 30 per cent of children in the region could not read accurately based on the research evidence.

However, during the discussion, Prof Hermes Mosha, from the University of Dar es Salaam said the quality of teachers, poor learning environment and the poor management at schools were the main contributors to poor learning.

He said, in some schools teachers teach lessons that they do not master or even failed while at school. But lack of essential such as books and learning tools must be addressed.

On the other hand, the head of Twaweza Tanzania Mr Rakesh Rajani learning is a process, and for children few things should be taught at time.

However, the number of lessons even at low levels as standard one has increased, causing a burden to children and difficulties in digesting the material.

On the other hand, he said the education quality in the country has continues deterioration despite the increasing national budget for the sector. But this is a result of poor routing of funds to unproductive areas.

But the director of adult education from the ministry of Education Mr Salum Mnjagila ensuring education quality is not the responsibility of the government alone but the society also have to fulfill its part.