Monday, January 9, 2017

We mustn’t become land of ‘certified illiterates’

By Citizen

According to a report cited by a renowned academic, Prof Mwesiga Baregu, in an insightful article published in yesterday’s edition of The Citizen on Sunday, literacy rate in Tanzania has fallen from 90.4 in 1986 to 67.8 per cent presently. It is shocking, but the fact is: today we have Form 4 leavers who don’t have the capacity to read, write and do simple arithmetic!

This is worrisome situation, for it looks like we are degenerating into a nation of educated illiterates and semi-literates. It is a pity that the percentage of people who are illiterate is on the rise while the country is boasting increase in enrolment in schools and colleges. It is clear there are problems in the quality of instructions that our young receive from teachers, tutors and lecturers.

Massive enrolment that isn’t matched with an increase in the number of teachers as well as learning and teaching materials is bound to produce low quality products. Successive governments have, since independence in 1961, made efforts to expand education opportunities but then, what are the chances of having quality teaching when we have cases of a single teacher handing a class of 100?

Our schools are also encumbered by poor learning environment. Even as the government strives to ensure every child learns in a furnished classroom, we still have schools across the country where pupils take lessons under trees, seated bricks! Under such a condition, nothing short of a miracle can produce A grade Standard 7 leavers.

Unmotivated teachers

We also have the issue of unmotivated teachers who cannot give their all to ensure their pupils acquire good learning. When a teacher works for years-on-end without promotion; when his low salary is delayed as a matter of course; when he is not paid leave allowances like their counterparts in the civil service, how can we expect him to give his best to the pupils under his charge?

According to a story that appeared in the Saturday, January 7 edition of Mwananchi newspaper, teachers in Shinyanga Municipality are giving a headache to educational authorities there because of their tendency to abandon classes and engage in moonlighting as freelance photographers and motorcycle taxi operators.

This report, which has been confirmed by the municipality’s education officer Victor Emmanuel, is an indicator that Shinyanga is contending with teachers who are least contented with their pay, employees who have lost interest in their career. Only a sector that is desperate can retain such people in the payroll. How do we expect not to produce Standard 7s or even Form 4s who are illiterate with such teachers?

Illiteracy in Tanzania is compounded by the dearth of reading culture. We generally have a population of people who care about reading only when it entails preparing for exams, a tendency which can erode one’s capacity to read and write properly within a decade.

It means, we need a campaign to encourage Tanzanians to develop the love to read for pleasure, otherwise we shall continue to have adult certificate holders of school and college certificate who can neither read nor write.

All these situations points to the fact a lot needs to be done to if we are to have a literate nation. Short of that, we are doomed.