Mpanda/Mufindi. Tanzania designed the Primary Education Development Programme (PEDP) in 1999 for the purpose of attaining global development goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In 2002 the government introduced the capitation grant in primary schools in order to directly fund school-level recurrent expenditures.
The primary aim of the grant was to replace revenue lost to schools because of the abolition of fees in 2002 and to improve the quality of education by making resources available at the school level. The capitation grant was meant to finance the purchase of textbooks and other teaching and learning materials, as well as to fund repairs, administration and examination expenses. The amount each school receives is determined by its pupil population.
Disbursements started in March, 2013. However, it wasn’t until 2016 that the government started to pay capitation grants to schools in a consistent manner. Previously, the disbursements were erratic. The Citizen saw evidence of this in record books and notice boards of the visited schools, showing the amounts received per month and how the funds received were spent.
The grant goes into: teaching equipment (30 per cent), facility repair (30 per cent), examinations (20 per cent), administration (10 per cent) and sports (10 per cent).
However, the original capitation grant policy of allocating $10 per pupil has never been followed. Even if followed, the capitation grants are too small to cover even the cost of learning materials. Actual capitation grant disbursements are less than what is allocated in the budget. Until 2016, capitation grant disbursements were so unpredictable that proper planning was not possible.
The second phase of PEDP set $10 (Sh16,000 the exchange rate existing in the documents) per primary school per child. But the actual allocation was Sh10,000 effectively discounting changes in exchange rates. In addition, Sh4,000 out of the Sh10,000 went to the President’s Office Regional Authority and Local Government (PO-RALG) to pay for textbooks, leaving schools with Sh6,000 per pupil in a year, that is, an average of Sh500 per child per month.
In Mufindi and Mpanda districts, where The Citizen visited, teachers complained that the capitation grant was too small.
A teacher in Mufindi mentioned the amount they receive each month as Sh157,660.82 for teaching and learning materials as well as to fund repairs, administration materials, and examination expenses.
“We’ve to travel to Mafinga to collect the money. It is far and the process involved in obtaining the cash takes time. It takes at least two days and one has to spend a night and it means therefore that we spend some of the same money to pay for accommodation,” said Ms Hilda Balama, Itulavanu (Ikongosi ward, Mufindi District) Primary School head teacher.
She said the money that goes to fund repairs (30 per cent of the total) is only Sh47,388 which she said is too small. “What can you buy with that money?”
She said regulations require them to withdraw the money once it is deposited in their accounts. “At least, if we were allowed to leave it to accumulate for several months it would have been more useful,” she suggested.
Head teachers are required to submit monthly and quarterly financial statements to councils. The funds are categorised - some for buying regular items such as chalks and some for infrastructural repairs that require bigger portions of funds. All these make it difficult for the schools to accumulate the funds. Nyerere Primary School head teacher Emable Kabale said enrolment in his school has tripled in the last two years to 3,022 students from an average of 1,000 students. But the capitation money allocation has not changed.
“The number of students has more than doubled but the amount we receive is the same. We actually need more money than other schools because we also offer food to pupils with disabilities.”
With 173 students, Isupilo Primary School (Ikongosi Mufindi) receives Sh63,884.26 as capitation funds per month. Head teacher Onorata Mwanuke says because the amount is meant to buy supplies, the money gets finished before the end of the month, and they are forced to buy necessary materials such as chalks on credit, accumulating debts in the process.
Msakila Primary School in Kawajense Ward, Mpanda District has 1,600 students and six classrooms. Mr Nahema Beno, the head teacher says: “We need more classrooms but because the money is very little we will give priority to toilets. We only have 11 toilets, we need 73.” He says that if the money allocated for repairs were to be substantial, they would have used it for actual building rather than doing repairs.
Ikonongo Primary School in Ifwagi Ward, Mufindi District Council, located over 30 kilometers from council offices receives Sh107,703.56 monthly. The 10 per cent of the capitation funds which is for administrative matters is only Sh10,777.04 and is expected to cover transport costs and accommodation for the respective teacher going to the council.
Mr Godfrey Mhegele, a teacher at Ikonongo, shares his experience saying it takes them at least two days in Mafinga town to access the funds. He says: “Often, we are forced to write exams on blackboards instead of printing due to insufficient funds.”
Teachers say although the government currently disburses the funds consistently unlike in the past, there is still a month-long-lag that hasn’t been filled. “The amount the school received this month is of last month. September funds were supposed to have come in August.”
Another general concern in Mufindi schools is the location of council offices which is in Mafinga town, which is too far for many schools. And the further the school is from Mafinga town the higher the transaction costs, with implications on the 10 per cent of capitation grant allocated for administration.
The nearest school of Mufindi is 8 kilometres from Mafinga council.
What stakeholders say
Education policy analyst Makambu Mwenezi says by Sh6,000 per month in one year means one student gets an average of Sh500 per month, “how can Sh500 accommodate a pupil, cover administrative costs, buy chalks and print exams in a month?” he queries, saying even if the government used the current exchange rate, the amount would increase to only Sh22,000 per pupil, which he said was far not enough.
He said it was unfortunate the budget on capitation does not consider recommendations by the Controller Auditor General (CAG) report which showed a shortage of 86 per cent in classrooms and 83 per cent shortage in toilets and other infrastructure and facilities such as desks and teachers houses.
Mr Mwenezi advises the government to consider community participation because failing to finance capitation grants is not a problem specific to Tanzania only but it is for almost all developing countries.
“In most of African countries sustenance of about 50 per cent of schools is due to community efforts,” he said citing that the community must be involved in one way or another, adding: “Schools must work with their school committees on how they can solve those problems.”
For his part, Mr Kennedy Bukagile, the Mufindi District Primary Education Officer says to ensure there is no time lag in obtaining the money the government has ensured that every school has an account and the money is deposited directly to those accounts.
He then explains reason why schools are required to withdraw the money before the month ends because: “Due to shortage of funds when the government discovers that an account has money, the understanding is that the district does not need the funds”.
Studies by Twaweza show that since 2013 the average amount received by schools was Sh4,585, and fell dramatically to Sh2,055 in 2015 before it again went up to Sh5,247 in 2016. According to Twaweza, the capitation grant has facilitated higher enrolment rates and helped reduce an acute shortage of teaching and learning materials in schools. But stresses that the capitation grant policy needs to reflect conditions on the ground and the stated amount revised significantly upward for it to lead to any meaningful changes in quality of learning.
Response from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology indicates that the government already sees the need to make positive changes in the programme.
“We are in discussion with the President’s Office Regional Authority and Local Government and the Ministry of Finance and Planning to see how we can increase that amount,” says permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Dr Leonard Akwilapo.