Dar es Salaam. Secondary schools will be the biggest losers should the World Bank fail to release $300 million (Sh678bn) in funding to the government to improve the quality of learning in the institutions.
The government intended to borrow the money from the bank this financial year, and use it in a key project to build science and technology capabilities among secondary school students.
The project was primed as one that will equip learners with skills required for a modern workforce with capabilities of transforming the country’s economy.
But the project could suffer a setback, as the World Bank is delaying a vote to lend Tanzania the money over the authorities’ move to block pregnant school girls from continuing with their studies.
Improving secondary school girls’ enrollment and competency in science and mathematics was an underlined component in the project and is likely now the main bone of contention between the lender and the government.
The Permanent Secretary in the ministry of education Dr Leonard Akwilapo told The Citizen yesterday that the government was optimistic the reported delay in the funding will be resolved.
“We are aware of the [World Bank’s] decision and we are in discussion with them. It is our hope that we will convince them to release the money,” Dr Akwilapo said in a telephone interview.
However the PS said Tanzania will not relax its decision on barring pregnant girls from school due to pressure from the World Bank.
“Ours is a country built on firm moral foundations this is why we strive to ensure a proper moral upbringing for our children,” said Dr Akwilapo.
It was unclear how long it may take to arrive at an agreement between the two parties over the matter which follows an almost similar recent decision by the World Bank to withhold $50 million (Sh112bn) grant meant for the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) following concerns about provisions in the new Statistics Act.
The latest funding hitch was first reported by eyeonglobaltransparency.net, a news blog which said the World Bank had come under pressure from the US, other unnamed countries and non-governmental organizations to suspend funding for the schools’ project.
A statement from a World Bank source quoted by the blog hinted to continued dialogue with the government to unlock the matter. “The World Bank supports policies that encourage the girl child’s education and make it possible for them to stay in school until they reach their full potential. The economic and social returns for girls finishing their education are very high in every society for the current and future generations,” read the statement posted on the news blog.
It continued: “Working with other partners, the World Bank will continue to advocate for girls’ access to education through our dialogue with the Tanzanian government, and work towards addressing the high rates of adolescent pregnancy – an issue that not only interrupts education, but also significantly contributes to maternal mortality.”
President John Magufuli who first revealed the move to block pregnant girls from school last year at a public rally in Chalinze was widely criticized by civil rights campaigners around the world.
The campaigners protested that the decision would undermine the country’s own interests to tackle poverty and promote gender equality. The World Bank document on the loan says that “pregnancy accounts for about 10 percent of female drop-outs.
The President’s pronouncement saw the shelving of a policy document that had detailed a strategy to combat school pregnancy and keep in school victims who had become pregnant. There has been no report since then to show the effects of the decision on girls in public schools.
The World Bank loan was to fund what is labelled ‘The Secondary Education Quality Improvement Program (SEQUIP). SEQUIP and the Tanzania Statistics Project are among 12 World Bank projects for Tanzania currently under consideration for funding.
SEQUIP aimed at enhancing equitable access to and improve teaching and learning environments in government secondary schools through provision of enough teachers, materials and equipment as well as improving the learning environment, including building of teachers’ houses.
The program would also strengthen the skills of mathematics and science teachers through the provision of in-service training and incentives to ensure that this training translates into improved classroom practice.
To reduce gender and other disparities in education outcomes, the program would develop and implement a teacher training module designed to provide girls and other at-risk students with additional support.