#EMPOWERINGYOUTH: Riddle- Centralisation versus decentralisation in education

Monday September 16 2019


By Khalifa Said @ThatBoyKhalifax ksaid@tz.nationmedia.com

Dar es Salaam. The present interference between the ministry of Education and that of the President’s Office (Tamisemi) has been named as one of the daunting challenges facing the country’s education system, leading to quality deterioration. 

This is a fact that the 2014 Education and Training Policy  acknowledges, stating that there has been rocrastination in  implementing the decentralisation and devolution exercises in the management of the education sector. 

According to the constitution, the purpose of having local government authorities is to help devolve power to the people, a practice that has been proven to facilitate the authorities’ accountability in the implementation of its duties in the respective areas.  The country’s local government laws give the mandate of managing the education sector to the municipalities in the section 55 of the Local Governments (Urban Authorities) Act of 1982. 

It was against this backdrop that the fourth-phase government of President Jakaya Kikwete, through Government Gazette Nos. 494 and 494A of 2010, decentralised and placed nursery, primary and secondary education under the President’s Office (Regional Administration and Local Government: Tamisemi), leaving the ministry of Education, Science and Technology (then known as ministry of Education and Vocational Training) with education policy-related issues.  

Destructive interference

But numerous challenges have been hampering implementation of these arrangements. This has raised concerns among stakeholders. Previous government-sponsored assessments have confirmed that the management of education and training at the district and regional levels is done by various authorities guided by different regulations as well as by Tamisemi.  For example, teachers are being prepared and employed by the ministry of Education, Science and Technology, but their labour rights, as well as disciplinary issues, are dealt with by the Teachers Services Department (TSD).   This arrangement whereby education is administered by three different authorities complicates accountability and good governance in the sector. Analysts have at different times recommended that the government forms a single professional board responsible for teacher-related professional development. 


The call has been issued repeatedly to ensure that teachers are placed under one sole employer who will deal with issues of employment, discipline and their welfare.    In February 2018, for example, while speaking on the deterioration of the quality of education provided in the public schools in the National Assembly Ulanga MP (CCM) Mr Goodluck Mlinga pointed out that the management of public schools faces complex challenges because teachers are responsible for more than one ‘boss.’  “Today teachers don’t have a single boss. District Commissioners, [District Executive] Directors, Public Service officers, ministers are a teacher’s bosses,” Mr Mlinga said.   

Toothless LGAs

For an education commentator and author of various books, Mr Richard Mabala, the current system would be more meaningful if the local government authorities had more power, like that of collecting revenues and even employing its cadre of workers that they may think are best in executing the authorities’ responsibilities.   “We have a system of local governments, which is bereft of any financial muscle and which are forced to obey to whatever central government directives without having been involved [in their making] in the first place,” says Mr Mabala who has been vocal in championing the country’s education reforms, especially on the need to make Kiswahili the medium of instruction in schools.    “That’s why even Tamisemi is a central government ministry dealing with all local governments issues. Many people from the ministry of education have been transferred to Tamisemi something which complicates accountability.”

That local government authorities are not financially independent is an issue the respective minister, Mr Selemani Jafo, well understands and acknowledges. 

In May 2019, Mr Jafo told regional commissioners and regional administrative secretaries from all 26 regions in the country that the central government was responsible for about 88 per cent of all local governments expenditure in the year 2018 alone. He was officiating a meeting to collect the opinions of the RCs and RASs on the Draft Policy on Devolution of 2019. 

According to Mr Mabala, if the government is truly committed to enabling local governments to administer schools in their areas then they must also make them financially independent. This can happen by letting them administer themselves on issues of revenues and administration. “Presently, teachers serve two masters at the same time,” offers Mr Mabala. “Therefore, if the government cannot decentralise the actual power to the local government authorities, then it is way better the [administration of] education returned to the ministry of Education.” 

Poor relations

The good thing is that the government itself acknowledges the existing confusion in the management of the education and training sector in the country. The issue of ensuring smooth cooperation between relevant organs in the management of education is among the main policy objectives in the Education and Training Policy of 2014.

The policy points out that the performance of accreditation organs as well as other organs such as the Tanzania Institute of Education, the Tanzania Library Services Board, the Institute of Adult Education and the Tanzania Education Authority is so poor that they have failed to improve the quality of education provided in various levels in the country.  “The relationship between these institutions and the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (now Ministry of Education, Science and Technology) together with Tamisemi is very low and there is no system of coordinated functions among them,” states the policy in its page number 26. “Laws of these organs require to be re-looked so that they can be written in a way that they can improve coordination in the entire system of education management in the country,” notes the policy documents. 

Separation of duties 

This is the direction that Dr Eugenia Kafanabo, Dean of School of Education at the University of Dar es Salaam thinks is the most appropriate one to be followed and not abandoning the present arrangement in the management of education and training sector in the country. 

“As far as I’m concerned, the separation of duties in the education sector was not a bad idea. The Ministry of Education was overwhelmed and it was the right time for it to be relieved of the burden,” says Dr Kafanabo. 

The biggest advantage of the present arrangement, according to the scholar, is that the administration of educational development is so facilitated that it can also be as easily as controllable as possible. She says:

“For example, now it is very easy for those who manage secondary schools to be aware of the education pitfalls and where to locate them, what are the teachers’ needs etcetera. In the older arrangement, these were very difficult exercises.”

The idea that the current arrangements may have negative implications on the quality of education “appears to be inconceivable” to Dr Kafanabo.