Urban schools need fencing and a buffer to protect students

Pupils in grade one are escorted to class by a teacher at Kambarage Primary School in Mbeya. For the children’s safety, urban schools require fence and a buffer. PHOTO | FILE


  • Urban schools suffer from a number of disadvantages including high levels of noise, high levels of pollution, and exposure to higher levels of immorality, including drug abuse and prostitution.

When the Form II national examination results were released recently, there was general concern that students did badly nationwide. While poor performance could be expected in some rural schools, there was poor performance in many urban schools as well.

One newspaper carried out a study on two urban schools that had very poor results. The causes of poor performance were many. One of which is of relevance to this column, was lack of, or, dilapidated fencing, around these schools.

According to the teachers, this lack of fencing allowed students to sneak unnoticed out of the schools and melt into the high density neighbourhoods surrounding these schools.

It was alleged that, once in those areas, students engaged in all sorts of anti-social behavior, including taking drugs and participating in sexual activities.

Teachers find it difficult, if not impossible, to follow students into such areas without risking their life. It was the opinion of some that urban schools should be fenced so that students had only one entrance and exit; and that could alleviate the situation.

There could be a feeling that schools in urban areas are better endowed, and as such, students should do well, compared to their rural counterparts. Studies have not been so categorical. Urban schools suffer from a number of disadvantages including high levels of noise, high levels of pollution, and exposure to higher levels of immorality, including drug abuse and prostitution.

Schools in high density and unplanned neighbourhoods and slums also get exposed to many ills. Because of limited space, many urban schools do not meet the minimum area standards required by Urban Land Use Regulations.

In other words, many urban schools are squeezed into a small area and may not even have facilities that require large spaces such as play fields. This, clearly, entices students to be out of school premises.

The young persons’ population in urban areas is increasing with rapid urbanization.

According to one UNICEF report on urban education in Tanzania, between 40-50 percent of urban residents are children and adolescents. For the four major urban areas in the country, the proportion of children and adolescents is as shown in the brackets: Dar es Salaam (43.5 percent); Mwanza (43 percent); Dodoma (49 percent); and Mbeya (48.6 percent). This means that nearly one in two adults is a child or adolescent, many of whom would be in school.

The minimum planning and space standards for education facilities (Use Group K) has it that: a Primary School should have an area of between 1.50 and 4·5 ha, with a maximum plot coverage of 40 percent; and a Secondary School should have an area of between 2·5 and 5·0 ha with a maximum plot coverage of 40 percent. Few urban schools attain this level of luxury in terms of space provision.

Besides having limited space, urban schools are surrounded by all kinds of hectic activities.

These include shops, kiosks, workshops, garages and, in some cases eating and drinking places. Way back in September 2007, I penned a paper titled: “Shops around Schools, Are they legal”? At that time there was concern that the administration of many schools was granting traders permission to construct part of a school perimeter wall, and extending it externally into a shop or kiosk. This led many schools to, yes, have a fence, but to be surrounded by officially sanctioned shops.

A number of arguments were raised against this situation. The mixture of school use with commercial uses can only be to the detriment of quality in education. Students cannot be expected to concentrate on their lessons under such circumstances.

Two, shopkeepers and their customers, need facilities such as toilets. No such facilities are provided so that recourse has to be made to the facilities provided for pupils and their teachers. As is well known, toilet facilities for many schools are grossly inadequate. Adding demand on these toilet facilities from shopkeepers and their customers is to make a really bad situation worse.

Businesses also generate solid and liquid waste, the disposal of which is likely to pollute the school environment. Some businesses generate noise, smoke or smell, all of which impact negatively on pupils and their teachers.

Cumulative evidence suggest that schools need separating from neighbouring areas. This calls for a robust fencing, so that students are not so free to sneak in or out of the school unnoticed.

Moreover, schools should have a buffer of non-activity, so isolating them from the surrounding activities some of which are not good for pupils’ education.