How education sector benefited from Sh304 billion Covid relief fund

Tanga regional commissioner Adam Malima (right) and city’s Mayor Abdulrahman Shiloon (left) inspect newly built classrooms, which were built , thanks to the Covid-19 Relief Fund, in Tanga recently. PHOTO|  FILE

What you need to know:

  • The government says it built 15,000 classrooms using part of the money for Covid relief

Dar es Salaam. Almost every year, the Tanzanian government admits secondary schools in batches due to shortages of classrooms.

But for 2022, all 907,803 students who passed last year’s primary school examinations joined the secondary education starting January, thanks to additional classes built using part of the Covid-relief money borrowed from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But, still calls remain for the government to improve primary education as well, which remains largely in dire state, especially in the villages.

Last year, the IMF lent the Tanzanian government $567 million in emergency support to meet the health and social costs of the pandemic.

The government now says it built 15,000 classrooms using part of the money for Covid relief.

“The government has completed construction of 15,000 classrooms in secondary and satellite schools and 50 dormitories for students with special needs,” said the Minister for Finance and Planning, Dr Mwigulu Nchemba, as he tabled the government budget this June.

“This has enabled all 907,803 students who passed the Standard Seven examination in 2021 to be enrolled in Form One in January 2022,” he added.

The government allocated Sh304 billion – part of the money borrowed from the IMF – to the education sector where it wants to improve infrastructure for a conducive learning environment.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan recently confirmed the increased classrooms have helped to decongest the classrooms.

“Due to Covid-19, the IMF gave us some money as economic bailout. Most of the countries used that money for purchasing sanitisers and those other items needed to fight Covid-19. But for me, I thought Covid-19 meant decongestion of students in the classroom.

“We had 100-120 pupils in one classroom. I have been able to decongest them and now I have 45-50 pupils in one classroom,” said President Hassan as she spoke in the Annual General Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Ghana recently.

“I thought Covid-19 means availability of water, I have taken that money and used it for supplying clean and safe water to most parts of my country. When I came in, availability of water was 72 percent and I have moved it close to 80 percent. I expect, in 2025, it will be 95 percent in urban areas and 85 percent in villages.”

Tanzania, like many other countries, was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic with its economy shrinking from the growth of 6.8 percent in 2019 to 4.8 in 2020 and 4.9 percent in 2021, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The East African country did not go on lockdown, allowing economic activities to move on during the pandemic.

When President Hassan was sworn in as the new president last March, following the death of her predecessor John Pombe Magufuli, she changed the approach to the pandemic, calling for citizens to take preventive measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Among other things, she utilised the borrowing opportunities from multilateral lenders keen to aid response to Covid-19.

“I have also used that money for health. Covid-19 means treating people at the level of villages. So, I have constructed about 350 health centres using that money plus modern equipment,” President Hassan said.

Zanzibar’s Minister for Education and Vocational Training, Ms Lela Muhammed Mussa recently explained how the Covid-19 relief money helped in improving the education sector in the isles.

According to her, Zanzibar received Sh68 billion for education.

“This money will help in addressing challenges around infrastructure in the education sector,” she said, adding that some 1,131 classrooms would be built, including 10 new schools in both Unguja and Pemba. The classrooms are expected to accommodate 50,895 new students at the ratio of 45 per classroom, she said.

She said the money would help the Zanzibar government to deliver the ruling party manifesto for 2020-2025.

Schools expanding

The schools that benefited from the financing from the IMF say they are now counting to expand the infrastructure and enroll more students. “Our school benefited from the Covid-relief money which has helped a lot,” said a Dar es Salaam-based teacher who did not want to be named.

“We added new classrooms that did not only decongest our school but also made us have extra rooms. We are now considering enrolling students for the advanced level of secondary school,” he said.

For others, the new classes which were maiden buildings in new schools, meant to save the pupils from long walking distances, to access schools.

“Some pupils were walking between four and seven kilometres to get to school but these new classes have shortened the distance,” says Ms Sharifa Wanja, education officer in Korogwe town.

“Waking a long distance is a risk for children, especially the young pupils who are in the nursery classes or Standard One,” she added. The new classes were built in the existing schools and others marked the beginning of new schools.

The construction of the new classes added to the demand for new teachers and recently, the government employed 9,800 new teachers in an attempt to address the shortages.

Sustainability question

Dr Amos Mpanju, an education analyst and retired lecturer from the University of Dar es Salaam says, with Covid-19 funding, the government showed high efficiency in terms of managing the construction of all the facilities within a short period of time, but noted that there were still many questions related to sustaining of such a strategy.

“These funds were aimed at combating Covid-19 but assisted in the construction of classrooms. Some of us wonder if the same efforts made during the construction of the classrooms can be applied in ensuring that the construction of school infrastructure is done professionally and quickly,” he notes.

“Tanzanian taxpayers’ money must be seen working like that of Covid-19 and this should be our government’s policy in implementing development projects so that the people can see for themselves,” he added.

“What we have seen in the implementation of the construction of 15,000 classrooms should be emulated regardless of where the money came from, ‘’ he further explained.

Mr Joseph Mtambo, head teacher at one of the primary schools in Kigoma region, said that the method used to ensure that Form One students go to school, forgot the great need in many primary schools.

“I think the government should also look at primary schools, especially in rural areas. In fact, the infrastructure is not suitable for teaching and learning. Seeing classrooms constructed in such a short time is amazing, yet we have classrooms that have taken years to be completed. We now need project implementers to be held accountable at all times,” he said.

This piece was produced in partnership with the ONE Campaign, a global campaign and advocacy organisation