Pupil crowding crisis in Tanzania nears tipping point

Sunday June 05 2022
Nyampengere school

A representative from the Kibondo district commissioner’s office, Mr Lyola Kitalonja (left) and Save the Children’s director for programme development and quality, Ms Jane Mutua (right) inaugurating one of the classrooms built at Kumlama and Nyampengere Primary Schools in Kasulu and Kibondo districts respectively. PHOTO | JACOB MOSENDA

By Jacob Mosenda

Kigoma. It was fully registered in 2006 as a separate school with its own administration, but Kumlama Primary School in Bugaga Ward in Kasulu District, Kigoma Region, has never run its daily activities outside its parent school Nkundusi Primary School due to lack of learning infrastructure.

At least 15 years have elapsed since its registration and the school, located 47 kilometres from Kasulu District Council headquarters, boasts of only two completed classrooms on the land that was earmarked for the school, thanks to the efforts of Save the Children which continues to support construction of some infrastructure.

It is not uncommon that the government has been dividing schools that constitute of large numbers of pupils and registering new ones with the aim of improving study environment for the children and ensure all children have access to better education.

Despite this arrangement, the new schools are not supported in terms of having their own new infrastructure, meaning they teachers and pupils of both the parent school and the new one continue sharing the same facilities, meaning the original objective of providing better studying environment is not achieved.

This is exemplified by the above example, causing education stakeholders to lament of the deplorable conditions including lack of classrooms, toilets, desks, teaching and learning materials, as well as shortage of teachers.

“It has been 16 years since this school was registered as an independent entity, but it has never shifted. We are still using four classrooms that belong to Nkundusi. In fact there is a huge congestion of pupils and most of them come from far,” says Kumlama Primary School headteacher Timothy Mwakimbwala.

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“We would like to shift here, but we can’t because of the infrastructure issue. And, for all those years we have continued to enroll pupils each year while we remain accommodated by this other school,” he explains.

Mr Mwakimbwala notes that the situation is one of the main causes of absenteeism among pupils, teachers lacking the motivation to teach and parents don’t value education causing children to drop out of school as a result.

Not only is Kumlama a school that is struggling despite its recognition, but the scenario repeats in Kibondo District where 13 out of all registered public primary schools (86) have not yet shifted to land allocated to them after they were separated from their parent schools due to overcrowding. This has been the case for over a decade.

One of these schools is Nyampengere which was separated from Biturana Primary School in 2004 but has so far not relocated due to infrastructure challenges.

“This situation must be addressed as more than 13 schools in our district (Kibondo) despite being registered many years ago have not yet relocated,” says Lyola Kitalonja, who represented the district commissioner at the event where Save the Children handed over classrooms and desks at the school recently.

He notes that being host communities to refugees from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, some pupils are forced to cover long distances to access school.


Infrastructure dilemma

For Kumlama Primary School, Mr Mwakimbwala (head teacher) reveals that the school has a total of 532 students of which 261 are boys and 271 are girls.

He says that the school has various requirements that have delayed relocation, including one administrative building and a teachers’ office where there is currently only one for the head teacher alone.

He notes that so far they have only two completed classrooms while three were under construction with government funding to make a total of five classrooms.

“In order to move our pupils here and be assured of better teaching and learning, we need 12 more classrooms,” he tells The Citizen after being handed over a modern classroom with 50 desks and a girls’ toilet, courtesy of Save the Children.

He says they need at least eight teacher houses where none currently exist, a counseling room, boys’ toilets (which do not exist at the moment), girls’ toilets to complement the available four, teachers’ toilet (currently nonexistent), a library and first aid facility.

The school, according to the head teacher, needs 14 teachers, of which only eight are available (one female and seven male). The ratio of teacher to student for first grade to seventh grade is 1:76 while for kindergarten it stands at 1:50. This is against the government’s standard of 1:45 in a classroom.

“This situation is currently leading to very low enrollment of children aged four to five in kindergarten due to parents fearing for their safety because of the distance they must cover to the mother school,” he adds.

According to Mr Kitalonja, many schools, especially those which should relocate to their areas in Kibondo District, face infrastructure challenges that also call for stakeholder-support for improvements.

He says there is a shortage of classrooms, teacher houses and offices, access to clean and safe water as well as teacher training.

He says they needed 1,616 classrooms for the whole district but the existing ones are 706 classrooms, meaning the deficit is 910 classrooms, that is, 56 percent.

According to Mr Kitalonja the demand for desks in all primary schools in the district is 21,803 while only 16,662 desks are available and 5,141 desks are in shortage.

He says despite the government’s efforts, the demand for school infrastructure and amenities was still high, compared to the number of children enrolled following the government’s decision to provide free primary education.

For his part, Nyampengere Primary School head teacher Romuald Tawa, he says: “They have been encouraging parents to join forces to build the school, but the situation they are in is understandable. We will join forces to make sure there are enough toilets, at least that’s what we can afford. ”


Save the Children leads the way

As one of the organisations working to ensure that children live, get educated and are protected while accessing their basic rights, Save the Children, has been engaging in ensuring that a Tanzanian child enjoys the right to basic education and health services, even as it serves the refugees in Nyarugusu and Nduta camps.

It has continued to support communities around the refugee camps especially in matters of child protection and education since 2017 in Kibondo and Kasulu districts.

The organisation notes that Kigoma is among regions facing the challenges of education and child protection and so three years ago, through financial resources from the Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM) and in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training started implementing the project with the aim of reducing plights facing pupils.

“This year, we have helped three schools (in Kasulu and Kibondo) to get girl-friendly toilets and classrooms (two in Kibondo and one in Kasulu) as a way to help the government in tackling these challenges,” explains Save the Children’s Programme Development and Quality director Jane Mutua.

At Kumlama Primary School, they set up a roadmap to relocation by building a classroom with 50 desks, a four-hole girls’ toilet that will benefit a total of 311 girls and boys (a time when boys’ toilets are not available). “I would like to thank the US government through the BPRM whose financial assistance aimed at ensuring that children are educated, has enabled Save the Children to support schools in Kasulu and Kibondo districts and we promise to continue with this endeavour,” said Ms Mutua.

The organisation has been assisting in resolving educational challenges in those districts where in 2018, they built two classrooms, a teacher office, desks and office furniture at Maloregwa Primary School in Kibondo district.

In 2019, they built one classroom, a teachers’ office and a fully equipped head teacher’s office at Kanyinya Primary School in Kibondo District. “In 2020/2021, we installed 10,000 litre water tanks, and plumbing in four primary schools (two in Kibondo and two in Kasulu), and built two girls’ toilets with four holes each (one in Kibondo and one in Kasulu),” she notes.


Burden put on school committees, parents

According to Mr Kitalonja, Save the Children has been setting a good example in improving the educational environment since they started their activities in the Kigoma Region and it has provided motivation for parents and other development stakeholders to join in.

“I ask the Nyempengere school committee in collaboration with the parents of Biturana Ward to see if this is possible. Let’s start now to do other important areas to speed up the transfer of students to this area,” advises the Kibondo leader.

For her part, Kasulu Primary school Education Officer Elestina Chanafi said it was a shame that the school had not been built for more than 15 years since registration and called on other organizations to complement Save the Children in supporting the expansion of the scope of learning.