Samia: Two years of reviving lost hopes in education sector

President Samia Suluhu Hassan meets with representatives of the Tanzania Higher Education Association (TAHLISO) and Zanzibar High Learners Federation (ZAHLIFE),at Chamwino State House in Dodoma last month. The President has increased the students’ loans budget significantly. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • When she came into office in March 2021 President Samia Suluhu Hassan found free education already in place but extended it for two more years from Form 4 to Form 6

Dar es Salaam. President Samia Suluhu Hassan has done a lot in various sectors since she became president two years ago, but parents, guardians, and secondary school students appreciate more how she has removed the burden of school fees from their shoulders.

Despite the fact that in the five years of her predecessor, the late John Magufuli, parents and guardians of students in Standard 1 through Form 4 were exempt from paying school fees after the free education policy began in early 2016, President Hassan’s leadership extended the relief further.

Education stakeholders have applauded President Samia’s free education extension to include Forms 5 and 6, which they claim would benefit more impoverished, orphaned, and vulnerable children.

Finance and Planning Minister, Dr Mwigulu Nchemba, delivered the good news while tabling the national budget for 2022/2023 in the National Assembly in Dodoma last year.

“I propose fee-free education for students in Forms 5 and 6, as directed by President Samia Suluhu Hassan,” he revealed.

“Fee-free education would be available from primary to advanced secondary schools,” he added. Dr Nchemba revealed that the number of Form Five and Six students was 90,825 and 56,880, respectively, with financial demands of Sh10.3 billion, assuring that the government was ready to foot the bill.

Parents and guardians who were reached by The Citizen reacted positively to President Hassan’s cancellation of the advanced secondary education fee.

“When I heard this news, I was cheerful because I didn’t know how my son would go to Form Five after his father ran away from us for a long time and left me to fend for my five children,” says Ms Khadija Msofe, a resident of Tabata-Dar es Salaam.

She further explains that her son is currently continuing his studies without any problems. She thanks President Hassan’s efforts for remembering the disadvantaged and continuing to improve education for all people, regardless of their status.

“My son was very happy because he had already given up due to the costs involved. But in these two years, things have changed a lot in the education sector, and we see that our President is still improving things,” she said.

Tertiary education

President Hassan did not end up only in Forms 5 and 6. She also extended her motherly love to tertiary education.

She has also done great things that most stakeholders and experts have been cheering about.

During her two-year tenure, the budget for loans to students in higher institutions of learning was increased to Sh570 billion during fiscal year 2021/2022 from Sh464 billion during the previous year.

This happened just within her first six months in office.

Through the increment, the number of beneficiaries in the institutions increased to 176,619 students during 2021/2022 up from 142,170 beneficiaries during 2020/2021.

Further, in the financial year 2022/2023, the government responded to the cries of thousands of students who qualified to get a higher education loan but failed due to budget constraints.

It increased the tertiary education loans even more.

Thus, out of the Sh570 billion that was supposed to benefit at least 177,000 students, the government, through the decision of President Hassan, topped up an increase of Sh86 billion, bringing the total budget for the Higher Education Students Loans Board (HESLB) to Sh656 billion in 2022/23 fiscal year.

This is now, according to authorities, benefiting up to 200,000 students in higher education institutions.

Also recently, President Hassan agreed to the request by the Tanzania Higher Learning Institutions Students’ Organization (TAHLISO) leaders to increase the subsistence allowance from Sh8,500 per day to Sh10,000.

However, regarding the request to provide loans to certificate and diploma level students, she said it would not be possible at the moment but promised to consider it in future budgets.

Responding to the requests presented by TAHLISO leader Mr Frank Nkinda, President Hassan promptly ordered an increase in subsistence allowance to Sh10,000 per day.

“Minister of Education, go and see; we will start with the Sh10,000 requested,” the President pointed out, a statement that brought joy to the students’ leaders, who started chanting, “We have faith in Samia.”

According to Mr Nkinda, students in universities have now calmed down and are continuing with their studies after the government’s action, while expressing their faith in President Hassan for years to come.

“Actually, our President is quite receptive because this was the cry of numerous students who lacked loans as well as others who grumbled about receiving only a tiny amount of daily subsistence. By now all is well; we don’t hear many complaints,” he said.

Digitising Education

Inequalities exposed in the education sector in March 2020, when schools were ordered to close in an effort to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus, led President Hassan’s government to reconsider the importance of information and communication technologies (ICTs).

In the last two years, the government has been critical to ensuring that all children have equal access to education, regardless of their background and location.

Prof Mkenda says that the challenge has laid bare the importance of the education sector in the development of people and their country in the face of technological advances.

The government has since intensified its efforts in the areas of science and technology to enable Tanzanians to adapt to technological change, including the development of education curricula, guidelines, and policies for the use of ICT and new technologies.

“The distribution of educational opportunities throughout the country must now be fair and equitable for all children, regardless of their geographical setting. This is the expectation of our president,” Prof Mkenda told The Citizen recently.

He stressed that the Secondary Education Quality Improvement Programme (Sequip) aims to enable the development of a secondary education ICT strategy that would benefit all groups, including teachers and students with special needs in 1,500 schools, as well as the preparation of modules and guidelines for teaching ICT.

The government is also planning to integrate all 35 teacher training colleges in the country into the National ICT Broadband Backbone to keep pace with technological changes.