Editorial: Free education a welcome move, but quality matters

Thursday June 16 2022

Tanzania needs all the talents it has, and should groom them to build a better and competitive country when it comes to the economy. Tuesday’s budget proposal of free education from primary school to advanced level is welcome and commendable.
Admittedly, a lot of efforts and money have been sunk into the education sector lately. For parents and students, it has been a roller-coaster ride over the years.
If nothing else, thousands of students will be assured of completing high school education every year without stress.
However, much as we laud the government’s decision, questions of quality education still remain.
The latest move is laudable, but things may not be what they seem in public schools. There are challenges galore, which should be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Sadly, despite more than six decades of independence, the country is still fighting the same enemies.
The teacher-student ratio still stands beyond the standard 1:40 at all levels of education in the country. This alone says a lot about the quality of education.
Granted, the government has generally improved educational facilities across the country, but the situation is still dire in some areas.
There is still a shortage of teachers compared with the rising number of admissions, questionable capitation fees, and countless teachers’ grievances, which include poor housing.    
If not handled well, free education could be the fastest way to destroy precisely what makes secondary education in this country.
In that regard, the government must pump more money into education to ensure that the country’s graduates at all levels are internationally competitive.
It is unfortunate that there is a paradigm shift. Many Tanzanian families now prefer private schools to public ones. Needless to say, this sums up the state of public schools.
Free education is okay, but teachers’ grievances and quality issues should be addressed to ensure quality education.

ACT ON SHORTAGE OF SURGEONS

Access to surgical care is a significant, but under-reported healthcare issue in Africa. The number of surgeons in many African countries is unacceptably low, with only a few governments making concerted efforts to bridge the gap.
The availability of specialists, particularly in East Africa, should be a top priority as governments strategise on how to make universal healthcare a reality.
Commitment to training surgeons requires deliberate efforts, including political will. Things are not made any better by poor funding, governance challenges and corruption.
In fact, according to the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa, Tanzania is still struggling when it comes to the number of practising plastic surgeons, ear, nose and throat surgeons, neurologists, cardiologists and urologists is also still unacceptably low in Tanzania. This sad state of affairs should be reversed.
The Scaling up Safe Surgery for District and Rural Populations in Africa (SURG-Africa) project, which aims to halve the current gap in the next few years, may sound ambitious, but it is a good starting point.