CHILDREN in both Zanzibar and Tanzania mainland are enjoying ‘free education,’ thanks to the government’s policy.
Despite several challenges that emerged during the implementation of the ‘free education’ policy, the initiative has made progress.
Zanzibar first introduced free education for all in 1964 after the Revolution, but due to unstable economy, the implementation of the policy was not fully possible, prompting the government to ask parents to start contributing in 1990s, until the incumbent President Ali Mohamed Shein decided to uphold.
According to the Zanzibar ministry of education and vocational training, the ‘free education policy’ currently covering primary before fully implemented to the secondary education, has been going on well, with almost all children enrolled annually, leading to congestion in schools.
Shortage of desks, teaching materials, and teachers are other challenges being witnessed while implementing the free education policy, as the government appeals to development partners, mainly the individual persons and private sector to help overcome the challenges.
There has been good response in collecting desks and chairs, and construction of more blocks to accommodate students, but shortage of teachers mainly to teach science and mathematics subject remains a challenge also linked to the poor performance in schools.
Students and their parents have been pushing the government to do more in ensuring schools have enough teachers, by paying them well, promote patriotism among teachers working in public schools, and provide scholarships.
Members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives also recently joined with students to emphasize that good teachers and facilities can make a difference, and that schools without enough skilled teachers, end up performing badly. Frequent complaints from parents, students and legislators have successfully pushed the government to find enough qualified teachers.
On average, in Zanzibar, the ratio of a teacher to students is 1:80, almost three times the required standard. The Minister for Education and Vocational Training Ms Riziki Pembe Juma and her deputy Mr Mmanga Mjengo Mjawiri, have promised to solve shortage of teachers in public schools by recruiting and asking for volunteers locally and from abroad.
Short term (three weeks to two years ) Volunteer teachers from UK, US, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Ghana and Nigeria have been offering their services on the Islands, teaching English, science subjects, and mathematics.
Nigeria leads in bringing teachers to Zanzibar, and according to Mr Mjawiri the government expects to receive teachers from the West African country arguing that their presence in the past five years has made a big difference as schools where they taught performed well in examinations.
In response to the government call on private sector to join hands in improving education, some the investor Pennyroyal’s Zanzibar Amber Resorts (ZAR) company, planning a multi-million shillings project in Matemwe coastal village, has started conducting evening classes for students in schools in the area.
‘Best of Zanzibar’ is the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative for Pennyroyal’s Zanzibar Amber Resorts (ZAR) company, which has since April this year, been running the ‘after class tuition’ of English and mathematics with a hope of improving the students English language and performance in class.
Mr Ali Hamad Suleimancoordinator, ‘Best of Zanzibar’ after class project said more than 400 students from standard V (STD V) to Form IV have been enrolled for the three-year program. “This program is among the corporate social responsibility.
We need support from students by attending the classes and parents to ensure absenteeism is minimized,” Mr Suleiman as he complained that the attendance has not been good since the classes began.
He said that the assessment so far indicates that almost half of the students shunned the extra classes, conducted from 3pm to 5pm local time on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 8am to mid-day on Saturdays.
The beneficiaries are students in Kijini and Mbuyu-Tende in Matemwe area.
In a meeting with parents held at Mbuyu-Tende School, the officer from ‘Best of Zanzibar’ threatened to halt the project if absenteeism persists, asking parents, local leaders, and elderly in the villages to motivate their children to attend schools including the extra classes.
He said ‘Best of Zanzibar’ has hired ten teachers to help students in the selected schools, with the aim of helping the students’ including improving their ‘English language’ so as to qualify for jobs to be created upon completion of the resort project in the near future.