Why we must support free primary education
by Serah Naisoi
When the government declared primary education, free, there seemed to be wide-spread feeling among parents that it was the government’s responsibility to fulfill everything including building schools, buying desks, textbooks, and even chalk. This is far from the truth. Ensuring the provision of good quality education is the joint responsibility of all society. That includes parents, communities, and children too: working together with teachers and government.
But what we are witnessing today is a situation whereby some children of school going age are still out of school despite primary education having been declared free by our government. Why are these children not going to school? Without a quality education these children are at risk of falling prey to lives of crime, violence, and exploitation. Their survival strategies will have serious implications for our livelihoods and our lives. It is our responsibility to get these children into school and ensure that they become productive and well adjusted members of society in years to come.
Caring for children means understanding their needs and responding to them appropriately. It means giving them shelter, if they do not have a home, giving them education if they are not in school, giving them support when they are abused, and helping them to develop social behaviour if they get into conflict with the law.
I know that getting every child into school is not going to be an easy task and locating these children is the first of many challenges ahead of us teachers.
Today, many children do not attend school because they fear being stigmatized because their parents cannot afford school uniforms. And many come from families with problems, in single parent households for example, which have not managed to ensure that their children attend school. Of course, once children start or return to school, getting them to stay is another challenge. Classroom space, already severely limited, is put under additional strain when more pupils arrive.
Even while the government is increasing its resource allocation to the primary education sector, we still have parents who believe the government has to provide more. These are the same people who cannot buy for their children a simple textbook costing as little as Tsh,2,000.
In my view, parents must do more to come together and help their children. We cannot expect the government to do everything for us while we just sit watching.
The community has a responsibility to make sure that children manage to go to school. And in cases where children miss school because they feel stigmatized without school uniform, the community must see it as their responsibility to assist these children.
There is a role for each one of us to support free primary education and ensure that every child in Tanzania benefits.
Serah Naisoi is a teacher, Prime Primary school