Private schools … a blessing … a doom?
It’s January, schools are opening, new pupils and students get enrolled … and privately run schools at all levels compete for a share of enrollments as shown above … competing school banners competing for space at the intersection of Kinyerezi/Majumbasita/Segerea … Kinyerezi Mbuyuni.
In the past 15 years, we have been witnessing massive flow of money into the education by the private sector. This money is mainly being invested in the form of school construction … nursery, primary and secondary schools. This wave came as a response to meet new societal needs that came with the economic liberalization policies of late 80s and early 90s. The wave also came at a time when quality of education in state run schools was going down due to a number of reasons. Those who could afford were sending their children to Kenya and Uganda for better education.
Local investors saw a fat opportunity in this area. So, privately owned schools, which for decades had been the realm of religious organizations in the country, started mushrooming in different parts of the country, mainly in Arusha, Mwanza, Mbeya and Dar es Salaam. So, today, the number of privately owned schools has grown a lot. Current figures put the number close to three digits (000).
While this is a positive trend in the growth of the public-private sectors partnership in offering social services, there are many challenges still to face and work on.
1. Challenge number one is how to ensure quality education in these schools. Is it possible to efficiently monitor and ensure quality control given allegations of rampant corruption in almost all sectors of the society?
2. How is the recruitment of the teaching and non-teaching staff being done? (There have been complaints from local teachers teaching in some private schools that they are being underpaid compared to relatives of owners of schools and foreign teachers).
3. Moral and ethical standards – how are these to be maintained – are there tools for monitoring and ensuring that Tanzanian culture and patriotism are inculcated in the young studying in these schools?
4. Some schools receive children as young as four (4) years as boarders – are there enough trained personnel who can offer the best formation and care that can be equated to what parents would offer: love and care (parental affection)? What behaviour patterns would be displayed by people who go through such formation system as opposed to those who are under the care of their parents?
5. With the commodification of education (now that school fees in private schools – primary level – range between Tshs. 600,000 and 2,000,000) – is quality guaranteed? More so, is the growing number of schools going to bring down these fees – will such a move affect the quality provided? Is competition going to shift into quality of education being provided?
6. The fact that most schools are owned by individuals whereby the management is rarely being turned into an institution – is there hope that they will be sustainable (in terms of management and quality continuation) even after the demise of the originators?
7. Curricula: there are those that follow other country’s curricula; and there are those that follow the Tanzanian curricula – the English medium one. How are the two helping to build national unity and patriotism – as well as sustainance of national culture?
There are many questions still to deal with in regards to this matter. These were just quick reflections on the increasing number of privately owned schools in the country. Let the debate continue …