Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all requires several conditions that go far beyond having schools children can go to and teachers there to teach them. Children need to be challenged and also given opportunities to explore and imagine their own interests, which necessitates resources of the home that many do not have. Children need parents committed to teaching their children including providing and teaching them about adequate nutrition, time to be children and financial resources for school uniforms and books and toys before school even begins. In Tanzania, there are many parents who lack the commitment to education, especially towards girls, and who don’t or can’t afford adequate nutrition and give too many household duties that interfere with their free time to learn and explore. These are the household logistical necessaries for giving the best opportunity to children for learning and for succeeding in school but there are also some necessary policy conditions as well.
The Constitution of Tanzania protects citizens from discrimination on the basis of sex yet the pervasive school practice of expelling pregnant adolescent girls and mandatory pregnancy testing thrives. Many teachers believe it is mandated when it is not and while the strict student-teacher hierarchy is upheld, any student who questions this policy could be expelled by school-specific guidelines that dictate students must not be insubordinate or show disrespect to their school administrators. The Centre for Reproductive Rights in their publication “Forced Out” estimates that tens of thousands of girls have been expelled or dropped out to enter child marriage or child motherhood and not returned in the last decade and girls are often taken during school hours, without their parents consent, to have pregnancy tests on a tri-monthly or even monthly basis. This is a grave and humiliating denial of girl’s rights and serves to contribute to a cycle of poverty whereby young girls who become pregnant don’t complete high school or even primary school and now take care of two or more people. She might be dependent on her parents, kicked out of her parents house or be paid very little to nothing for her work if she finds any thereby endangering the possibility of giving herself or her child enough time, energy and food to prepare for lifelong learning opportunities.
Stunting, malnutrition and underweight children are symptoms of issues such as poverty and diseases and are serious issues that Tanzania has been unable to make adequate progress in. As UNICEF points out, stunting affects 42% of children in Tanzania who are under five. Serious outreach and changes need to be made like to ensure children are breast-fed for at least six months and have adequate nutrition and treatment for diseases that cause under-nutrition.
There is also the issue of accessibility for children with disabilities and the safety and security of albino children. Children with disabilities, physical and mental, have a difficult time everywhere in the world trying to fit into the mold of able-bodied and/or able-minded children. Able-bodied and able-minded children also have a hard time with this but issues such as accessibility for wheelchairs or necessary special attention by teacher’s assistants specially trained to teach those with developmental disabilities are even more challenging. Not only is it getting into the school, it is getting to the school as some are far distances and those that need special attention might need to go even farther or worse, not have any place they can realistically go to. Toilets pose an accessibility issue for able-bodied girls and an even bigger one for those with physical disabilities.
Albinos have a special risk being out in public places because of the belief that their limbs can bring wealth and good luck. Albino children, because of their size, are at a great risk travelling to go to school because of the risk of being kidnapped and mutilated for limbs that are sold for thousands of dollars on the black market. Ensuring inclusive and equitable schooling requires all children to be able to get to school with minimal risks of being kidnapped, mutilated or killed, and to be able to get to and into the school, the classrooms and the washrooms.
Generally speaking, girls are still not enrolled in the same numbers as boys are, fare worse for grades and do not complete up to the same level as boys from primary to secondary school. In Tanzania, if the Gender Equality Goal is to be met, education numbers need to be better for girl’s achievement. Girls around the world have shown that they can be as successful as boys in school if the environment, both in school and out, is conducive to their learning. When women and girls are empowered they will stay in school in greater numbers and have fewer children at a later date giving their children more resources and a better chance at a successful education themselves.
Lifelong learning opportunities mean the chance to return to school or to have options as an adult as well. It is important for all to have lifelong opportunities for increased education from toddlers to seniors in order to release the total potential of the citizenry in the workforce. In the organization I am working for, there are some challenges of getting the message out in workshops with IEC materials when traditional leaders cannot read or write and cannot take notes for reference. Adult education is important for development work in that adults can be reached in more ways with information if there are strong literacy numbers. Literacy broadens the ways that people can access information or be given messages; not just with radio, live theatre and movies but with brochures, books and billboards as well. Literacy and lifelong learning are keys to successful gender equality work but gender equality will also lead to better educational outcomes for all. Working on both is the key to the development of better outcomes for all.
Centre for Reproductive Rights, Forced Out: Mandatory Pregnancy Testing and the Expulsion of Pregnant Students in Tanzania, Part 1, http://www.reproductiverights.org/sites/crr.civicactions.net/files/documents/crr_Tanzania_Report_Part1.pdf
UNICEF. Tanzania- Nutrition, Accessed on Jan 8, 2015, http://www.unicef.org/tanzania/nutrition.html
Wesangula, Daniel. May 13, 2015. The Guardian, “Albinism in Tanzania: slow progress in combatting violence and discrimination”. http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/may/13/albinism-in-tanzania-slow-progress-in-combatting-violence-and-discrimination