The birth of Zubeda Kaboya
For your reading pleasure, I've included a copy of my very first "letter to the editor". Of course, a mzungu name like "Megan McCune" would never do...so librarian Mama Agnes re-baptized me as the colorful, exciting, oh-so-tanzanian "Zubeda Kaboya." I know, I'm excited too.
I read with some frustration the news in The Citizen (10 of July 2006) that minister for Education and Vocational Training, Ms. Margaret Sitta, “advised district education officers not to post newly recruited teachers to remote areas as this could disappoint them”. She remarked that new teachers, if posted in remote and difficult areas, would get the impression that harsh living conditions are requisite to the teaching profession.
Indeed, the lack of acceptable teacher housing, inadequate salaries, limited textbooks, and poor facilities are all deterrents which exacerbate the teacher shortage. However, these issues are not merely isolated to remote areas and should not be addressed by ashamedly ‘censoring’ the more difficult assignments.
Instead, the logical and desperately necessary action should be the development of “remote areas,” and all areas, at that. Teachers’ salaries are a pittance compared to other occupations requiring similar qualifications; many teachers are unable to secure a decent standard of living on the salary provided. Improve teacher’s salaries, deliver them on time, and the living conditions in remote and difficult areas will improve.
The teacher shortage is a direct reflection of the disgracefully minimal material and intellectual support provided to the profession. Improving the quality of education in Tanzania is far more involved than encouraging enrollment; by undermining teacher morale and quality of life with low salaries and a complete lack of support, we are ensuring the degeneration of our entire educational system.
Dar es Salaam
Harsh, but true. Reality isn't so fun sometimes. The state of the educational system in TZ leaves MUCH to be desired, for sure. As is referenced above, teachers make very, very little- even by Oklahoma standards: about $60 a month. And, salaries are usually received over a month late and must be picked up from a district office. Unfortunately, because the salary is so pitiful, teachers are not respected citizens of society: who would want to work for that kind of money unless they have to? Students who perform well in school opt for better-paying jobs and further scholastic opportunities; those who don’t perform so well are forced out of school for lack of achievement, and thus take up teaching or a similar low-standard profession. Teachers of primary school are scarcely more educated than the students they teach…therefore, it is easy to see why the entire profession is completely stigmatized. To make matters worse, classes can reach the astronomical level of over 150 students to one teacher, with 6 or more students to just one book- if books are available at all!
Regionally compared, Tanzania is still making great strides- the Primary Education Development Programme (PEDP) implemented in 2001 was extremely successful in improving primary school enrollment (up to 100% in some districts). However, with more students, there are fewer teachers and fewer teaching materials and the government is still turning a cold shoulder to the real issues at hand. In addition to massive, nation-wide campaigns, Haki does little stuff like this letter to the editor for instance, to help raise awareness of governmental shortcomings. Of course, this letter isn’t going to inspire a policy change, but I’m still excited to possibly be published in a Tanzanian newspaper….well, I guess I should say that Zubeda is excited. Anyway, it is interesting to remember that criticism like that above inspired the dreaded “Interdiction”….so much for 14th Tanzanian Constitutional Amendment: Freedom of Opinion and Expression. The turmoil of the Tanzanian political world is all very disturbing, and fascinating at the same time.