Numbers that don’t add up

There are always cute (and willing) kids to photograph in this country. But visiting a primary school yesterday in Temeke, Dar es Salaam, I was more intrigued by the walls in the headmaster’s office than by his pupils.

Teaching timetables, exam schedules, holiday plans, supervision rotas – they’re all meticulously displayed on handwritten coloured cards. And a long list of names and dates of birth – not of the pupils, but of the teachers.

This primary school has 73 teachers, and a whopping 3165 pupils. That makes the teacher:pupil ratio not too bad (just over 43 kids per teacher, only a little more than the national target of 40). But that doesn’t mean that they have the physical space to teach. The headmaster told us they have 24 classrooms; to meet national targets they would need an impossible 79 rooms.

The Tanzanian government has since the early 2000s increased spending per pupil by 70%, according to research NGO UWAZI. Enrolment increased rapidly. But since spending has also increased per pupil, conditions in schools should be getting better. Shouldn’t they?

Instead, even schools in Tanzania’s de facto capital city (i.e. right next to where the policy-makers are sitting, not in some rural backwater) lack the most basic services. UWAZI’s survey among 40 Dar es Salaam schools found that average number of pupils per classroom was 81. The average pupil to toilet ratio was 90:1. One school tops them all: 12 toilets for over 2000 pupils, with no running water or well.

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