Since its formation as a country in 1961, Tanzania has prioritized public education at the national level, resulting in waves of policies intended to strengthen the public education sector. For the better half of a century now, political leaders and policymakers have been launching various programs and strategies working towards this goal; for example, the country has made great strides towards the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal of universal access to primary education. After the Education Act of 1978 was passed—which made enrollment in primary school compulsory—attendance rose from roughly 70% to 90%. After primary school fees were eradicated in 2001, this number further grew to 99.5% by the end of the decade.
Despite such successes, challenges to the goal of universal education still persist. For one thing, poverty and harsh economic realities remain significant barriers to education for a majority of families in Tanzania—in particular, those from rural backgrounds. Actual enrollment levels at primary schools, for instance, fluctuate between 70% in Tabora to 100% in Mwanza. In addition, UNICEF estimates that while
nearly all eligible Tanzanian children are registered for primary school due to its mandatory nature, in actuality only 71% of boys and 75% of girls attend classes regularly. Once again, economic realities prove to be a difficult hurdle for many families; while primary education has been free since 2001, the opportunity cost of—for example—working at home or outside of it as opposed to attending classes oftentimes decreases the probability that children comply with compulsory education.
This difficult situation only worsens as Tanzanian children approach the secondary school age. Secondary education is neither free nor compulsory in Tanzania, resulting in a significant drop-off in enrollment rates following the conclusion of primary school—from almost 100% of the total possible student population to just 7.7% (7.5% boys, 7.7% girls). Indeed, many families find it difficult to pay school tuition fees, in addition to a multitude of other fees for such things as testing, books, and uniforms, that typically add up to around TSH (Tanzanian shillings) 700,000, or about $525 USD. While this sum may not seem like an overwhelming total to many living in first-world countries, in the context of the economic backgrounds of many students’ families (many of which make less than $1 a day in some rural areas), the fees often prove too burdensome to overcome. Even those few that do manage to pay the necessary fees are faced with inadequate learning environments and incompetent teachers, as a result of a severe lack of sufficient resources and overpopulation. As a result, only 10% of families in Tanzania end up being able to afford to send their children to high school; of this number, over 40% are not receiving an adequate education, as demonstrated by the staggering percentage of students who could not pass the National Form Four Examinations (43.08% in 2013, and 58.25% in 2012).
Orkeeswa Secondary School
In an effort to combat these realities, the Morningstar Foundation is currently partnering with the nonprofit Indigenous Education Foundation of Tanzania in our involvement with a secondary school called Orkeeswa Secondary School, located in the Monduli Hills of northern Tanzania. Both nonprofits share a mutual vision of creating a world in which local communities are empowered to create safe and healthy living environments, while at the same time preserving their own cultural values and practices. In order for such sustainable community development to occur, it is the belief of the Morningstar
Foundation that education is the first and most necessary step.
Thus, Orkeeswa Secondary School, opened in 2008, serves as the focus of our efforts in promoting universal education in Tanzania. The school, which serves a rural and poverty-stricken Maasai community by providing free education within the village, works with local leaders and community members in building and operating a sustainable education program that provides high-quality, free secondary education to students who might otherwise not have a chance of attending school. Through Orkeeswa, the Morningstar Foundation strives to proactively create a learning environment that values creativity, enhances critical thinking, and builds leadership. Orkeeswa students should emerge as inspired community members who work together to improve society. And even though Orkeeswa Secondary School might only be one small school in a small village in Tanzania, the Morningstar Foundation strongly believes that the school—alongside its vision and holistic approach to education—is
an important first step towards the greater goal of bringing universal education to Tanzania.