The breakfast debate organized by Policy Forum at the Four Points By Sheraton Hotel took a critical turn as education stakeholders gathered to discuss the proposed National Education Budget for the fiscal year 2023/2024 in Tanzania. The presentation, delivered by Makumba Mwemezi from HakiElimu, shed light on the budget's allocations, but it also exposed significant shortcomings and raised concerns among the attendees.
One of the key issues highlighted during the debate was the meager increase in funding for the education sector. While the proposed National Education Budget stands at TZS 5.95 trillion, representing a 3.9% rise from the previous fiscal year, stakeholders expressed disappointment at the lack of substantial investment. The limited increase fails to adequately address the pressing needs of an education system grappling with population growth and increased demands.
Attendees were quick to point out the widening gap between the education budget and the actual challenges faced by the sector. Tanzania's population has surged by 37% in the last ten years, resulting in a significant rise in student enrollment. However, the budget fails to allocate sufficient resources to address the infrastructure deficiencies, teacher shortages, and resource limitations arising from this population boom.
Despite the proposed allocations, stakeholders questioned whether the budget truly aligns with the priorities outlined in the Education Sector Development Program III (ESDP III) projections. There was a consensus among the participants that a more comprehensive and strategic approach is needed to bridge the gaps in quality education, enrollment rates, and teacher availability.
The glaring deficiencies in infrastructure were a major concern raised during the debate. The shortage of over 102,000 classrooms, along with the inadequate supply of desks, pit latrines, and teacher's houses, hinder the learning process and contribute to a subpar educational experience for students. Attendees expressed frustration at the lack of substantial investment in infrastructure development, which they deemed crucial for providing a conducive learning environment.
The budget's allocation for fee-free education also faced scrutiny during the discussion. While stakeholders appreciated the increased allocation for both primary and secondary schools, they questioned the effectiveness of the capitation grants. The proposed amounts of TZS 10,000 for primary school students and TZS 25,000 for secondary school students were deemed insufficient to meet the needs of educational institutions and ensure equitable access to quality education.
Furthermore, stakeholders expressed deep concern over the persistently low performance in final examinations. The fact that only 35% of Form IV graduates achieved Division I-III, while the majority settled for Division IV & O levels, underscored the need for significant interventions to improve the quality of education. Attendees argued that the budget's allocations did not adequately address the root causes of poor educational outcomes.
In conclusion, the critical discourse at the breakfast debate highlighted the shortcomings of the proposed National Education Budget. Makumba Mwemezi from HakiElimu and other stakeholders emphasized the urgent need for a more substantial and strategic investment in the education sector to meet the demands of a growing population and improve educational outcomes. Policy Forum pledged to continue advocating for a budget that adequately addresses the pressing challenges faced by Tanzanian learners and educators, striving to secure a brighter future for the nation through education.