Author: Helgesson, L.
Tanzania is striving towards Education for All. This is a major challenge, due to the fact that about three million children between 7 and 13 years old are out-of-school, or almost half the school-aged population. COBET (Complementary Basic Education in Tanzania) was initiated by the Ministry of Education and Culture (MOEC), with support from UNICEF, as one way of providing basic education to children who have dropped out of school or who have never entered primary education. COBET aims at providing basic education to girls in particular, a goal that was not realized in Masasi and Kisarawe, the first two districts where COBET was introduced. In these two districts, about one third of the pupils in COBET are girls.
Purpose / Objective
The need for the study emerged when trying to understand why few girls had been registered in COBET, despite the deliberate aim to enroll girls. A hypothesis was that the low enrolment of girls in COBET was a symptom of a cultural norm in society, where girls' education is given lower priority than boys' education. COBET could, therefore, not be studied in isolation, but had to be put in relation to primary education and the daily life led by girls and boys in the community.
The main objective of this study was to increase the understanding of girls' and boys' basic education in the areas in Masasi and Kisarawe Districts, where COBET has been established. Of particular interest was girls' and boys' access to basic education, the performance and the participation of girls and boys in primary education and in COBET, and the reasons behind these indicators. Part of the aim was to look into the relationship between primary education and COBET and the linkage between Basic Education and other forms of education, such as initiation ceremonies, religious education and secondary education.
Qualitative methods were used to reflect opinions about the educational situation of girls and boys, and to gather suggestions on how to improve girls' and boys' basic education. A total of 60 focus group discussions were held with girls and boys in and out-of-school, parents/guardians, teachers, peer educators, artists and influential persons, such as political, religious and traditional leaders in the community. Around 20 individual interviews were conducted, with focus on girls and boys in primary school and in COBET. Each focus group met once or twice in each research area and the number of participants in each group was limited to seven. The views, observations and suggestions from the respondents constitute the data in this study.
Key Findings and Conclusions
A combination of reasons for girls' lower enrolment in COBET was found:
- Fewer girls than boys were found to be out-of-school during the needs assessment -- tracer study. This study was done prior to the introduction of COBET. It is stated in the report that girls out-of-school were more difficult to find than boys out-of-school, but it is not suggested that there actually are fewer girls out-of-school.
- Girls were not as prioritized as boys among the out-of-school children during the COBET enrolment process. Boys who are visibly out-of-school are considered to be in need of education, if only to keep them from loitering around and engaging in bad behavior. Girls, on the other hand, are regarded as easier to control and less visibly out-of-school because they are at home or in somebody else's house, working. Community members were not aware that COBET aimed at giving priority to girls, which means that those 'obviously' out-of-school were enrolled, i.e. boys.
- Girls have a more central role in the household than boys. This means that the opportunity cost for sending a girl to school is higher than for a boy.
- Common opinion is that it is a more secure investment to educate boys than girls. The main reason for this was that girls might get pregnant, which would mean expulsion from school and that the educational investment is wasted.
- Many girls out-of-school are regarded to be too old to go to school. They approach an appropriate age of getting married and some of them already have children. The time in their life where basic education could have formed part is therefore already regarded to be long gone.
One of the major concerns raised was the high cost of primary education. An important aspect of the cost of education is that girls from poor families often are forced to engage in sexual relationships in order to obtain necessary items for school such as exercise books, soap and a little bit of money. The need for such items is, in fact, a major cause of pregnancy among schoolgirls. This should also be seen within the context of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, where girls in the age group 15-19 years old are up to six times more likely to be infected with the virus. Sexual exploitation of girls was found to be a serious issue not only within a financial context. Respondent girls expressed that men who approach them asking for a sexual relationship expect a yes and, generally, do not accept a no. The girls are therefore running the risk of being raped.
Girls tend to have a lower performance, both in primary school and in COBET. Explanations given to this were that girls have a greater responsibility for tasks both at home and in school. They, therefore, have less time to do homework and are more tired than boys in school. As a result, they perform less than boys and are less active in the classroom. Another explanation found was that while boys are encouraged to play, visit neighbors and to socialize, girls are told to do their household chores and to stay around the house. Boys have, therefore, acquired greater confidence, which is to their advantage in the classroom. When girls have gone through the initiation ceremony, they often become self-conscious and preoccupied with thoughts about boyfriends and marriage and it was said that this could have a negative effect on their performance in school and lead them to drop out.
COBET was looked at in relation to primary school and it was clear that COBET was seen mainly as an alternative for children from families who cannot afford primary education for all children and for children who have dropped out of school. COBET was commonly not regarded as a 'real' school. This opinion was manifested in a demand for greater recognition of COBET and to make COBET more similar to primary school. Although many respondents would prefer primary education, there were several aspects in COBET that were regarded as positive. Respondents appreciated that there are no school fees and uniforms in COBET and that the teachers do not beat the children. They stated that the relationship between the learners and the teachers is good and that the children in COBET learn fast. The curriculum was commended for including vocational subjects and for being relevant for the life led in the community. Perceived also as positive was that there are no extra-curricula activities, such as to work on the shamba.
Many respondents doubted the quality of primary education provided to the children and the motivation for sending children to school is, therefore, low. One of the results of poor quality of education is the fact that few children are selected to continue to secondary school. There were schools in the research areas from which no pupil has ever been selected for secondary education.
Issues of concern regarding primary school were the high cost of education, poor state of the school buildings, insufficient availability of teaching and learning material and the substantial amount of manual labor that the children do in school, at expense of the actual time spent in the classroom. Parents and pupils felt that they have limited influence over how the school is run, how the money earned by the pupils is spent and parents said that they do not know how their children perform in school. Practically all respondents regarded corporal punishment as negative.
Regarding policy development:
- minimize the cost of primary education
- let children continue with their education despite pregnancy
- use alternative forms of punishments
Regarding equality and quality of education:
- promote gender equality in school
- take actions against the frequent sexual exploitation of girls
- regular training for teachers
- give girls and boys an opportunity to guidance and counseling
- strive for an equal enrolment in COBET
- provide school meals
- include mothers in the school committees
Regarding increased access to basic education and the potential of traditional and religious education:
- strengthen the link between the formal system and COBET
- expand COBET for older children
- look into the possibilities of using satellite schools
- work with facilitators for initiation ceremonies and religious education so that these forms of education also can be used to provide elements of basic education, such as life skills
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Education - Girls
Ministry of Education and Culture, Kuleana Center for Children's Rights