In 2007, Tanzania achieved nearly universal access to primary education. However, since then, enrolment of primary school-aged children has been dropping. An estimated 2 million children between the ages of 7 and 13 years are out-of-school. Almost 70 per cent of children aged 14–17 years are not enrolled in secondary education while a mere 3.2 per cent are enrolled for the final two years of schooling.
Equity and quality pose major challenges. Primary school-aged children from the poorest families are three times less likely to attend school than those from the wealthiest households. Furthermore, while it is estimated that 7.9 per cent of Tanzanians are living with a disability, less than 1 per cent of children in pre-primary, primary and secondary school have a disability.
Access to pre-primary education is very low and the poor quality of education dampens children’s prospects of a productive future. The pupil-to-qualified-teacher ratio at pre-primary level is 131:1. This ratio is 169:1 in public pre-primary school compared to 24:1 in private schools. Most children, especially those in rural areas, enter primary school poorly prepared due to the lack of access to early stimulation, poor nutrition and the low quality of pre-primary education.
School-going children often do not achieve foundational learning outcomes such as literacy, numeracy and life skills, which determine future performance. Results from the 2014 primary school leaving examinations in mainland Tanzania revealed that only 8 per cent of Grade 2 pupils could read properly, only 8 per cent could add or subtract, and less than 0.1 per cent showed high levels of life skills (academic grit, self-confidence, problem-solving).
Girls, the poorest children, children with disabilities and children living in underserved communities are most vulnerable to dropping out of school or never going to school. Early marriage and pregnancy keep girls out of school. Adolescent pregnancy led to almost 3,700 girls dropping out of primary and secondary education in 2016. More than one third of all girls are married by the age of 18, but girls from poor families are twice as likely to be married early than girls from wealthier homes.