Would you like to know how to double attendance in schools? Read on and I’ll tell you how...
A friend asked me recently for some information about education in Tanzania and access to computers for a report she’s writing. The short answer was that it seems there are no computers in public schools in Tanzania. In fact most of the villages in this area have no schools even. They grow up in grass or mudbrick huts where the kids learn how to till the fields, make more huts and make more locals. That's about it in the way of education for the most part.
The nearest school is about 30km away in Lubalisi. It's a basic primary school which looks like it would have about 20 to 40 students and perhaps 500 people living in the catchment area. At Mwese (20km past Lubalisi) is another (bigger) primary school and a secondary school to year 10.
At Mpanda, there is also a high school and a technical college. At the technical college they have some sort of basic computer lessons for adults but to the best of my knowledge that is the only computer resource in the area. Mpanda has an ‘Internet Café’ but it has no computers and no internet either. Mwese and Lubalisi don't even have electricity let alone Internet. The only internet in the region is satellite which is prohibitively expensive.
Seems like roughly even numbers of boys and girls going to school. But again, whatever gender, going to school is the exception in this area. There are lots and lots of one or two hut settlements out here and small villages where people never get to go to school unless they walk 20km each way. In short, schooling is a luxury most people don't get to enjoy out here. That being said, it is amazing that there is a school in Lubalisi as it is just a dusty settlement of about 100 huts along the track.
Primary school fees are next to zero but high school is about $300/year I’m told. That’s a lot of money to educate a child in a land where casual labourers earn about USD$2.50 per day and most families have 4 or more kids.
It occurs to me that internet would make a world of difference out here. Mobile phone coverage is amazingly good. Mwese has mobile phone and there is a spot called 'Crying Village' about 5 km from here (48km from Mwese) where you can get mobile phone cover from that tower. When the phones go 3G and have internet, things might change overnight. Solar power and a few laptops plus 3G would transform the place.
As for how to double school attendance… The guys at camp bought a couple of soccer balls and netballs to donate to Lubalisi and Ikabulu schools a while ago. Just the simple act of donating one of each to those schools doubled student attendance overnight because kids could now come to play soccer and/or netball/volleyball. Does that give you some idea of the education challenges here? When even soccer balls are scarce resources, computers are a long, long way from the Tanzanian education system…