The Truth About Education in Tanzania

“Mwana unleavyo ndivyo akuavo”

As you Bring A Child Up, So He Will Be


Imagine you are in grade school. You are about 12-13 years old, have just completed your primary education, and are about to transition into a new and exciting period of your life as you enter secondary school or high school if you are a student from the United States. You will be going to a new school and do not know what to expect, you are feeling nervous excitement. It is your first day of school and to your surprise, your classes are taught in a completely different language! You’ve had some lessons in this foreign language, but you certainly do not speak it, nor can you read it. What would you do in this situation and who could you turn to for help? Imagine how limited your opportunities would be if your education ended abruptly at the high school level because of a language barrier. This is your reality if you are a student in the Tanzanian education system. A system set up only for wealthy children to succeed and less than 30% of average students to achieve secondary education.

The education system in Tanzania serves primarily the wealthy population and the large majority of Tanzanian citizens achieve at best the mandatory primary education level. The core problem with the education system in Tanzania is that children are set up to fail as they transition from primary school to secondary school, as secondary school is taught in English. This is a huge obstacle for students to overcome and largely they do not understand what is being taught. In primary school, children from all backgrounds are mixed. Some wealthy children that have English are in the classroom with children from the lower income rural villages and have not been exposed to English at all. Additionally, there is not special help available or tutoring for children that fall behind. English is taught as a subject in primary school; however, many of the teachers are not fluent in English themselves.

There are many who do not even past the exam after primary school and therefore, don’t get the opportunity to participate in secondary education. Those that drop out usually find work with their family or begin some type of labor allowing them to make a living into adulthood. Girls will likely help their mothers at home until they are married and begin having children.

Should the public education system in Tanzania continue to teach secondary education in English, a language other than the national language of Swahili, that contributes to the already low rate of children currently achieving secondary education and not continuing their education; or should the education system in Tanzania be modified to mandate all lessons taught in public schools in Swahili with English remaining as a subject in the curriculum and on the national exams, and even offer online education to children in rural areas and women ages 20-35 who have not advanced past primary education to ensure all can achieve at minimum a secondary school education that will ultimately result in growth and development for the country?

It seems an education system set up such as this one does not benefit anyone. Certainly teachers do not gain happiness from the students’ poor performance in class and not understanding the lessons. The students to do not benefit from the language gap between primary and secondary school. The national language is Tanzania is Swahili, so overall the county does not gain from teaching students in a language different from the national language. The benefit if students do make it through the language obstacle of secondary school is the opportunity to find a good job as they are then bilingual. They will be able to benefit from the tourism industry in Tanzania and even have the opportunity to move to a country as an English speaker to find a desirable job.

The education system in Tanzania can be greatly improved to help students achieve both education and happiness. If secondary school was taught in Swahili with a focus on English, instead of only in English more children would pass and have access to better jobs. Even if primary school was taught in both English and Swahili it would help with this large transition from primary school to secondary school. I think there should be a language immersion program starting in primary school to help students achieve English fluency if secondary school is to be taught in English. Although formal education may not be necessary to achieve happiness and meaning in life, formal education does dictate how much opportunity a person has in their life.

It’s important to know how the system is set up and what is happening to understand why people in developing countries cannot achieve education. It’s a sociopolitical barrier and has nothing to do intelligence or IQ’s of the populations outside of the Americas and Europe. The problem is embedded in the government and education system, but this is a structural problem and the sociopolitical environment of the government needs to be considered as that is where the change will be implemented. Awareness is a tool to bring about change, however social change often starts at a grassroots level. While education might not be a requirement to achieve meaning in life, it certainly determines the types of opportunities that will be available to you. I believe everyone should have the opportunity to achieve education, regardless of where you are born, what you look like, or your gender. By understanding the problem, we can work together towards a solution.

The below link is an in depth look at the education system in Tanzania.




2 thoughts on “The Truth About Education in Tanzania

Add yours

  1. Hello, Julie I read your post about education system in Tanzania and it seems like it’s been written by a pure Tanzanian who is willing to expose the truth and cry out for help,,then I find its Julie an intelligent inspiring American lady, who is deeply touched by the unknown fate of poor Tanzanian students,,! I am so impressed, I think I’d this blog is read by other educationalists, it’s all truth as you say,,!! I love it. That’s my comment!!


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