A FEW days ago, a retired education officer entered a Form One class in a secondary school he now serves as the Headmaster to teach geography. He wanted to see how students are fairing and at the same time trying to fill the gap of shortage of teachers.
What he learnt from his move made him decide to handle that subject for the rest of this year.
"I wrote a sentence, 'the Sun is the biggest star in the solar system' and read it aloud, when I asked one of the students to repeat after me, I was astonished by what he was reading.
When I told them to write that sentence in their exercise books, I couldn't believe that they can't even copy properly what is written on the blackboard".
According to him, this shows that their primary education background has plenty of loopholes. "Most probably, the teachers are not doing what they are supposed to do. But what baffles me most is how they get to secondary schools with such little knowledge", he adds.
He says that when these students come to secondary level, if they don't get a base that is strong, they are likely to get nothing in final exams. That's why I have decided to see them through myself", he points out.
Students' failure in their exams has also been attributed to lack of seriousness in reading books; text books and reference books. "They always concentrate on solving past papers and reading through solved problems.
He also cites lack of concentration on studies as a result of other things such as watching TV, movies and music. According to him, these have taken a larger part of students' discussions everywhere. Student discussions are always based on these issues wherever they are: in classes, buses and even during group discussions.
"Though, these discussions are good in some way, but when done in excess, they make students oblivious of their studies," he explains. Matiko Gordon, former academic master in a day secondary school in Musoma, says students today, carry the seeds to their own failure.
"They don't read at all, even when you give them homework, they hardly do them. It's very challenging maintaining discipline among today students," he tells. "With the advent of modern technologies, some things are getting worse instead of better.
Now they have mobile phones, they listen to music all the time. A student hardly remembers what you taught him/her yesterday but knows all the American musicians and Bongoflava artists with their songs."
Students are responsible for their own failure, they have so many things at a time, and the worst thing today is relationships. The issue of 'boyfriends and girlfriends', is very common even in primary schools.
"When they teach, they hardly establish whether someone has understood the topic or not". Professor Jettoro Mbonile from the University of Dar es Salaam, rests his bucket of blames on teachers.
He says they are not teaching; they have lost the ground. According to him, subjects should be taught by the department, meaning that all teachers who teach that particular subject in the school should meet and discuss it.
"When I was teaching at Pugu High School in those years, we used to meet before a teaching session begins. A teacher practised in front of his colleagues what he is going to teach in the class.
Then we will evaluate the methodology and the content. By the time he gets to the class, there is no room for errors," says Prof Mbonile. He adds that in those days they set targets; as to how many first classes they wanted or how many 'A' passes they need in a subject, "and we saw to it".
"When we stopped Headmasters from teaching and became purely administrative, that's where we went wrong. Who should set the standard," he asks. This is the reason why people are opt for tuition where their children are taught how to pass exams.
"Common tuition is the best way", says this Professor of Geography, meaning that teachers ought to give children extra package without distinction at school's expense. Teachers need to be motivated and parents could contribute to this.
He cites Mwongozo Primary School in Kinondoni municipality as an example saying that it has used the right approach and almost all the students pass their final exams. "Where are the camps today? Where students could meet and discuss various subjects, he asks.
Today, teachers don't teach on grounds of low pay and the like, as a result students fail. One doesn't fail students and ask for salary increase, it doesn't ring any bells," he retorts.
He adds that others argue that in private schools they are paid better, that's why they are teaching well, I can tell you, it's because of proper supervision, something that lacks in most public schools.
"There is nothing like satisfying salary. I was a teacher, it wasn't enough, I became a lecturer, the same, then a senior lecturer, same story and now a professor; it isn't satisfactory.
The more you earn, the more you use it," he emphasizes. To him, students are clean slates; they need to be loaded with new knowledge everyday. They need to be encouraged to study by both the teachers and parents.
"My father was poor, an ordinary farmer but here I am, a professor. The words he used when reminding me of our situation made me study very hard." According to him, the country's education system has everything to do with what is happening and what will happen next.
"There is a need to overhaul the whole system and set new standards," he insists. If one says children fail because they don't read, that simply means you are teaching and preparing irresponsible people.
There is no practical anymore. He can't imagine a student studying physics theoretically for four years and expect to pass that exam! And according to him, this goes as far as the university.
"Why should a professor supervise a Ph.D for 5-7 years, where are we going?" he queries. "We have killed the basics of education and now we think we can produce competent people who can compete in regional and international labour markets! That's absurd".
I am preparing a brief column on failure of Education system in our country stay tuned.