Friday, March 25, 2011


It's the end of the third month of the year already, and the shortage of books for the new syllabus for the new batch of Standard Seven students sitting this year's national exams still bites. It's the critical lack of new curriculum books that was largely blamed for the mass failures last year, and with the current trend, the results are likely to be worse this year.

"Only 10,000 of the 50,000 teachers have been inducted on the new curriculum so far," says Ezekiah Oluoch, the deputy general secretary.And last week, President Jakaya Kikwete acknowledged the problem on a visit to the ministry of Education and Vocational Training.

But his remarks and the hope they carry that at least the authorities are aware of the shortage of books in schools, notwithstanding, there is need for immediate solutions. to tackle the problem.At Msasani Primary School in Dar es Salaam, Standard Four pupils in an English lesson sit in groups of 10 to share a book.

Squabbling for books

There is a brief moment of squabbling for the scarce commodity as each of the pupils in the groups wants to be conveniently positioned, so that they can read clearly during the lesson. The teacher finally settles the pupils down, and the lesson begins.

No learning

"There are no books for the new curriculum in schools, and it is increasingly becoming hard to teach even with the few available textbooks," says Sophia Kinyaka, an IT and English teacher at Msasani Primary School.

"Most teachers have resorted to using the skills they learnt from college or university - otherwise we would be having no learning in schools. Imagine that for English I have only 10 textbooks for a class of 90 pupils."

Another teacher, Wilhelmina Bure, has a class of 130 pupils for Standard Four mathematics, but there are only 20 books.

For instance, he adds, the Education Materials Approval Committee (Emac), which is supposed to approve the publishing of textbooks, has not been meeting regularly, slowing the whole process and frustrating teachers and publishers.

Whether or not the policy is now in full swing remains a mystery, but the ministry came up with the changes, which, under normal circumstances, are now supposed to be implemented by regional governments.

But President Kikwete said there was need to raise funds for textbooks. He also urged professors to write books, pledging government funding, prompting the question: Is it a way to finance the single textbook policy?

Walter Bgoya, managing director of Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, corroborates. He says the lack of textbooks caused by confusion in the distribution chain has been at the core of the problems bedeviling the primary education system over the past few years.

No consultation

"There is no consultation with publishers. It seems every minister who comes wants to do things his own way, overhauling the whole system and creating confusion," says Bgoya."We have a lot of books in stock but very little is set aside to buy them, so they end up staying in warehouses." He claims that besides the lack of books, teachers have not received any special training on the new syllabus.

A syllabus does not change completely - in terms of content it is only 20 per cent that has changed, but there is a significant change in focus from assessing how a pupil can regurgitate what he or she learnt in class to testing how he or she can apply (not cram) knowledge acquired," he says.

My Take

This also could be a factor in education degradation in our country.

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