Major strides are being made in Tanzania’s education sector. Following the introduction of a fee-free education policy in 2015, enrolment in primary schools increased sharply. However, there was still a notable lack of the resources and facilities needed to ensure the provision of quality education. Many local authorities therefore took the initiative to build classrooms and purchase desks, tables and other items to ensure that children received quality education.
At Mkata Village in Tanga Region in eastern Tanzania, local authorities asked residents to contribute money and resources towards the improvement of Mkata Primary School.
The school had seen a spike in enrolment. For example, 667 pupils were enrolled in Grade One alone at the school, which had only nine classrooms. The school also had a single science laboratory to cater for all pupils. Donations and contributions were made by parents and other citizens to address the disparity between the number of classrooms and pupils. However, as years went by, little progress was made in the expansion of the school, and citizens became less motivated in championing this cause.
“Citizens readily contributed money towards buying bricks and materials to build six more classrooms at the school, but after several years of contributing, we didn’t see any development. Most of us were under the impression that the funds had been used for other purposes without our knowledge,” said Mr Mashaka Majaliwa, a Mkata resident and SAM Committee Chairperson.
It was clear that the Mkata local government authorities were not transparent about the allocation and expenditure of public funds, and were not being held accountable.
The Foundation for Civil Society (FCS) granted funds to a project implemented by Tree of Hope in Mkata Village. Tree of Hope is an organisation that undertakes different projects with the aim of empowering citizens to find solutions to existing problems, particularly in education.
In Mkata, Tree of Hope called village meetings, where they asked citizens to choose their own representatives for the Social Accountability and Monitoring (SAM) Committee. The committee received training in citizens’ rights and responsibilities, and promoting transparency and accountability.
“Tree of Hope trained us in following up education-related projects being implemented in our community. We learnt that it is our right to be aware of the progress in community projects. They taught us to respectfully question and work with our local governments on this,” Mr Majaliwa said.
After questioning local government leaders and getting appropriate feedback, the committee continued to work with them to oversee the school expansion project. A total of 1,762 bricks that had been previously paid for by citizens were recovered and used in the construction of classrooms. Committee members also discussed and urged local government leaders to be transparent on the allocation and expenditure of public funds. The local government has since resolved to have a public notice board on which all information is put for the general public to see.
Mr Mashaka Mgaya credits Tree of Hope for the positive change seen in Mkata Village.
“Through our Tree of Hope committee, we have uncovered many things. The training programmes have given us confidence to stand by the law and for our rights,” he said.
Mkata residents now have renewed dedication to building their community and completion of the Mkata Primary School expansion project.