More than 40 percent of Tanzania’s teens encounter barriers to secondary education, according to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report.
The report, issued Tuesday, was based on interviews held with more than 220 students, other adolescents no longer in classes, parents, government officials and organizational leaders across the country during Tanzania’s rollout of a free education program for Form I to Form IV students.
Despite Tanzania’s admirable efforts, many barriers remain. They include access to schools in rural areas where a trip to school means a 25 kilometer journey, or the impact to students who cannot afford transportation as well as books, uniforms and other expenses.
One troubling barrier is the national exam system that requires students to pass a primary school exit test before they are accepted into the next secondary tier. Tanzanian students have only one chance to pass that test, the HRW report found, and their failure often means the end of their formal education.
Other problems persist as well.
“Tanzania’s abolition of secondary school fees and contributions has been a huge step toward improving access to secondary education,” said Elin Martínez, children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “But the government should do more to address the crowded classrooms, discrimination and abuse that undermine many adolescents’ education.”
According to World Bank data, fewer than one-third of girls who enter lower secondary school graduate. Schools routinely expel female students who are pregnant on grounds of “offenses against morality,” accounting for 8,000 girls each year, and girls who marry before age 18 are required to leave as well.
School officials who insist on pregnancy tests or deny these students’ return to school are violating their rights, HRW said. There are also access issues for people with disabilities, widespread sexual abuse and harassment, and the continued use of corporal punishment which remains legal under Tanzanian law.
“The government has repeatedly committed to ensuring secondary education for all,” Martínez said. “Now the government needs to open the way for secondary education by ending discriminatory and abusive policies and removing the remaining barriers between many students and a quality education.”
The complete report is linked here.
Image: Soko Tanzania