Saturday, February 2, 2013

Erev Toa Nafasi

Sorry, I've melded languages.  I think only two of my readers will get the title to this blog entry, and one of them is my father, but no matter.  I write to you about 36 hours out from the official start of The Toa Nafasi Project activities at Msaranga Primary School.  Bright and early Monday morning, we will commence an eight-week observation period which will hopefully inform the way the rest of the Project will be carried out.  In order to establish what changes in teaching methodology and/or curriculum need to be made, we need to figure out the current state of things.  This will be done through observation and some informal interviews.  I hope to be able to give you some interesting updates as we move along.

Meantime, some discouraging news from yesterday's Tanzania Daily News regarding a "heated debate as MPs view education status."  I have to say that I am a bit dismayed (if not altogether surprised) to learn that there is a "lack of official curricula for primary education."  I had armed myself back in July with what I thought were the official national syllabi for English, Kiswahili, Math, and Science for Standard One and have been studying the objectives, teaching strategies, and assessments assiduously since then.  I mean, I'm not gonna lie, I wouldn't have been shocked and awed to find that they weren't exactly being followed at Msaranga Primary, but I at least thought they would be in effect elsewhere in the country.  Apparently not....which is not exactly the best news to discover on the eve of the project's inception....but what did I expect??

Sounds like a whole lotta blah-blah to me.  Also, pretty typical (and sad) that this Kawambwa character wants to take the wait-and-see approach regarding education reform: "Since 2009 the government has started the process of reviewing the education and training policy, thus Parliament should instead wait for the review to be completed."  Meanwhile, the students who are in school RIGHT NOW are getting shafted....


Dodoma — The National Assembly docked a private motion tabled by Mr. James Mbatia (Nominated - NCCR Mageuzi) to form a select committee and investigate serious weaknesses in the country's education sector.

Instead, it voted to deliberate on a counter-motion presented by the Minister for Education and Vocational Training, Dr. Shukuru Kawambwa, that asked Parliament to allow the state to take into consideration issues raised by Mbatia as it is reviewing the education and training policy.

The vote by members of Parliament came after a battle of wits on issues surrounding standing orders, with those from the opposition claiming that docking Mr. Mbatia's motion was against the orders while those from the ruling party supported the minister's motion.

In his motion, Mr. Mbatia raised serious concerns in three main areas in the country's education sector which he named as education policy, lack of official curricula for secondary and primary education, and weaknesses in approving learning and teaching materials for secondary and primary schools.

He also took swipe at the Educational Materials Approval Committee (EMAC) for failing to deliver on its duties and allowing the influx of mediocre learning and teaching materials in the country, which do not serve the intended purpose of educating and enlightening students.

To hammer his point home, he read excerpts from books that contained too many obvious errors yet they were still approved by EMAC.  He accused officials of possible embezzlement of 13 million US dollars that were given in the form of assistance by South Carolina State University through USAID after Tanzania had requested for assistance for science and mathematics books.

"Education is the heartbeat of any nation; if the heartbeat is abnormal it might lead to the demise of a nation," he said.  He also noted that weaknesses in the education sector have led to many failures in other sectors.

To look into the weaknesses and shortcomings in the sector, he proposed that Parliament should form a select committee to "probe the depth of the problem in the education system and where possible the committee should recommend courses of action to rid the nation of the problem."

Dr. Kawambwa, however, countered the motion, saying that issues raised by Mr. Mbatia are crucial but forming a select committee alone would not solve the problem.  He said since 2009 the government has started the process of reviewing the education and training policy, thus Parliament should instead wait for the review to be completed.

When the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms. Anna Makinda, wanted MPs to pick between one of the two motions to be discussed, a heated debate ensued.  Although almost all legislators agreed in principle that issues raised by Mr. Mbatia were of genuine concern, divisions emerged on whether or not to form a select committee.

Ms. Makinda said that the issues raised by Mr. Mbatia were broad-based and needed to be probed by more than just a select committee.  The sentiment was echoed by Deputy Speaker, Mr. Job Ndugai, Minister of State Policy, Coordination, and Parliamentary Affairs, Mr. William Lukuvi, and the Minister for Labor and Employment, Ms. Gaudensia Kabaka.

Others were Mr. Richard ole Sendeka (Simanjiro - CCM), Mrs. Margareth Sitta (Special Seats - CCM), and Ms. Jenista Mhagama (Peramiho - CCM).  Mr. Mbatia opposed the move to dock his motion and was supported by other MPs from the opposition camp.

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