Monday, February 1, 2016

The English Patient

Hello, dear readers, and many greetings from Moshi!  Mama has arrived in town and I have been busy the last couple days settling her in and accommodating her needs.  Because she has been here many times before, it's not so difficult, but I have not had time to write up any original content for this week's post, so instead I am reprinting an article from the Guardian about Magufuli's plan to remove foreign teachers from the Tanzanian school system.

Ostensibly a good idea (the promotion of the local population into important and consistent work is always great), the general consensus from the masses is that Tanzania is not quite ready for such change.  The country still needs the guidance of foreigners in such positions as English teachers because our own workforce is not yet competent to take over.

Ain't no shame in this game, but perhaps Magufuli would be best advised to set up a system in which Kenyan and other East African teachers in Tanzania were able to support their Tanzanian counterparts, get them up to speed with the language and any other subjects they might not be fully adept at, and then have a schedule whereby, polepole, the foreigners made their exits rather than all at once, and under such negative circumstances.  Check it out!

The country's education system is feared to plunge into darkness following the government's decision to send packing foreign teachers employed in private English-medium schools.

Various education stakeholders interviewed by the Guardian on Sunday expressed their fears, warning that the sector would deteriorate further because few Tanzanian teachers were capable of teaching in such schools.

In recent months, the government has been deporting unskilled foreign workers, including teachers employed in various private schools in the country, in a move calculated at freeing up the jobs for locals.

However, several education stakeholders said this would affect both students' and schools' performance, making it hard for the country to have quality experts in the near future.

According to them, private school owners had no option but to hire foreign teachers due to the acute shortage of local teachers qualified to work in English-medium schools.

Tanzania Association of Managers and Owners of Non-Government Schools and Colleges (TAMONGSCO) Secretary General, Benjamin Nkonya, told the Guardian on Sunday that the decision to deport foreign teachers would have serious impact on private schools.

"The decision made by the government will have a major negative impact on private English-medium schools since many Tanzanian teachers are not competent in English and Science studies compared to foreigners," he told this newspaper in an interview.

He said teacher colleges in the country did not train enough primary school tutors who focused on English studies, rather most of them prepared tutors for history and geography studies.

According to him, Tanzania had a shortage of teachers as there were currently only 27,000 employed local teachers, which was equivalent to 40 percent of the actual demand, adding that the deportation of foreign teachers would compound the situation.

He said that up to December of last year, about 3,500 teachers from Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, and Zambia faced expulsion in a crackdown on illegal immigrants in the country, and the number of tutors who volunteered to leave the country had now reached 5,500 by January of this year.

He also called on the government to reduce fees imposed on foreign teachers to work in the country, citing Kenya which allowed teachers from Tanzania to teach Kiswahili in its schools without charging them residence fees.  
Nkonya said most private schools could ill afford the $2,000 fee for a two-year work permit and Tsh2 million charged for work permits for foreign teachers.

Bonaventura Godfrey, a program manager for research and analysis at HakiElimu, said the challenge in education was how to get Tanzanians who could teach a child to understand, write, and speak fluent English and do well in science subjects.

He said although the government had heavily invested in increasing the number of teachers, many teacher colleges in the country focused on geography and history studies.

"Deportation of foreign teachers will gravely affect many private English-medium schools since there are no substitute teachers in the country who can teach English language.  If we don't have the requisite expertise inside, we must import from outside," he said.

He said that other countries with similar economies as Tanzania imported teachers from outside because it would require a huge investment in order for local teachers to become competent in the English language; failing this, Kiswahili should be used in all the subjects.  
"The government and private school owners must sit together and look into how they can solve this crisis and identify the actual needs.  Since they have taken the step to deport foreign teachers, there must be substitute teachers to train the pupils," he said. 

For her part, Tanzania Education Network (TenMet) Coordinator, Catherine Sekwao, said although there was shortage of science and English teachers in the country,  it was not a good enough reason for Tanzania to allow illegal immigrants to work without permits.

She said deportation of foreign teachers would not affect all the schools in the country.  However, most private English-medium schools would be affected as they mainly hired foreigners, adding that even some Tanzanian teachers from public schools were competent in the English language.

"Primary schoolteachers are supposed to learn and be able teach any subject, depending on the directive from their supervisor.  
Due to this, it is possible for some of them to be incompetent; however, some of them are very fluent in English and they are in public schools," she said. 

Commenting on the issue, Tanzania Teachers Union (TTU) President, Gratian Mukoba, said it was advisable for the government to go slowly on the matter because Tanzania is a signatory to Commonwealth and East Africa Community agreements which require member states to exchange experts.

He said the shortage of English and science teachers was not in their numbers alone, but that most were incompetent.  
"For instance, a certain school may have more than three English teachers but none of them can write one good, straight sentence," he said.

Mukoba said that before the 1970s, Tanzania had competent English teachers, but later on the number decreased due to the adoption of jargon words.  He said currently there were few teachers who could write and speak fluent English.

"We  are not against the government decision to deport illegal immigrants but, in the education sector, if we want to have children who are well-trained, there is a need to have foreigners who will help us to teach the future generation," he said.

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