Dar es Salaam classrooms: Overcrowded, few books, no desks

A large e-learning conference has just opened in a modern world-class facility in Dar es Salaam, but city residents may have a long way to go before they can enjoy basic infrastructure in public schools.

In a research brief released today, Uwazi at Twaweza shows that despite being closest to where policies are made, public primary schools in Dar es Salaam are in dire need of more classrooms, desks and textbooks.

The brief titled “Primary schools in Dar es Salaam: Overcrowded and without sufficient text books” shows that on average 81 pupils have to sit in a classroom that is normally expected to carry 40 pupils.  The brief observes further that in nearly half of the surveyed schools, pupils must sit on the floor because there are not enough desks. The analysis is based on a survey of a sample of 40 primary schools in Ilala, Temeke and Kinondoni conducted between August and December 2010.

Concerning textbook availability the researchers found similarly unsatisfactory state of affairs. On average for all the surveyed schools, five pupils have to share one text book in lower primary classes (Standard 1-4) and six pupils share one text book in upper primary school classes (Standard 5-7). There is significant variation and for some schools the situation is quite dire. The researchers report, for example, that at Kunduchi Primary School, 10 pupils share one text book; at Tandika’s Upper Primary School classes, 15 pupils share one text book; and at the extreme, the Head Teacher at Mbagala Primary School reports that in its upper primary school classes, only teachers have text books. There are very few schools that have less than 5 pupils sharing a text book, mainly thanks to parents’ who take the initiative to buy text books for their children.

The researchers speculate about the state of schooling in lesser funded districts outside Dar es Salaam, when better resourced areas such as Dar es Salaam are in such poor shape. Since the budget for education has increased significantly in recent years, a key question is: where does the money go? And as for e-learning, is it something too farfetched when children lack books and desks? Or does technology provide an opportunity to leapfrog learning beyond basic constraints?

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