This paper seeks to explicate the concept of equity, looking the features and its realistic in Tanzania lower secondary education context. The paper utilized primary and secondary literature to gather and analyse reliable data. The analysis of findings showed that Tanzania is facing challenges in achieving equity in secondary education. The paper concludes by recommending the appropriate measures that should be taken so as to guarantee equity in secondary education.
For more than two decades Tanzania government has put more efforts on ensuring there is equality and equity in secondary school education. Movement for equity achievement in the education practices in Tanzania is a recent phenomenon (Kuluchumila, Philip & Ntazoya, 2016). The movement can be traced back when Tanzania signed the world declaration on Education for All (EFA) agreed in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990s and later reaffirmed at the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000s (UNESCO, 2015). The declarations explicitly states that;
Education for All, it emphasizes the need to focus attention on equity, fundamental human values and strengthening of different cultures as well as to adopt the expanded vision on basic education (UNESCO, 2001, p. 10).
As a result of this agreement, commitments towards equity have been articulated in the Tanzania Education Policy, Tanzania Vision 2025, National Strategy for Growth and Poverty Reduction (NSGPR), Primary Education Development Program (PEDP) and Secondary Education Development Program (SEDP) (URT, 2010a).
The concept of equity represents strategies and procedures for enabling and encouraging groups underrepresented in education institutions, and programmes or study areas to be granted access and to exit successfully (Atchison, Diffey, Rafa & Sarubbi, 2017). It represents a cohesive set of policies, programs and practices that ensure high expectations and positive achievement patterns and equal access to educational opportunity for all learners. The main objective of equity driven policies is to correct imbalances in the system so that everyone receives a high quality education (Ramamoorthy & Stringer, 2017). Equity intends to reduce unequal opportunities for education often associated with membership in certain identified disadvantaged groups. Equity is more than equality as Atchison, Diffey, Rafa and Sarubbi (2017) explained that equity is a higher level goal than equality and it conveys a sense of fairness by ensuring that all students have the same opportunities in accessing education.
Equity in education comprises two dimensions namely “fairness and inclusion which basically means making sure that personal and social circumstances, for example gender, socio-economic status or ethnic origin should not be an obstacle to achieve education potential” (Zhang, Chan & Boyle, 2014, p. 2). The two dimensions are closely intertwined in the manner that both dimensions provide justice and integrity of human being which is part and parcel of United Nations Human Rights Charter (Zhang, Chan & Boyle, 2014). Education needs to be right for every human being regardless his or her social-economic, sex and race background.
Additionally, equity does not mean that everyone attains an “A” grade but it means everyone can be helped to be better in whatever one is best at (Zhang, Chan & Boyle, 2014). It focuses on students’ access to knowledge so that all master the goals of the curriculum to approximately the same degree (Ramamoorthy & Stringer, 2017). It is widely accepted that rather than sameness (equality), substantial diversity to individuals and groups and their circumstances are appropriate if the varied needs of students are to be met. Equity policies take into account individual differences and needs, thus equity represents a package of policies which includes fair access.
Difference between Equality and Equity
Despite the fact that equity and equality are achieved through levelling the playing field but they are not similar concepts. Roche (2013) made a very important distinction between the two concepts by arguing that equity does not necessarily connote equality, it does not represent an attempt to use measures to ensure fairness. Hence, equity is a wider concept than equality and it refers to the nature of access, opportunities, and procedures to fair and reasonable treatment including opportunities for underrepresented groups (Roche, 2013). Moreover, Ramamoorthy and Stringer (2017) differentiate equality from equity by explaining that equality means all people receiving equal treatment, resources, and opportunities while equity implies receiving some treatment to a certain group of individuals that results in equality for all individuals.
Despite the fact that Education for All (EFA) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) insist on the achievement of education for all people but the issue of quality has not been neglected (Fredriksson, 2004). EFA made the following recommendation; “Improve all aspects of the quality of education to achieve recognized and measurable learning outcomes for all” (Fredriksson, 2004, p. 2). Education quality can be conceptualized with different dimensions such as the level of excellence in performance, students’ outcome, school input as well as process of teaching and learning in schools, inspection and evaluation as well as curriculum (Fredriksson, 2004).
In this paper, the aspect of quality is referred to as the characteristics of school environment that produces skills, knowledge and values through teaching and learning process. However, some scholars believe that the ultimate criterion for quality of education is the outcome in the manner of specific competencies displayed by students after completing a certain program. For example, Nerland and Prøitz (2018) exposed that quality education results in fulfilment, confidence, efficacy, positive disposition and contribution of graduates to economic, social and political development in the society.
Equity in the Context of Secondary Education System in Tanzania
Tanzania is one of the countries adhering to the millennium sustainable development goals (SDGs) and EFA agreements (Orodho, 2014). The implementation of these agreements has called for equity in secondary education. The aim is to ensure that not only most children are accessing secondary education but also to reduce gender disparities among the population in the country. Moreover, the implementation of EFA and SDGs has led to formulation of new secondary education policy which emphasizes on widening more chances for both males and females in accessing secondary education.
Equity is also linked on the way how academic gap is reduced among population in the country (Orodho, 2014). The question of how to reduce academic achievement gaps and enhance equity in education has been a concern for almost all countries in the world (Orodho, 2014). In Tanzania education system, equity goals have been acknowledged in the Education and Training Policy of 1995 (Opini & Onditi, 2016). This means that the policy has clearly stated and directs an equable distribution and allocation of resources to various segments of education levels including secondary education.
This research paper is based mainly on the author’s experience as a teacher-educator and education stakeholder, academic studies and government documents. Google Scholar and Beijing Normal University (BNU) library were also used as sources of literature. The literatures obtained from BNU library and Google Scholar were summed up into major categories. Moreover, content analysis technique was used to analyse data collected from reviewed literature. This allowed the researcher to extract and incorporate key information about equity in the context of Tanzania secondary education.
Tanzania Government Initiatives
Fees free scheme
The introduction of fees free program (mostly known as “Elimu Bure” in Swahili language) has ensured enrolment of big number of students in secondary schools. According to Odhoro (2014), for more than ten years, the number of female students enrolled in public secondary schools has been increasing. For example, Mbawala (2017) pointed out that from 2015-2016 secondary schools has enrolled triple number of female students than it was before due to free fees scheme. Therefore, this increase confirmed that the decision of having free fees program has enable big number of students including females to access secondary education. According to Mbawala (2017), the number of students enrolled in secondary education was rapidly increased in the first two years of implementing this policy.
Eradication of schools’ money contributions
Accessibility of secondary education goes hand in hand with the abolition of money contributions from the parents. Formerly students’ parents were required to incur some costs such as money for food, security, examinations and stationeries. The situation of collecting contributions was witnessed to hinder some parents to send their children to schools. Therefore, removing money contributions aimed at ensuring students are securing admission to different public secondary schools in the country. As it is known, Tanzania belongs to the Global South in the world where majority of citizens are poor. Therefore, the absence of money contributions has helped majority of children to attend secondary education.
Introduction of ward schools
In order to ensure equity, the government has built public secondary schools in each ward all over the country. For example, it was reported that the implementation of SEDP, coupled with the policy directive to construct secondary schools in each ward in the country, the number of secondary schools had increased (URT, 2018). These expansions led to a remarkable increase in secondary school enrolment from 1.65% in 2016 to 5.51% in 2017 (URT, 2018). Ward schools further led to Gross Enrolment Ratio increasing from 7 percent in 2002 to 32 per cent in 2013 while Net Enrolment Rate increased by five times in eight years from 6% in 2002 to 30% in 2010 (Abayo, 2017).
Introduction of inclusive education
Students with disabilities appeared to be excluded for many years in Tanzania secondary education (Opini & Onditi, 2016). This is because of their physical handicap that made them unable to compete with other candidates and negative traditional beliefs in the society. This led to the establishment of new policy that safeguards the interest of students with disabilities when it comes to accessibility of secondary education (Opini & Onditi, 2016). For example, government documents like National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (NSGRP) of 2005 and National Policy on Disability (NPD) of 2004 both stressed the government’s commitment to ensure students with disabilities are accessing secondary education (URT, 2010b). Consequently, these policies have enabled many disabled children to access secondary education as (Opini & Onditi, 2016) pointed out that the number of disabled students has increased in secondary schools. This is something that one would appreciate as a step ahead to achieve massive accessibility of secondary education among disabled population in the country.
Analysis and Discussion
The establishment of inclusive education program for disabled students was not aligned with the accessibility of their needs in schools (Mbawala, 2017). The physical infrastructure in secondary schools was reported to be unfriendly to accommodate physically impaired students. This situation is different from what Roche (2013) pioneered, that equity is not only about providing opportunities to the disadvantaged but also to create conducive learning environment so as to achieve their academic dreams. Teachers for special needs and materials are scarce and funding remains marginal (Opini & Onditi, 2016).
Construction of ward schools relied more on quantity than quality. Evidence shows that some schools were constructed without considering necessary physical facilities such as versatile classrooms, libraries, internet, laboratories, accommodation, braille and playgrounds (Abayo, 2017). Therefore, there is a need to ensure availability of adequate facilities for both normal and disabled students so as to reflect a wide picture of equity. This calls for a purposeful mechanism to ensure that before opening schools the consideration of equipping schools with adequate and apposite facilities is highly observed.
One cannot deny the role and achievement of fees free scheme and abolition of school contributions on ensuring the equity among Tanzanian population. However, it was observed that the budget for secondary schools is too small to accommodate the needs (Abayo, 2017). This in turn impacts the efforts of achieving equity since some schools are facing the challenges in running daily school activities. For instance, the experience shows that some schools are failing to provide lunch to students due to budget deficit. This to some point goes against the equity pioneered by scholars who believe equity and quality are two faces of the same coin. Therefore, more efforts need to be done so as to ensure budget is increased in schools.
Therefore, in this regard it shows that more emphasis was given to create more opportunities to access secondary education to Tanzanian children than providing services and facilities that could make their studies easy. This calls for more efforts to be invested in ensuring more facilities like elevators, braille machines, wheel chairs and ICT devices for both disabled and non-disabled.
Challenges Facing Equity Strategies in Secondary Education
Negative attitude and poor cultural beliefs has made many young people especially girls and disabled not to access secondary education in Tanzania (Kahise, 2013). For many years there has been existence of negative attitudes in some societies that if you educate a female she will not get married and be arrogant to her husband and society in general. Therefore, this discouraged the government efforts to promote equity in accessing secondary education.
Moreover, it was reported that some students intentionally gave wrong answers so that they may fail the exams and get married or keep tending to their cattle. The reason for giving wrong answers was associated with the families’ negative attitudes toward educating female students as well as society’s cultural background. In this regard, for many years Tanzania has experienced small number of female students being enrolled in secondary education. The existence of this situation may deteriorate government’s efforts to ensure equity in accessing secondary education in the country.
Early marriage among students is one of the challenges to ensure equity in accessing secondary education in Tanzania (Mbuta, 2015). It was explained that in some areas parents forced their children to get married earlier because of economic reasons as well as for avoiding responsibilities (Mbuta, 2015). Some parents tend to force their children to get married earlier as the means of getting money through bride price or get away from incurring costs of schooling children. For that reason, many children especially female children are denied their right to access secondary education. It also hinders the efforts done by different educational stakeholders including the government on ensuring equity in providing secondary education in the country.
Solutions to the Challenges
It is appropriate time for education stakeholders to create awareness among the people so as to eradicate poor beliefs. Education brings awareness to people about various issues that hinder their development (Nyalusi, 2013). For those families that still stop their children to go for secondary education need to be educated on the impact of not allowing their children to go to secondary schools. It is this awareness that will open people’s mind on the importance of educating their children. The awareness will ensure big number of people particularly from marginalized groups to access secondary education for the benefit of themselves and nation at large.
Adequate supplies of fiscal resources need to be allocated in order to achieve the goals. Schools need adequate and suitable facilities that can promote equity. Teaching and learning facilities as well as physical infrastructure should be available as well to accommodate the needs of all students regardless of their physical handicap. All these facilities depend greatly on enough budget.
Despite the efforts that Tanzania has taken to promote equity in secondary education, more efforts need to be put in place to achieve the goal. The reasons for inequity are associated with different factors such as bad traditional beliefs and attitudes, difference in enrolment ratio in lower secondary education and economic groups. Therefore, more resources need to be invested in secondary education and words from government documents should also be reflected in actual practices.
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