why most tanzanians
can't get to college
January is always an important month at Wesley College. It’s a time of new beginnings, on many fronts. We begin accepting applications for our next semester, with many students taking their first steps toward their dreams, their passions, and what God is calling them to be.
I’d like to share some information about education in Tanzania. The challenge of access to education is pervasive there. It is an enormous issue throughout the country.
Right now, enrollment in primary school is actually at an all-time high – the result of the government eliminating school fees a few years back. Now, 95% of Tanzanian children get a start in education, and that is certainly something to celebrate.
However, secondary school enrollment has actually dropped over the last five years, from 32% attending school in 2015 to only 29% in 2019. And the numbers of students that actually finish high school are even more troubling.
Here are some of the reasons that the majority of Tanzanian youth don’t finish secondary education:
1. Financial barriers. Although school is tuition-free, associated costs of transportation, uniforms, and supplies are too much for many families. Also, many families rely on school-age children to work and support the family.
2. Entry denied. A passing grade on a primary school ‘leaving exam’ is required for secondary studies. If failed, the test can not be re-taken. Also, in secondary school, if a student needs to leave school for a while -- for any reason -- it is very difficult to re-enroll.
3. Quality of education. Many schools are vastly under-resourced and staffed by under qualified teachers. Class sizes typically exceed 70 students. When the language of instruction changes to English in secondary school, success seems out of reach for many, and many students drop out.
At Wesley College, we see the effects of these realities playing out every day. Students like Vincent, whose father died when Vincent was in his second year of high school, forcing him to work to support his five siblings and his mother. Or Gilbert, who at 15 was told by his parents to leave home and find a way to support himself.
Plus, there are too many young women to name, who enter early marriages and find their educations ground to a halt. Nearly 2 out of 5 Tanzanian girls marry before 18.
Wesley College’s Adult Education program is designed to provide a high school certificate to these students, to help them make up for time and opportunity lost. Students like Gilbert and Vincent -- who never expected to finish their educations -- suddenly step into un-imagined futures. Both of them have now completed not just high school but college.
You only need to read some of our student stories, to understand how barriers to education in Tanzania have played out in Wesley College students’ lives.
Because of you, these students have overcome hard backgrounds, inflexible systems, and absence of hope. Thank you for being part of their stories. Together, we can look into the new year and be inspired by new opportunities.
Eric Soard, Executive Director of Wesley College Foundation