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The Tanzanian educational system


The Tanzanian government school system is constructed differently than that in many developed countries. The major technical difference is that in many countries, school is free and every child has the right to attend. And though there are many children in the world who value education, in Tanzania it is considered a privilege to attend school.

The major challenges which prevent kids from attending school are many, including shortage of schools and teachers and inability of families to pay for school fees and expenses. In some cases, the adults of the household require the students to quit school to get married, help with younger kids and work around the home. Or, some adults in the homes may value education, but they themselves are uneducated and are therefore unable to help with homework. Additionally, students may live a long distance from their school and are required to walk up to two hours each way. Due to lack of electricity in the homes, once it is dark, students have no light for homework and reading. But despite all these rather daunting hurdles, these students sincerely do their best to go to school and stay in school.

A major obstacle for attending school is cost. Students are required to pay school fees, for uniforms, food, materials and if they are placed in a school away from home, boarding fees. The total costs for primary school is approximately $40.00 per year. The cost of secondary school is as much as $400 to $800 per year for government schools. Obviously if the student is placed in a secondary school in another village or city, there is a cost for boarding which can bring the total up to $900.00 or more. The fact that many families survive on less than a dollar or two a day means that many families cannot afford to send their kids to school. Or families can afford to send only one of their children to school. Imagine having to decide which of your children will have a chance for success in life and which will not?

Movement from primary to secondary school requires the student to pass a national exam. Shockingly, more than half the students do not pass the exam. In 1999, 20% passed, in 2002, 27% passed and in 2005, the pass rate improved to 49%. Those who do not pass the exam and cannot afford private school must simply end their education. Also, less than one half of one percent (.27%) of students in Tanzania goes on to University!

If students score well enough on the national exam, they will be assigned to a government school, based on their score. Students do not choose which school they will attend. Also, there is a shortage of secondary schools, so students may do well enough on exams to go on, but will not get placed in a government school, thus ending their education. Little economic opportunity or hope for the future exists for people who do not complete secondary education.

In school, students are instructed in the subjects of English, Swahili (the national language), mathematics, civics, government, science and history. In both primary and secondary schools, subjects are taught in English so that students will have good working knowledge of a language which will link them to the rest of the world. In some cases, this instruction in English creates a barrier if students did not get good training at the primary school level. Many schools do not have computers, putting them at a disadvantage in keeping up with technology. Also, many of the facilities are in ill repair, there is a shortage of books and materials and electricity is unreliable and can shut off at any time. Currently there is a severe shortage of teachers in Tanzania and they are not paid well enough to sustain a decent lifestyle. Average salaries are $150.00 to $300.00 per month. It is difficult to hire and retain good teachers.

Despite cultural and logistical differences, there are some striking similarities between African kids and those from elsewhere. They love running and playing, teasing, kicking a soccer ball or empty plastic bottle, showing off for one another and hamming it up for photos. They are fun loving, well behaved and eager to learn.
They do not take their education for granted.

It is well known that lack of education is a leading cause of poverty in the developing world. Children must have the opportunity to attend school so they can become part of the agent for changing the system and achieving personal success in life. This is where MamboViewPoint comes in. Our goal is to provide resources at least to some of the children of Mambo and around to allow these kids the opportunity to pursue their education.



Primary School

  • 60% of students attend primary school
  • Mean teacher to student ratio is 58 to 1
  • 12% of students are from rural areas and 88% from urban areas

Secondary School

  • In 2000, 5% of the male population attended and 10% of the female population.

Relationship to health and secondary schooling


No Schooling

Secondary Schooling

Pregnancy rate:



AIDS awareness/prevention:



Also it was found that secondary school attendance is associated with lower infant death rate, better use of health care and higher vaccination rate.

Unfortunately, only about 10% of eligible students attain secondary education.


In the table below the education system of Tanzania is summarized.








Annual costs for govermental schools

Required for next level

Primary school







tuition free expenses for uniforms

testing fees school supplies


Secondary school

Ordinary level


Form IV









TSH 20,000

Expences for

testing fees

caution fees

watchman academic furniture identity fee, emblem fee

fee for lunches

5 subjects with with grades of A-C

Advanced level


Form VI







9, incl general studies



Bachelor's degree










Primary education

As Kiswahili is the official language, it is used as the medium of instruction in primary schools and is also taught as a subject. All primary school textbooks, except English textbooks, are written in Kiswahili.

Secundairy education

By law, all secondary education must be taught in English (excepting Swahili class). For many students, English is their third language. Even though Swahili is the national language, there are approximately 120 tribal languages spoken in Tanzania. Especially in rural areas, Swahili is often not the first language learned by children. Secondary education has two levels. Open level is from form 1 through form 4. There is a national standardized exam taken at the end of form 2 and another at the end of form 4. After form 4, a certificate is issued to all passing the exam. Selected students may progress to A level education (forms 5 & 6). Not all schools offer A level classes and all students at this level are boarding students. Because of the potential problems associated with boarding both male and female students, A level schools restricts enrolment to either just male or just female students. Secondary education ends when students pass their form 6 national exam and receive their diploma.

The government only has sufficient space in secondary schools for approximately 1/3 of the students progressing from primary school. That creates a large market for private schools where annual tuition vary from around TSH 200,000 ($150 USD) to above the $20,000 USD range. A typical private school tuition is around TSH 700,000 ($525 USD). It is a difficult balancing act for the government, trying to keep education affordable while keeping the quality as high as possible.

After the final year of secondary school students can take the Advanced Certificate examination, which is recognized all over the world.


University Education: Tanzania has five tertiary institutions:
·         The University of Dar es Salaam
·         Sokoine University of Agriculture at Morogoro
·         St. Augustine University in Mwanza
·         Open University of Tanzania (which offers degrees through correspondence)
·         Tumaini University (a private Lutheran institution). With campuses in Lushoto, Iringa, Moshi and Arusha.

Other institutions of higher education include the University College of Lands and Architectural Studies (UCLAS), the Muhimbili University College of Health Sciences, the Institute of Finance Management in Dar es Salaam, and the Institute of Development Management in Morogoro.

The school year for tertiary institutions generally begins in September or October. This forces students to stay home for more than a year after they take the ACSE.

Minimum entrance requirements for university and institutions of higher learning under direct entry are: Certificate of Secondary Education Examination (C.S.E.E.) or equivalent, with passes in five approved subjects obtained prior to the sitting of the Advanced Certificate of Secondary Education Examination (A.C.S.E.E.) or equivalent; AND two principal level passes (in appropriate subjects) at the same sitting with total points not below 5 based on the following scale: A=5; B=4; C=3; D=2; E=1; S=0.5; F=0. Or two principal level passes (in appropriate subjects) not at the same sitting provided they are both grade C or higher.


Rating system

ratingThe results are measured in a ranking system from A ( Excellent) to F (Failed) which is equivalent to 1 (A) to 7 (F) points. The less points the better you are. For form IV the 7 best subjects are counted which means the best results will have 7 points and the worst 49.

Depending on the results pupils can pass for division 1 (7 to 17 points), division 2 (18 to 21 points), division 3 (22 to 25 points) or division 4 (26 to 29 point)


However, secondary school is done entirely in English with Swahili as a subject. Multiple problems arise: the kids don’t know enough English to study other subjects in this foreign language, the kids don’t understand the teachers when the teachers speak English. Additionally, many teachers just teach the subjects in Swahili. This might not be such a problem if education in Tanzania wasn’t nationalized – but it is – thus all examinations are in English as well.

What we’ve seen is that kids don’t really understand English. They repeat letters and sounds and words but there is a block in terms of actual comprehension, even at the secondary school level. The teachers don’t make a lot of money and lack the resources and community support to change the education system.

Even more worrisome is that the creativity is totally "beaten out". For sure it is understandable, like teacher you can't allow children to be creative if you have a class from over 100 children. Unfortunately creativity is badly needed if you want to escape from poverty.

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