29 Sep 2010

Water and the daily war of life

This is the English translation of Maji na vita ya kupigania maisha, published in Mwananchi newspaper on September 28th, and posted here yesterday.

Siwema faces a daily challenge to access clean and safe water. She lives in the village of Godegode in Mpwapwa district, but the nearest clean source of water is over 5km away in the neighbouring village. Each day she has a choice. She can either walk all that way, spending over two hours on the simple task of collecting water. Or she can collect water from a hole dug by hand in the dry riverbed, which is horribly dirty. There is a borehole in the village, but it broke down a few years ago and was never fixed.

28 Sep 2010

Maji na vita ya kupigania maisha

This op-ed article was originally published today in the HakiElimu Kauli Mbadala spot in Mwananchi newspaper, Tuesday 28 September.

Maji na vita ya kupigania maisha

Siwema anakabiliwa na changamoto ya upatikanaji wa maji kila siku. Anaishi kijiji cha Godegode wilayani Mpwapwa ambapo sehemu ya karibu anayoweza kupata maji safi na salama ni kijiji cha jirani kilichopo umbali wa zaidi ya kilometa tano. Kila siku Siwema ana chaguo, aidha atembee umbali mrefu kwa zaidi ya masaa mawili kwa ajili ya kupata maji safi na salama au akachote maji kwenye dimbwi lililopo kwenye mto uliokauka ambapo maji ni machafu na tayari yananuka. Kijiji cha Godegode kiliwahi kuwa na kisima kirefu cha maji lakini kiliharibika miaka michache iliyopita na hakijafanyiwa matengenezo.

23 Sep 2010

Quality versus quantity: The old education debate comes round again

This week saw two announcements relating to education in Tanzania that at first appear to conflict. First, on Monday, it was announced in New York that Tanzania has been awarded a prize for its achievements towards the Millennium Development Goal for education. And then on Tuesday, Uwezo launched a report on educational standards that found, for example, that one in five primary school leavers cannot read at standard 2 level Kiswahili.

Of course there is no real contradiction. Tanzania has put huge efforts and resources into expanding access to both primary and secondary education, with some pretty impressive results (as Uwezo acknowledges), as long as the results you are talking about are increases in enrolment rates. If you’re talking about exam results, or the even just the ability to read, write and add up, then the results are much less impressive, which is what the Uwezo report highlights. In other words, Tanzania has done very well in terms of increasing the quantity of education, but not very well at improving the quality. The MDGs focus only on quantity.

Quantity versus quality is not a new debate in the education sector, but rather an old one. Go back 40-50 years and you’ll find that Tanzania prioritised expanding access to the education sector under Nyerere, who put a lot of effort into Universal Primary Education (UPE) while Kenya focussed more efforts on increasing the quality of education. The downside of Tanzania’s approach is reflected in the unofficial rechristening of UPE as Ualimu Pasipo na Elimu (teaching without education). On the other hand, ensuring that every child has at least a basic level of education is a noble aim.

But the real question the Uwezo report raises is not whether it is better to aim for quantity or quality, but whether Tanzanian school children are receiving even a basic level of education. For too many children this appears not to be the case.

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Disclaimer: One of Uwezo's main partners is Twaweza, Daraja's biggest donor.

3 Sep 2010

Cutting the ribbon on Kwanza Jamii Njombe

Kwanza Jamii Njombe has hit the streets of Njombe. As I write, it is on its way (on the buses) out to the rural villages, and is being read all over the town and district. This is a proud moment for Daraja, the culmination of almost three years of gradual preparatory work, and two months of intense activity since the paper's production team started work in July. The full paper is available as a low resolution pdf here (4.24MB).

1 Sep 2010

Editorial/Tahariri: Kuweka Jamii Kwanza Hapa Njombe

Friends and followers of Daraja on Facebook and on Twitter, as well as those here in Njombe, will know that we launched our Kwanza Jamii Njombe local newspaper this week. A report on the launch, together with pictures of Mrisho Mpoto and others will be available here soon. In the meantime, as we unfortunately don't have the website for the paper up and running yet, we felt it was right to share a few articles from the first issue of the paper here on this blog. We will therefore be posting some of the best articles and features over the next few days and weeks, starting here with the first editorial.

(Apologies to readers who prefer things in English, but we also have many readers who are more comfortable in Swahili. And we will continue to post here in English as well.)

Kuweka jamii kwanza hapa Njombe

Mwitikio wa watu umekuwa mkubwa tangu pale tulipowapa wazo letu la kuanzisha gazeti la kijamii hapa Njombe. Asilimia kubwa wamefurahishwa na wazo letu, huku wakitarajia kuliona lina nini ndani yake.