My first ever visit to Africa was to Kenya and Tanzania in 1996. I have returned to Tanzania many times since then, and it has been fascinating to see how things have developed over the last 18 years.
Tanzania has doubled net enrollment in primary school from 49 percent to 96 percent from 1999 to 2009, and increased the primary completion rate from 55 percent to 100 percent.
One of the biggest changes in Tanzania has been in primary education. In fact, Tanzania has made the most progress in Africa on primary education over the last 10 years. It has doubled net enrollment in primary school from 49 percent to 96 percent from 1999 to 2009, and increased the primary completion rate from 55 percent to 100 percent. So Tanzania has already achieved the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 2 of universal enrollment in primary education by 2015, five years early. They managed this while their population grew by an extra 10 million people, from 34 to 44 million. And they have maintained equality between boys’ and girls’ enrollment and completion rates.
According to a paper commissioned for the Education For All Global Monitoring Report 2011, this progress in Tanzania was due to a combination of:
- The government giving political and budgetary priority to universal primary education and completion rates.
- Using the local government system to start education in villages, map where school-aged children live, and enroll all children from seven years and up.
- Education reforms such as improving child-friendly teaching and learning skills for teachers, flexible learning hours, abolition of corporal punishment and of compulsory school uniforms, wider availability of textbooks, provision of health services at school, improved access to water and sanitation facilities in school and school meals in drought-prone areas.
Source: MDG 2012 Report for Africa by the AU, AfDB, UNECA and UNDPTanzania is not the only country in Africa that has made progress on primary education. In fact, most African countries are on track to achieve MDG2. Only four African countries have seen a decline between 1999 and 2009. The total net primary school enrollment for Africa rose from 64 percent in 2000 to 84 percent in 2009. This is the best performance against any of the MDGs in Africa. So progress on education is one of the biggest success stories in Africa of the last decade. This should help more people, especially women and youth, to prosper from economic opportunities on the continent. There’s further to go of course, to improve the quality of education people receive, but ensuring all children get something is a vital start.
Tanzania is not the only country in Africa that has made progress on primary education. In fact, most African countries are on track to achieve MDG2.We are sometimes asked if the Gates Foundation works on education in Africa. We don’t. Not because we don’t think it’s important. We think it’s VERY important. In fact, most of the work the foundation does in the USA is on education because we know it is so vital to helping people fulfill their potential.
But in developing countries, we have chosen to focus on health and agriculture, because we believe we should not try to do everything. And because we have picked issues that were neglected, where we thought we could add particular value. Education has received strong support for many years. We’re pleased to see that international development assistance for health and agriculture has increased over the time we have worked on these issues. That was one of our goals. There has been major progress in these areas as well in over the last two decades as we’ve worked with grantees and partners in Africa to make smart investments that would achieve real and lasting impact for those most in need. These will be covered in future blogs on some of the other MDGs.