Activists queries Dars MDGs achievement Send to a friend Sunday, 26 September 2010 10:18 Student perure science books.Activists claim that Tanzania has not done much to improve the quality of education,besides increasing number of classrooms.PHOTO/FILE By Samuel Kamndaya Tanzania may not achieve most of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) if no immediate steps are taken to change the way the country runs its priorities, activists have warned. The eight MDGs, signed in 2000 by 192 United Nations (UN) member states and 23 international organisations, were aimed at encouraging development by improving social and economic conditions in the world's poorest countries. The goals include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women; and reducing child mortality rate. Others are improving maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development. Five years down the line, activists said, Tanzania may ended up achieving little of the eight goals, despite the country won the UN award for its impressive progress towards attaining universal primary education. To the campaigners, who spoke to The Citizen on Sunday, the progress in the school enrollment may only be in numbers with virtually nothing tangible has been achieved as far as quality is concerned. Im sure they translated it in terms of number of classrooms built, but in my understanding education is not only about classrooms. Give me a good teacher and learning materials, and I bet I will do wonders even if the studies are to be conducted under a tree, said Mr Edson Nyingi, the program quality and learning coordinator for Care International in Tanzania. And according to the findings of a research by Uwezo Tanzania research institution, half of the children who complete primary school cannot read English. The research, which was conducted in May, involved 38 out of 133 districts, in which 30 villages were randomly selected and in each village all children aged five to 16 years in 20 households were assessed. Normally, It is expected that all children in Standard Three should be able to read the Standard Two level stories, but the survey established that less than one in 10 (7.7 per cent) were able to do that. The findings also indicate that many children reach standard seven without any English knowledge, and by the time they complete Standard Seven, half of all children (49.1 per cent) still cannot read a Standard Two level English story. Kiota for Women's Health and Development (Kiwohede) executive director, Ms Justa Mwaituka, echoed Mr Nyingis sentiments, saying retaining pupils until they complete Standard Seven is yet another issues of concern. This, she said, is due to poverty, which looks far from being alleviated. We still have pupils who also look after their fellow youth at home This makes them lose concentration .Poor education cuts across other goals, resulting into failure to meet all the other goals if nothing will be done to change our way of doing things in the remaining five years, she said. Already, available data indicate that the country has performed poorly in the goal of halving income poverty. We are very behind on the aspect of reducing income poverty and if income poverty remains high, it goes without saying that we will not achieve any of the other remaining goals, said Mr Silas Olang, the program coordinator for Revenue Watch. According to the 2007 Household Budget Survey, poverty declined marginally in the country, with the number of people living below the national poverty line declining by a marginal 2.3 percentage points from 35.7 per cent between 2001 and 2003 to 33.4 per cent in 2007. However, activists said that if population increase is to be put into consideration, then the actual number of people living below poverty line should have gone up. But lets put that aside, reducing poverty by just two per cent indicate that we can only manage another two per cent in the next five years .This will be far from the goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger come 2015, Mr Olang said. The activists claimed that Tanzania has failed in achieving the target because it did not put its priorities right. We simply need to put our priorities right The MDGs are a good thing, but we needed to have our own home-grown solutions to poverty, he said, adding: If you look at Mkukuta (the National Strategy and Reduction of Poverty), you will realise that it is something which has been copied from somewhere .The strategy is the same in Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and many other countries, and this suggests that it is a foreign prepared solution, said Mr Olang. If the country is to make meaningful progress towards MDGs in the next five years, he said, agriculture should be given the respect it deserves. This, they said, should involve revamping even the much-publicised agricultural revolution initiative under Kilimo Kwanza. It is in the views of activists that giving tractors as a sign of showing governments seriousness towards meeting the requirements of the countrys Kilimo Kwanza initiative may be yet another failed arrangement. The first priority could have been water instead of power tillers, said Mr Olang. With water, farmers can produce throughout the year. The second thing could have been investment in agricultural research, he added. This, he said, could have helped farmers to get improved seed and pesticide varieties. Technology in form of power tillers could have been the third in the line of a well-orchestrated move to bring about a green revolution, he noted, adding: It sounds meaningless to give people power tillers while they have nothing to do when there is no rain, he said. According to the activist, the other thing that may help Tanzania to at least move closer to meeting a few of the MDGs, is by making sure that the country monitors and utilises its natural resources properly.