The Government of Tanzania has launched today Fursa Kwa Watoto (Kiswahili for “opportunities for children”), a program aimed at improving the quality of and access to pre-primary education for all children in mainland Tanzania. Led by the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Vocational Training, the program is funded by Dubai Cares, UNICEF and the Hewlett Foundation and implemented by national, regional and local governments and partners such as Children in Crossfire, Aga Khan University, Maarifa ni Ufunguo and TAHEA. The evaluation component, which will produce important data on pre-primary education in Tanzania, is led by Mathematica Policy Research with Corporate Social Responsibility Group Africa (CSR).
At a press conference marking the launch of the program, Mr. Nicolas Buretta, Acting Director of Basic Education, said: “The Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Vocational Training is proud to lead the Fursa kwa Watoto initiative, in partnership with Dubai Cares, UNICEF, Children in Crossfire and other important partners. Pre-primary education is a key priority for the nation, and Fursa kwa Watoto is contributing valuable experience and evidence on the strategies we will need to expand quality pre-primary education for all children in Tanzania.
A delegation led by Dubai Cares’ Chief Executive Officer Tariq Al Gurg and consisting of United Arab Emirates-based media and Dubai Cares employees arrived in the country earlier this week and plans to visit schools to take stock of the program’s implementation on the ground so far.
Mr. Al Gurg, who joined with representatives from the Ministry of Education, UNICEF and Children in Crossfire in launching the programme, said: “It gives my team and I great pleasure to witness the success of our early education programs in East Africa. In recent years, the Government of Tanzania has achieved great progress in facilitating access to early education programs for children. Building on such progress, we must turn our attention to the quality of these provisions and tackle challenges such as shortage of qualified pre-school teachers and adequate materials.”
With funding of around US$ 5.8 million the the “Fursa kwa Watoto” initiative will provide quality pre-primary education to more than 29,000 children in Tanzania, though the impact is expected to be much greater, as the experience and data can guide plans for the expansion of quality pre-primary nationwide.
Craig Ferla, Director of Children in Crossfire, said: “the Fursa kwa Watoto initiative is the most exciting initiative of its type in pre-primary education in Tanzania. As well as improving pre-primary for over 29,000 children, it is also building evidence of models that improve learning outcomes for children and are scalable for government and development partners to invest in. This program will help realize Tanzania Education and Training Policy’s vision of a citizenry that is educated, knowledgeable, skilled and proficient to contribute to national development.”
Cecilia Baldeh, Chief of Education of UNICEF Tanzania noted: “There is a great deal of evidence confirming that the highest return on investments in education and training are those made during early childhood. Global research estimates that one dollar invested in pre-school yields between 7 and 17 dollars in higher future wages. We comment the Government of Tanzania for recognizing pre-primary education as an essential component of the wider nationall agenda of improving primary school outcomes.”
Quality pre-primary education has a lasting impact on a child’s school achievement, number of years of education and completion. Yet most children in Tanzania miss out on these benefits as only 34% of all 5 to 6 year-olds are enrolled in pre-primary school. These figures are much lower in rural areas, and the quality of pre-primary education faces many challenges. As a result, the majority of children are ill-equipped for primary schooling and do not have the necessary foundation for effective learning.
The Government of Tanzania has shown growing commitment to early learning for children and in 2015 it introduced one year compulsory pre-primary as part of basic education. As it works to expand access, the government is also committed to improving equity and investing in quality to guarantee children enter Standard I ready to learn. Fursa Kwa Watoto is an important support to the government’s effort in ensuring equitable access to quality pre-primary education for all children in Tanzania.