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Free Basic Education Program for All in Offing

TOMRIC News Agency (Dar es Salaam), 29 June 2001

Dar Es Salaam - Tanzania has decided to burn all primary school pupils' contributions, with effected from next year.

The decision was announced by the Minister for Education and Culture, Joseph Mungai in Dodoma Region central Tanzania saying a move was in line with the recent move to reduce illiteracy.

If workable, the move would make most pupils from poor families access primary school education contrary to past whereby registered children from poor families were very few due to the charged fees and contributions.

The Minister said that if any school committee would decide to seek contributions for a specific goal, all people living near the school area should be involved. Under this program all contributions for primary schools'development in the country will involve the whole society and not only parents of pupils in those schools as it was in past, he said.

According to the Minister, the government has budgetered a total of Tshs11.0 billion for primary school fees. He said further that the government has set aside the amount to implement one of the conditions given by donors to Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC).

Free education program is announced when preliminary data from the first round of the 2000-2001 Child Labor Survey (CLS) in Tanzania suggest that about 40.2 percent of an estimated 10.2 million school going children are not attending school, most of them are, instead, engaged in economic activities or in house keeping.

President Benjamin Mkapa, a Tanzania's President, said this recently when addressing a special high level meeting on the launch of the Time-Bomba Programme on the worst Forms of Child Labour also organized by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Tanzania, is one of the ILO's country that had been selected as a pilot area for the implementation of its International Programme on Elimination of Child Labour (IPECL).

The CLS in Tanzania suggest that 4.1 milion out of estimated 10.2 million children aged between five and fourteen years, which is about 40.2 percent, are not attending school, they do economic activities instead, he said.

He said child labour deprived children of their opportunitis for schooling, adding that it also put on their afraid shoulders the burdens of both schooling and work.

Explaining further, he said it was not that Africans preferred that their children should be exposed to such worst forms of child labour, adding that it was just that many did not have an option.

He linked the situation to an African proverb saying: Dogs do not actually prefer bones to meat, it is just that no one ever gives them meat. He appealed to industrialized countries to help Africa including Tanzania, by investing in the future of its children, saying the future of the continent belongs to its children.

Mkapa attributed the education situation in his country to a number of factors that include low household incomes, existing gaps in social services delivery systems, dysfunctional families, the HIV/AIDS sourge. Others were structural adjustment that led to deterioration of living conditions in rural areas, as well as economic reforms and lingering an outdated cultural practices.

He sounded emphasis on AIDS scourage: The death of breadwinners, or their inability to work due to illness, creates severe hardships for children. In Tanzania we are approaching a million children in terms of HIV/AIDS orphans.

He added: As a result, a good number of such orphans end up fending for themselves through child labour, including its worst forms, such as commercial sex.