History of Education in Tanzania

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In the late 1800’s Tanganyika (present day mainland Tanzania) became a colony under German control and in 1893, the first government schools were established. Prior to this, education was informal, taught by elders in the community, and focused on building good citizenship and life skills.

In 1914, war broke out between German occupying troops and British troops in Tanzania causing the collapse of the entire education system. The German troops were defeated, leaving Tanganyika to Great Britain. Shortly after this, the war missionary and government education system resumed and the first Director of Education was appointed in 1920 and throughout the next 40 years, local powers were mandated to oversee the provision education.

In 1964 Tanganyika and Zanzibar became the United Republic of Tanzania, gaining independence from Great Britain and the new Republic established Kiswahili as its official language- pushing for increased enrolment in government schools (at this time, private primary schools were not permitted). Three years after independence, in 1967, Tanzania’s President Nyerere delivered a speech entitled the “Arusha Declaration” detailing the introduction into socialism and the importance of self-reliant rural livelihoods, centred on agriculture. Nyerere’s goal was for the majority of people to receive primary education, with a small minority going beyond that.

In the 1970s private primary schools opened and a universal primary education program was introduced. School fees were also eradicated resulting in a substantial increase in student enrolment. However, in the mid 1980’s school fees for primary and secondary schools was reinstated and the number of children receiving formal education dropped significantly.

Since the mid 1990’s, however, numerous Development plans and programmes have been introduced to help provide formal education for Tanzanian children:

- 1997: Education Sector Development Program
- 2001: Primary Education Development Plan (PEDP)
- 2003: Secondary Education Development Plan (SEDP)
- 2004: Government expansion of secondary schools under SEDP

The Tanzanian education system has improved greatly over the past 3 decades but still has a long way to go. As of 2007, Secondary enrolment in Tanzania is among the lowest in the world at 20%.

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