The Lure for and the Dashed Promise for Quality Education to Poor Families in Tanzania

Smilling Family with Kids.
Happy Family with Kids.

Education can change people’s lives. And for many, it has done just that. The trans-formative power of education especially for poor rural children is surreal. Numerous examples exists of people climbing the economic ladder due to education in a single generation. The examples are too many for the poor in rural areas not to notice.

But, is this still the reality of today’s education system in Tanzania?

Discussing the education op[opportunities for their children
Discussing  education opportunities for their children
In Tanzania and much of the developing countries, children are looked at as investments. The more education one acquires, the better the chance to land a lucrative job afterwards. This in turn, guarantees a good living wage, retirement (plan) for themselves, and their parents.

Unfortunately in the past decade, this line of reasoning has turned into a trap for many families in Tanzania.

Many rural families spend a lot of capital to send their sons and daughters to schools following this fallacy. In other words many parents are hoping for a good return on their investments–that is not actually there. They hope to create a “safety net” for themselves because none exist through the government. This is especially true for peasant families that don’t receive any type of retirement income after many years of hard work.

walking to school
walking to school

For most of the rural kids attending ward secondary schools, the prospect of ending up with a division zero and/or four “if they are luck” is hanging at 85% according to statistics from the Tanzanian Ministry of Education’s data on form IV pass rates for the past 3 years. All of these failing kids are a retirement investment plan that has gone sour for themselves and their parents. If this was a bank doing this kind of business(education utapeli)–many people will be heading to jail for selling a fake product. The parents are losing money twice in this scheme: (1) a shot at a decent life for their kids and (2) a retirement investment for themselves.

Pupils sweeping the ground in the morning
Pupils sweeping the ground in the morning

The pathetic state of the schools and the schooling conditions is killing the dream that many Tanzanian families have for their children. And the sad thing is–this was not the case from independence all the way to the nineties. Most of the people you see occupying the high-rise offices in Dar came up from poor families through education. Education then, was a much flatter playing field than it is today.

The View as you Land in Dar Es Salaam
The View as you Land in Dar Es Salaam

What has gone wrong here?

5 thoughts on “The Lure for and the Dashed Promise for Quality Education to Poor Families in Tanzania

  1. Pingback: Poor seem Rich to me – mySestina

  2. Hello Jean-Phillippe,

    Thank you for a much needed e mail. I would be very interested in joining hands with you to start up a software development business model in Tanzania. I am currently working to open up an experiential education center in Turiani, Morogoro. I am certain that we can accomodate your ideas into ours to make the center unique and stronger.

    I will be happy to discuss with you about my ideas and how we can make this happen in the not so distant future.

    You can reach me at and/or 678-446-0320.

    Thank you for your interest and ideas,

    Lets together do this!

    Shaaban Fundi


  3. Jambo Shaaban,
    We spent around 1 month in Tanzania and discovered people like I always dream they could exist. It is such a pity to see they are so poor. Some are working like crazy doing jobs no one could succeed even a few days in Europe.

    Walking along in some slums, education seemed to me as well the solution. However it should be specifically oriented in areas that bring money easily without being too long: software development, financial?, alternative medicine.

    I am software development engineer and I proposed a guy who complained being jobless in one of the streets that I found wonderful and so poor. I suggested him to try to get this 100$ PC to try to set up a business with some local schools. We tried to define a business road. Unfortunately despite he promised me I never had any news.

    However I am sure this would be an alternative. If some people would be interested in developing such an idea it could certainly help. Software development is usually very easy to learn for teenagers (I learnt on my own as I was 14 .. and many other did so too).

    I am also non medical practitioner practicing chinese and some of japanese Medicine. I would have liked to teach in a hospital some very easy tricks which I used to free some patients from quite severe diseases … unfortunately they were not interested …

    However these are 2 ideas that I am sure could bring something. We are leaving Dar es Salaam in 2 days flying to Bangkok …

    I hope I can go further in these ideas of trying to help these people. I am sure many companies would be interested in investing for ideas there. I was working for Intel before that I left to travel. They have quite a strong politic in trying to invest … they can get through this good advertising at low cost and we could imagine they could set up some kind of diploma where the best would get a job offer.
    If these ideas interest you and I can be of any help, do not hesitate to contact me.

    I wish you all the best,



  4. Thanks for the wonderful comments James. I am originally from Tanzania and it bothers me a lot when I see fixable things that a left to chance.

    By the way I voted for you. Hopefully you will win and go back to Tanzania soon. I will be in Tanzania in July and early August….hope to see you there.
    Maybe I can learn from you a trick or two on how to take great photo similar to the Himba Boys Photos you took.

    Great job man and enjoy the choice you made to quit a daily job and travel. I hope I can be as brave as you’re and do that some day.




  5. Hi Shaaban:

    Thanks for this thoughtful post. I too felt a wave of hopelessness when I traveled through Africa. So much hopefulness in a climate of despair…

    I’d love to go back to Tanzania one day.

    I’m actually up for a possible trip back thru Conde Nast, in a photo contest, of a photo I actually took in Tanzania. Check it out here or if you can spare two seconds to vote, that’d be awesome. Thanks a million to a fellow lover of Tanzania!



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