In its ‘Equity and inclusion for all in education’ report, the GCE found that while there was focus on ensuring more girls attended school, there were still too many barriers for other disadvantaged children. Speaking to The Guardian, one of the report’s contributors said “increasing the number of girls in education is welcome, [but] government policy is failing other marginalised groups such as disabled children, ethnic minorities, street children and those living in very remote areas”. However, the report’s authors conceded that in certain countries, such as Tanzania, support programmes run by the UK’s Department for International Development which were aimed at girls’ education, also improved the situation for vulnerable and marginalised children.
In Tanzania, state spending on education has tripled over the last decade. In 1999, the country spent only 2% of its gross national product on education; by 2010, this had risen to 6.2%. This has allowed the primary net enrolment rate to double and in 2008, the number of girls enrolled in primary school equalled that of boys.
However, differences in the quality of education on offer to rural children remain. In its latest global monitoring report, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) examines some of the initiatives aimed at improving learning environments in rural areas. For example the ‘BridgeIT’ scheme allows teachers to download videos on subjects such as maths and science via mobile phone and transfer them to a classroom television. This has allowed schools which don’t have internet access to improve results.
At the pre-school level, the report also highlights the work carried out by the Madrasa Resource Centre schools, developed by the Aga Khan Foundation. In these pre-schools, staff are given six months specialist training in early childhood development skills, as well as being supported in the use of locally available and low cost materials. Teachers are also trained in how to use a child’s local language to stimulate their curiosity and desire for learning.
Farmer field schools across Tanzania have also attracted many youngsters in rural areas, providing vital agricultural training. These centres are particularly beneficial for those who drop out of school or leave with low levels of literacy, helping to provide those who work smallholdings with practical skills to increase crop yields and income.