Has Free Public Education Led To More Tanzanian Girls In School?

Has there been an increase in enrolment of girls following the introduction of free primary and secondary education?

According to Tanzania’s Vice President Samia Suluhu, girls in the country are now more able to reach their career goals following the introduction of the 11-year free education programme.

Speaking at the Tanzania Gender Networking Festival on September 6, Mama Suluhu noted that one positive outcome of the free education drive is the increase in enrolment of more girls, especially given the worryingly high number of dropouts and low transition rate of female pupils from primary to secondary school.

The increase in enrolment, Mama Suluhu said, proves that the girls who would otherwise be left out are now joining primary school, meaning that girl child enrolment is higher than ever before.

So the question is, has the number of girls enrolled into Tanzanian Government schools gone up since the introduction of free education?

PesaCheck investigated the claim that more girls than ever before have joined and stayed in school since the introduction of free primary education and finds the claim by Tanzania’s vice-president to be PARTIALLY TRUE for the following reasons:

While enrollment of girls has generally gone up in Tanzania, the data shows that transition rates from primary to secondary school actually went down in 2016, the first year when public secondary school education was made free.

The Tanzanian government initiated the Primary Education Development Plan (PEDP) in 2002, with the aim of substantially increasing capacity and improving the quality of primary education in the country. The plan’s ultimate goal was to make primary school free and accessible to all, irrespective of financial capabilities.

The PEDP Statistics Brief for 2016 report indicates a general increase in the number of pupils enrolled in government schools between 2012 and 2016, but the data shows that the number of girls enrolled in secondary schools went down by about 52,000 following the introduction of free education.

This free education policy came into effect in January 2016, with the introduction of TSh18 billion in grants to be disbursed to all government schools by the central government as part of a TSh137 billion allocation to the Ministry of Education to implement the free education programme.

Data from the PEDP report shows a marked increase in the number of girls enrolled between 2012 and 2016 overall. There were an estimated 4,061,545 girls in government primary schools in 2014 compared to 4 225 976 in 2016. Therefore there was an increase of 164,431 (4 %) female pupils year on year.

It will take a while for the number of girls transitioning from primary to secondary school to register the difference brought about by the introduction of free education.

While the number of girls enrolled into standard one has increased by over 30% since the advent of free education in Tanzania, there is a high dropout and failure rate for girls, which means that only a faction of the primary school girls make it to secondary school. In 2016 alone we see a 76% difference between enrollment of girls into standard 1 and into Form 1.

A HakiElimu study confirms the lower numbers in secondary school enrollment even after the free education policy, but this is brought about by the limited number of Form One spaces available rather than the direct effect of fee-free education.

The data clearly shows there has been an increase in the overall enrolment of girls after the implementation of free education, but the enrollment of girls in secondary school has fallen, meaning that Mama Suluhu’s claim that enrolment of girls has gone up following the introduction of the free education drive has gone up is PARTIALLY TRUE.

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This report was written by PesaCheck Fellow Belinda Japhet, a data journalist and online editor based in Tanzania. The infographics are by Benjamin Mutiso, a Kenyan graphic designer and visual artist. This report was edited by PesaCheck managing editor Eric Mugendi.

PesaCheck, co-founded by Catherine Gicheru and Justin Arenstein, is East Africa’s first fact-checking initiative. It seeks to help the public separate fact from fiction in public pronouncements about the numbers that shape our world, with a special emphasis on pronouncements about public finances that shape government’s delivery of so-called ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ or SDG public services, such as healthcare, rural development and access to water / sanitation. PesaCheck also tests the accuracy of media reportage. PesaCheck To find out more about the project, visit pesacheck.org.

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PesaCheck is a joint initiative of Code for Africa, through its local Code for Tanzania chapter, and the Data Zetu initiative to give Tanzanian citizens actionable data, in partnership with a coalition of local media organisations, with additional support from the International Center for Journalists(ICFJ).

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