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Tanzania's AfDB-Funded Alternative Learning and Skills Centers Are Changing a Nation

November 1, 2018

One of the bigger success stories for the African Development Fund was the construction of a group of alternative learning and skills development centers in Tanzania, for $32.7 million.

A classroom for Tanzania's Alternative Learning and Skills Development Project. Photo: African Development Bank

Designed to fill the gaps in non-formal education in Zanzibar, specifically on the islands of Unguja and Pemba, the project also financed equipment purchase and development of teachers’ manuals.

Furthermore, the facilities supported a program of micro-loans to graduates of the centers for their business start-ups, under the Small Entrepreneurs Loan Facility (SELF) scheme. 6,333 loans have so far been disbursed. 70 percent of recipients were female entrepreneurs.

The traditional approach within the mainstream school system in the East African nation lacked the capacity to provide schooling for all. Consequently, the Government of Zanzibar decided to accord high priority to the development of alternative basic education with emphasis on girls.

The alternative learning and skills development project was formulated within the framework of the Zanzibar Education Master Plan covering the period 1997-2006. It supports the Community Based Adult Education (CBAE) Program and the tenets of the country’s Education II project, which provided complementary basic education for out of school children. It also aligns with the Adult Literacy in Non-formal Education under the Complementary Basic Education in Tanzania (COBET) program.

The Bank’s partnership with the Ministry of Education was thus crucial for the take-off of the project, including participating in the quarterly meetings of the Zanzibar Education Sector Committee. Subsequently, evening classes organized in the Alternative Learning Centres (ALCs) have made great strides in training over 1,000 community members (51 percent of them are women) in computer literacy, law and adult literacy. Other donors supporting the education and micro-finance sectors in Tanzania are UNESCO, UNICEF and USAID.

According to the Zanzibar Education Sector Review (1995), net enrollment rate at the basic education level was below 50 percent, indicating that more than half the number of children aged 7-16 were not attending school. From the total number of children entering Standard 1, less than 50 percent completed Standard VII. The highest percentage of dropouts was found at Standard VII and Form 1 (11 percent and 18 percent respectively).

Furthermore, 71 percent of the children did not continue after Form 2, the final stage of basic education. School leavers at Form 2 level are insufficiently equipped for meeting the demands of the labour market or for self-employment, necessitating the need for vocational training programs.

The alternative learning structures continue to advance literacy including numerical skills and basic education curricula and programs for dropouts and out of school children who have never been enrolled in the formal school system. Limited classroom space, poverty and negative attitudes of parents towards education continue to hinder the attainment of universal basic education.

Supporting Economic Growth

The construction, mining, transport and communication sectors were the key growth drivers for Tanzania in 2017. Growth is projected to remain robust at 6.7 percent in 2018 and 6.9 percent in 2019, representing one of the best performances in East Africa.

Despite this positive outlook, Tanzania’s economic growth has not been rapid or inclusive enough to create enough jobs and improve the quality of life. The Fund is committed to build technical skills so that the Tanzanian economy can realize its full potential in high-technology sectors.

A study conducted by the African Development Bank and partner institutions in May 1998 identified four main barriers to education in Zanzibar comprising essentially: I) exclusion because of early marriage and early pregnancies; II) limited infrastructure (especially classrooms) III) lack of quality and relevance of formal education; and IV) parent/community attitude towards education. In addition, the study discovered that apart from the fact that children in primary and secondary schools were over-aged; the drop-out rate was high.

Rehabilitating and mainstreaming drop-outs and children between ages 9-14 who were never enrolled in formal education system into the formal education system or vocational skills acquisition is the core objective of the ADF project. Beneficiary institutions included the Mwanakwerekwe Vocational Training School and Mikunguni Technical Secondary School.

The SELF micro-credit funds also enabled extension of loans to self-employed graduates of the skills development centers and 19 micro finance institutions and Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOS) in Zanbibar. The following project objectives were achieved:

  • Development of Alternative Learning Skills Development Centers
  • Gender and Social Impact
  • Development of Business Incubators
  • Institutional Strengthening and Capacity Development
  • Project Management Skills for institutions and relevant government agencies
  • Financially autonomy / Project sustainability through revenues generated by the beneficiary vocational schools NOrth 

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