Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Truth about School Fees

The tuition for the first four years of secondary education in Tanzania (O-level) is 20,000 TSH ($14) a year.  Prior to 2005, before the Secondary Education Development Plan I (SEDP I), the tuition was double.  This halving of the school fee is considered to be a great achievement of President Kikwete, as it is associated with an explosion of secondary education enrollment.  A spike in the statistics definitely brought some ooohs and ahhhs.

Lets look at the other side.  For many community schools, or public schools with limited government funding, this reduction in tuition meant a drastic cut in school revenue.  Under the SEDP I, the government is supposed to reimburse the difference, but in the case of Saba Saba, only about 3,000 TSH per student has been received.  With school expenditure ever rising with inflation, schools had to resort to other sources of income.  It turned to: other school fees.

Along side with the 20,000 TSH, the students of Saba Saba have to pay the Academic Fee (10,000TSH), Contribution to Graduation Ceremony (3,000 TSH), and starting next year Special Fee (10,000TSH).  For first year students, they also have to pay for desks and chairs, medical emergency fee, uniform, and ID card, which adds up to about 65,000 TSH.

Of course, in an urban area this fee is not exorbitant for many students, but we can easily imagine the problems associated with this.  Most obviously the poorest students are going to have a hard time, but also, policy makers and development workers who are less informed will make mistakes.  For example, the KOICA volunteers run a scholarship program, and it pays only for the 20,000 school fee.  Of course, no volunteer had an idea that these other school fees existed, as the recipients and the school were just glad to get any money.

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