Learning is mainly chalk and talk in this school (Kizuiani primary, in Bagamoyo). The children in this Form 3 class only have 1 text book between every 10 children. Credit: Steve Lewis

A crucial investment of resources for schools and education systems has just been announced for twelve countries in Africa and two in Asia. The Global Partnership for Education, (GPE), a coalition of donors and other stakeholders, announced that 14 new grants have been approved, which in total amount to $550 million in funding over the next three years.

Among the 14 approvals was a grant of $95 million for Tanzania. This is of special interest to the RESULTS parliamentary delegation which visited Tanzania last week to assess the educational system and its relationship with child nutrition. Mark Williams, MP for Ceredigion and Cathy Jamieson, MP for Kilmarnock, visited primary schools and pre-schools and spoke to a number of officials in the Prime Ministers office and other ministries. The delegation found many positives in the school system but also serious challenges. These include for example, large class sizes, poorly trained teachers, and low wages.

Our delegation spoke to the Minister of Education about what could be done. His response was that beyond a limited number of technical improvements, in the end the answer was limited by the budget. As one DFID official put it “the overall fiscal space is very limited”. Tanzania is about 30th in the list of the poorest countries in the world, so with Gross National Income at around only  £1000 per person the possibility to fund basic improvements from the education budget is low.

That’s why the  approval of the Tanzania grant proposal is so important. The GPE Board meeting took place last weekend in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and RESULTS’ Head of Education, Dan Jones, was there.

This is great news”,  he said, “By approving Tanzania’s application for funding, the GPE  will help make a huge difference to the quality of education in Tanzania. The grant will help deliver improved teacher-training, more learning materials, support for out-of-school children through non-formal education, improved early childhood development and strengthened community management of education.”

Major shortage of classrooms in Buza School, Temeke, means that many activities take place outside with a huge number of children. Credit: Steve Lewis
Major shortage of classrooms in Buza School, Temeke, means that many activities take place outside with a huge number of children. Credit: Steve Lewis

At this weeks board meeting the GPE approved US$549 million in grants to 14 developing countries, which will provide critical funding and momentum toward quality education for all children. This new financing strongly reflects the GPE’s top priorities: increasing access to basic education in fragile states, improving the quality of education, improving teachers’ effectiveness, generating measurable results and championing girls’ education.

At a time when we face an education crisis with 57 million children still not in primary school.  the Global Partnership is proud to help these countries and millions of children,” said Alice Albright, Chief Executive Officer at the Global Partnership. Pointing out that donor funding to the education sector has actually been falling in recent years, she emphasised that  “all children should have access to a school, have effective teachers, and be able to learn so they can contribute to the development of their community and nation“.

From the point of view of the delegation the news is almost all good. Our only concern is that it seems as if the funding won’t stretch on this occasion to a significant increase in pre-school education (ages 5 and 6 in Tanzania) which is very weak in Tanzania. The funding does not include any major investment in nutrition programmes for pre-schoolers. From many educationalists we spoke to in the country this is a major need. If a child arrives at school hungry or undernourished they won’t be able to concentrate fully on their learning. Therefore the news of the GPE grant is extremely positive – but donor and government will have to keep searching for ways to address the severe stunting and undernutrition in Tanzania, which limits the educational possibilities of the nations youth.