“You can’t study if you’re hungry”, a new report by RESULTS UK, looks at how the Government of Tanzania is addressing challenges related to early childhood development. This short and accessible publication focuses on the impact of undernutrition on the education and learning of children.
Mark Williams MP and Cathy Jamieson MP, accompanied by RESULTS UK staff, attended on a fact finding delegation to assess how undernutrition and limited access to education were impacting the abilities to achieve their potential. The visit also looked closely at how UK aid is supporting Tanzania to make progress on these issues. We believe many of the conclusions are also relevant to other developing countries in East Africa and beyond.
In Tanzania 42% of children under five are chronically malnourished (stunted) whilst 5% are severely malnourished (wasted). Undernutrition can lead to permanent physical and cognitive damage that can impact a child’s performance in school. While Tanzania has experience steady economic growth over the last few years, economic growth on its own is not sufficient to reduce undernutrition. The report recommends that the Tanzanian government, supported by donors like the UK, should invest directly in nutrition programmes to effectively achieve nutritional outcomes.
From meetings with Tanzanian MPs and Government officials there appears to be strong political leadership for addressing Tanzania’s nutrition challenges, although coordination among multiple ministries is a concern. Our report urges that this high level political commitment is matched by better collaboration among agencies and an increase in resources to allow nutrition to become a priority throughout all ministries and districts. This is essential for ensuring that nutrition outcomes improve. In the long term, the governments of both the UK and Tanzania should advocate for nutrition to become a distinct priority in the post-2015 development framework.
Undernutrition can irreversibly damages the physical and cognitive development of a child. In Taznania, a lack of essential nutrients in the average child’s diet is one of the key determinants of undertnutrition. So it is not necessarily a lack of food, but a lack of nutritious and varied food. Micronutrient deficiency is widespread in Tanzania and contributes to the high level of stunting. Lack of nutrients and vitamins can be mitigated through the fortification of staple foods such as flour and salt. The Tanzanian government has recognized the cost effectiveness of this method and has, with the help of the UK government, invested in fortifying flour. The delegation visited a flour factory where a year ago the president signed into a law a bill that requires all wheat flour to be fortified with at least four essential nutrients. Our report recommends Tanzania expands on this by fortifying other key staple foods, such as maize.
Tanzania has made very strong progress in getting children into primary school, with UK aid providing vital support. The net enrolment of children in primary school is now at 95%. However, the delegation found that although enrollment is high, there are many problems which result in children not getting the quality education they deserve. For example, many children are marginalised by ‘under the counter’ school fees and classes are often overcrowded because of the lack of trained teachers. The report recommends the government ensures that appropriate ministries and local authorities work together, alongside civil society organizations, to support marginalised children to receive a basic education. We visited a teacher-training college, which is supported by UK aid, and saw how important this was. It is important that the UK government continues its support to teacher-training in Tanzania, supports teacher recruitment and works closely with the Government of Tanzania ensure that the teaching profession is valued, with salary and conditions to reflect this.
The delegates were delighted to hear that, shortly after our visit, the Global Partnership for Education approved a $95 million grant to improve access to quality education in Tanzania. This support is vital, and the UK’s Department for International Development played a key role in supporting the Tanzanian application. Our report urges the UK Government, as the current largest donor to the Global Partnership for Education, to play a leading role in ensuring that the GPE’s replenishment in June this year is a success. The Global Partnership’s Board met just this week and agreed a target of $3.5 billion for the replenishment, under the watchful eye of new Board Chair and former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.