In rural Tanzania, lack of adequate housing makes it challenging to attract and retain teachers at a time when there is a country-wide teacher shortage. To incentivize teachers to settle in rural villages, African Barrick Gold (ABG) recently funded the construction of eight teachers’ houses in communities near its Tulawaka mine in northwest Tanzania.
“It is our belief that any nation that invests in education for its youth guarantees its future,” says Bahati Mwambene, Tulawaka’s Community Relations Superintendent. “Having a qualified professional teacher in an environment conducive to teaching will facilitate the delivery of quality education to students.”
ABG is contributing $320,000 for the construction of the teacher houses through its ABG Maendeleo Fund, a community development fund that provides $10 million annually to support sustainable development projects in Tanzania. The houses are located at the Mkunkwa and Mavota Primary Schools in the Biharamulo district, with four houses at each school. Some of the houses are complete while others are in the final stages of construction. Each house has three bedrooms, a living room and storage room, as well as a washroom and kitchen. The houses are meant for teachers and their families, and since the houses are government property, teachers will not pay rent or maintenance costs.
Mwambene says the initiative will increase teacher retention rates to the benefit of students. “Delivery of quality education is an aggregate of many factors, such as the teacher-student ratio, access to books and a sufficient number of classrooms and school desks, among other things,” he says.
The lack of teachers at Mavota and Mkunkwa Primary Schools is dire; there are eight teachers for the 1,025 students at Mavota, a 1:128 teacher-student ratio. At Mkwunka, there are only three teachers for 430 students, a 1:143 teacher-student ratio.
In another move aimed at attracting teachers to the region, the Tulawaka mine is sponsoring 17 young volunteers to attend teacher’s college as part of an agreement with the Biharamulo District Government Authority. The mine is allocating $22,000 over two years for this initiative.
Upon graduating, the volunteers will be guaranteed full-time teaching jobs in the Biharamulo district. According to the terms of the agreement, graduates are required to teach in rural communities in Biharamulo for a minimum of five years before they can transfer to a school in another area of Tanzania. To date, seven volunteers have graduated, while the remaining 10 are expected to graduate in May 2013.
“This sponsorship initiative is one of our commitments to ensure access to quality education and skills-training in the communities where we operate,” Mwambene says.