African Barrick Gold (ABG) recently contributed $670,000 for the construction of 16 new teacher houses in communities near its operations. The donation is aimed at attracting and retaining qualified teachers to rural northwest Tanzania and comes at a time of crisis in the country’s education system.
The national pass rate for the ordinary-level exams, known as O-Levels, plunged to 34.5 percent in 2012, down from 90 percent just five years ago. Students who fail their O-Levels cannot proceed to advanced secondary-level education, which is needed to qualify for university.
In March, Tanzanian Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda inaugurated a special committee to investigate the causes of the mass student failures. While the commission has yet to complete its work, a severe teacher shortage in rural areas of the country is almost certainly one of the contributing factors. At the Mavota Primary School near ABG’s Tulawaka mine, for instance, there are just eight teachers for the school’s 1,025 students — a 1:128 teacher-student ratio. At the nearby Mkunkwa Primary School, there are three teachers for 430 students, a 1:143 teacher-student ratio.
ABG’s donation was made through the ABG Maendeleo Fund, a community development fund that provides $10 million annually to support sustainable development projects in Tanzania. Eight of the houses are located at the Ingwe Secondary School in the village of Nyamongo near ABG’s North Mara mine. The other eight are located at the Mkunkwa and Mavota Primary Schools in the Biharamulo district, with four houses at each school. Each house has three bedrooms, a living room, storage room, 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.
“We want to help our host communities achieve their development goals,” says Stephen Kisakye, Corporate Community Relations Manager at ABG. “In the education sector, creating proper housing and a better working environment for teachers in rural areas is key to attracting and retaining quality teachers. These teachers, in turn, can then deliver a quality education. Hence, our continuing efforts to work with government and the community to build teacher houses at each school that we support.”
In another move aimed at attracting teachers to the region, the Tulawaka mine sponsored 17 young volunteers to attend teacher’s college as part of an agreement with the Biharamulo District Government Authority. The volunteers will be guaranteed full-time teaching jobs in Biharamulo. Under 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. Seven volunteers graduated last year, while the remaining ten graduated in May.
“We believe that any nation that invests in education for its youth guarantees its future,” says Bahati Mwambene, Community Relations Superintendent of ABG’s Tulawaka mine. “Having a qualified professional teacher in an environment conducive to teaching will facilitate the delivery of quality education to students.”
Since its inception in 2011, the ABG Maendeleo Fund has invested $1.8 million in various education projects in Tanzania. The teacher houses at Ingwe Secondary School, for instance, were part of a broader initiative to renovate the entire school, and the fund is also supporting the construction of a new secondary school with four new teacher houses in the nearby village of Nyamwaga.
Last year, the fund invested $120,000 for the construction of new classrooms and teacher houses at the Chapulwa Primary School near ABG’s Buzwagi mine. The fund has also committed $1 million to provide much-needed school desks to dozens of schools throughout the Lake Zone region in northwest Tanzania.