WARD secondary school girls in Ikungi District, Singida Region carry bricks for dormitory construction.
He gave an example of Igowole Secondary School in Mufindi District, Iringa Region, which emerged among the best performers in the 2014 Advanced Certificate of Secondary Education Examination (ACSEE) results, beating other schools that have some reputable academic backgrounds.
He attributed the results with Big Results Now (BRN) strategy which he said will continue, calling for education authorities, education stakeholders and parents among other people to perform their part seriously.
Commenting on the education trend in the country, President Kikwete said that the government has made remarkable achievements in terms of education infrastructure, pointing the need for more efforts in the improvement of education quality, especially among girls in such schools.
For example, a family might be having a boy and a girl going to the same day ward secondary school, but home chores may affect the girl more than a boy when it comes to academic performance.
There is a vivid an example of two children of the same family (boy and girl) who are studying at Sungu ward secondary school in Moshi rural District, Kilimanjaro Region, and the investigation has discovered that the boy performs better than his sister.
Anna and Augustine are children of Jacob Massawe who are now in Form Three in the school mentioned above. Jacob does better in studies simply because when he comes back from home he is not supposed to do any manual work.
Instead, his sister Anna makes sure that she cuts grass for cows, before she starts preparing supper for the family. When everybody has eaten, Anna should also wash the dishes and make sure that she has drawn enough water for the house needs.
As Anna is busy doing all this jobs, his brother Jacob is roaming around in the village, and when he comes back home he takes quick bath, eats the food and starts doing private studies.
By the time Anna gets ready for personal studies, her body is already exhausted and as she sits down to do homework, she starts falling asleep, and since she has to do it, she ends up doing it in a wrong way.
Some Chagga traditions and cultures seem to be humiliating girls, giving more rights to boys compared to girls. Even when it comes to giving academic needs to the children, a boy may first be considered before the girl?s needs are taken into consideration.
Poor performance for girl students in secondary schools is the wide problem in this country, that is why Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) and the Foundation for Civic Society (FCS) have pulled efforts to make sure that girls in Ward schools are given chance to attain education just like boys.
The two organisations want the society value the education of girls in Ward schools, fighting all obstacles which hinder them from attaining their academic goals. The society should understand that girls are most important when one looks at the aspect of development of any society.
In some parts of this country especially in rural area, pregnancy is still the leading cause of dropouts for girls in ward secondary schools. Since the old law did not allow young mothers to return to school after giving birth, the trend made it difficult to enable these young ?mothers? continue with their education.
But thanks to pressure from organisations like TAMWA, the government has now adopted a new law that allows young mothers to continue their education at their former schools. Before the revision of the law, some girls used to study at vocational centres which at least made it easier for them to return to school.
Now there are centres throughout the country that can be used to train young mothers interested in continuing with their education. Such trainings are funded thanks to family support: the girls learn a trade (such as hairdressing or dressmaking) or take refresher courses in the evening.
Eva (20), now takes classes at Magomeni Centre, but lives with her aunt. The mother of little Christine, she fell pregnant with the child of her friend and neighbour in 2013.
?He told me that he loved me. Since I was waiting for the results of last year?s examinations I thought it was a good time to have a relationship,? she told this reporter recently. Currently, Ashura is taking Qualifying Test (QT) courses at the centre, and she hopes to sit for her form two national secondary examination in October this year.
However, despite the best intentions, the return to school is difficult, especially without family support. Agatha (16), became pregnant when she was in her final year of ordinary level ward secondary education. ?I was in form four when I was forced to drop out because I got pregnant,? she recalls.
?I want to go to take QT studies, but it is difficult because I have nobody at home to look after my daughter,? she says. Early pregnancy is not a new problem in many parts of this country especially in rural areas.
Five years ago, during a National Assembly session, an official from the opposition Civic United Front (CUF), challenged the then Deputy Minister of Education and Vocational Training Ms Mwantumu Mahiza, to explain the measures taken by the government to reduce the number of girls falling pregnant at school.
Ms Mahiza who is now Lindi Regional Commissioner said that her ministry was preparing new laws and policies to address the issue, adding that six per cent of girls leave school each year due to pregnancy. A lot has been done since then to give victims of early pregnancies chances to continue with their studies.
Recent data released by the Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP) says that twenty-five per cent of Tanzanian women under 18 are already mothers. According to Ministry of Education statistics, 28,600 girls left school between 2004 and 2008 because they were pregnant.
At secondary level the figures were alarming; in 2007 one in five girls fell pregnant and did not finish school. One of the main reasons for the large number of pregnant girls is that many have unprotected sex and lack access to contraceptives. Some religious and traditional beliefs bar them from accessing contraceptives.
Moreover, there is the social context. For example, in Shinyanga Region (western Tanzania), parents threaten to throw their daughters out of their homes if they attend high school.
In areas like Mtwara, recent media reports said that some parents ask their daughters to fail their studies so they can marry as soon as possible. In some remote areas, children young as 11 have been reported pregnant. Some blame the Marriage Act of 1971, which legalised marriage between a man and a 14-year-old girl.
For some parents the dowry they receive when marrying their daughter is a significant source of income and that is why they end up marrying their daughters at tender ages.
Tanzania?s population is 75 per cent rural where low income parents often do not have the means to send their children to secondary schools. When they finish primary school at 13 or 14, girls may be forced to stay at home in the village, and that could be reasons for falling pregnant.
A number of parents fail to take their children?s education seriously. We need to educate them on better ways of making sure that their daughters find ways to acquire further education. Nevertheless, the issue is taken very seriously by officials as the majority of these teenagers face challenges for which they are unprepared.
?I thank the government for adopting the new law in January 2010 which allows young mothers back into their old schools. This was strictly forbidden before now.
I urge schools which still do not accept girls returning after childbirth to do so because we are in problems. We need education,? says Juliana Augustine (19), a mother of one. In addition to the risk of contracting HIV during sex, these girls also face the risk of complications during birth.
By?DEOGRATIAS MUSHI, Tanzania Daily News