This blog was originally posted on Global Partnership for Education on April 22, 2021
Five years ago, Tanzania advanced equity in education by ending all fees to attend school.
Parents who had not been able to afford the fees now could send their children to school for free, and they could finally imagine a better future for their families. School enrollments surged among poor and disadvantaged children and children with disabilities. It was a game-changer.
A GPE partner since 2013, Tanzania has taken bold commitments to make its education system better and accessible to more children, and those commitments are paying off.
Part of GPE’s current grant of US$112.5 million to Tanzania is incentivizing the government to spend its education resources more efficiently and equitably.
A surge of students in schools
Tanzania, the largest country in East Africa, has an expanding economy and a rapidly growing population. Its education system has numerous challenges, notably a need to significantly improve learning outcomes, including for the children who are thronging to school for the first time, and to address the cognitive development of Tanzanian children, of whom 1 in 3 suffers from malnutrition and its effects on their ability to learn.
The influx of so many students has multiplied the school system’s challenges. Enrollments increased sharply, demonstrating how much demand there was for education. All at once, the country needed more financing, more teachers, more textbooks and more classrooms.
With GPE’s support, the government responded by implementing a national curriculum reform program, deploying teachers where they are needed most and using double shifts for pre-primary and younger primary students, working to improve teacher and school quality and building more classrooms.
Supporting schools with capitation grants
Tanzania’s decision to make 12 years of basic education free and compulsory also came with a commitment to send schools capitation grants (also known as per student spending) to help make up for the lost revenue from the abolishment of fees.
But the capitation grants were beset by problems from the outset. Sometimes the grants never made their way to a school. Sometimes they were smaller than promised. Sometimes they arrived so late in the year that schools couldn’t purchase textbooks and other learning materials. And, taken as a whole, they weren’t doing enough to advance equity in education.
In 2019, GPE joined a results-based funding program in Tanzania known as the Education Program for Results, which is also supported by the World Bank, the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. The program harmonizes aid and incentivizes the government to deliver mutually agreed results.
Making education spending more equitable
To promote equity, GPE and its partners incentivized the government to extend the capitation grants to cover additional children: 1.5 million pre-primary school students and marginalized children who attend non-formal education centers to learn the basics so they can eventually go to a regular school.
GPE also incentivizes the government to send schools the capitation grants – US$2.4 per primary student and US$5 per secondary student in the 2018-19 school year – on time by providing up to US$11.2 million for the timely distribution of the per-student spending.
Finally, at GPE’s urging, the government began an adjustment of its policy, exploring how capitation grants can be fully funded, and ensuring they remain prioritized during times of fiscal constraint.
Even though the grants don’t represent large sums going directly to schools to fund free compulsory education, they have made a significant difference. Now they arrive on time and there is more guidance about what the schools can spend them on, including textbooks, other teaching and learning materials, administrative materials, some repairs and organization of examinations.
Tanzania still confronts many challenges in its education system but the country’s political commitment to educating the children is strong, which bodes well for the education sector’s recovery from the pandemic.
GPE’s Financing Campaign 2021-2025 aims to raise at least $5 billion, leverage resources and target them where they will have the most transformative impact.
GPE leverages the power of our partnership and uses funds as catalytic capital to mobilize even more education financing through proven innovative mechanisms like the GPE Multiplier while also ensuring a focus on improving the volume, equity and efficiency of domestic financing.
The campaign calls on partner country governments to commit to prioritize and protect domestic budgets for education to at least the global benchmark of 20% of total public expenditure.