Chambi Chachage, in Dar es Salaam’s Citizen newspaper of yesterday (link when/if available now reproduced on Chambi’s own blog), rightly points to a crisis in the Tanzanian education system. He is prompted by this year’s disgraceful pass rate for the Primary School Level Examination – more than 50 percent failed.
One of his conclusions – that we need more Public Expenditure Tracking Surveys (PETS) – can be interrogated. There has been no dearth of PETS in education. The most recent one, cited by Chambi, was just this year. Previous PETS were carried out in 2004, 2003 and 2001 and 1999.
The most recent PETS, conducted this year by the Ministry of Education, indicates that 87 percent of the primary education budget earmarked for local governments was received by local governments. Good news, you would think (for readers outside Tanzania – only 13 percent going missing is indeed good news).
Of particular interest is the capitation grant. Primary schools are entitled to a grant of USD10 per student per year – USD6 to be transferred to the schools and USD4 for local government to buy books. How much actually reaches the schools? According the 2009 PETS, it’s TZS 4,470 or USD3.6. There is no mention of the USD10 commitment. But the headline figure is 87 percent reaching local governments: not that 40 percent targeted at the schools doesn’t reach the schools. And not that at least 24 percent of the capitation grant is still unaccounted for. And all of that assuming that the USD4 for books is arriving in full and being prudently expended.
These figures tally with financial records of rural schools I’ve visited recently. But the PETS doesn’t tell you of the total ignorance of what they are actually entitled to on the parts of school management, parents and village officials. None that I met were aware of the USD10 commitment, and how it is earmarked. None that I met realised they were being short changed. None that I met could predict in which month funding would arrive and in which month it wouldn’t. And none complained about it.
Rewind………… the 2004 PETS conducted by REPOA focused on capitation grants. The key take away from that was that 40 percent of the capitation grant went missing, and most of that from the book component (the USD4).
So what improvements have there been? At the level of the primary school, it is indiscernible frankly. Beyond that, it is hard to tell. The 2009 PETS is not yet available to the public (will it ever?). Given that it is a joint exercise of the government of Tanzania, its “development partners” and “civil society” – all of which pay lip service to transparency – this
The 2004 PETS was long ago suppressed, its findings not accepted by government. No copies are available to the public. The last organisation to make public reference to it – HakiElimu – was banned from official contact with public education officials.
So the issue isn’t the shortage of PETS, as Chambi suggested. Rather it would appear to be the refusal to commit to a series of PETS that are methodologically sound, comparable over time and available to be debated openly without fear.
But that is probably too much to ask.
For more, read Geir Sundet’s briefing paper published by U4 a couple of years ago. Also have a look at U4’s review of PETS from the education sector, including Tanzania’s 2004 exercise. This entry draws on both.