Tuesday, July 14, 2015

For a number of years, the education sector in the country has been under spotlight due to its poor performance especially at basic education level. (File photo)
 On 1st June, 2015, the education sector budget was presented at the Parliament by Shukuru Kawambwa, the minister for Education and Vocational Training, in which he requested the Parliament to approve TShs.989.5 billion as recurrent and development expenses for his ministry for financial year 2015/2016. The budget sparked heated debate among members of parliament due to their dissatisfaction on number of issues. This article is going to highlight on issues related to the budget.

For a number of years, the education sector in the country has been under spotlight due to its poor performance especially at basic education level. The Education Sector Performance Report (ESPR) for financial year 2013/14, reveals that the sector managed to sustain a number of remarkable gains in enrolment, admission and improvement in provision of education at Vocational, Technical and Higher Education levels. Construction activities aimed at increasing opportunities to quality education progressed well at all levels while the number of higher education students receiving loans also increased. 
However, ESPR 2013/2014 argues that the sector recorded a decline in performance in terms of access to quality education as evidenced by declining Gross and Net Enrolment Rates (GER and NER) for primary education and declining GER and NER for secondary education level as well as declining enrolment for teacher, adult and non formal education.  Introduction of stricter requirements to progress beyond Form II and other adjustments may have contributed to the reduction observed in secondary education, but has led to high overall and division especially in Form IV examination results.
Despite progress made the sector continues to experience some challenges. Among these challenges include:
(a) Enrolling children at the required age into school and increasing the Net and Gross Enrolment Rate for Pre-primary, Primary and Secondary education.
(b) Increasing availability of furniture, infrastructure and learning & teaching materials, including those for students with disabilities.
(c) Improving pass rates especially in Mathematics, Science and English in primary and secondary schools.
(d) Having alternative sources of financing for higher education students and improvements to the loan recovery scheme.
(e) Improving literacy rate, reducing the number of adults who do not have reading, writing and numeracy skills. 
(f) Increasing enrolment to technical programmes to attain a human capital base sufficient for economic growth and development to a Middle Income Country.
(g) Enrolment expansion at all levels.
It was expectation of many education stakeholders that the 2015/2016 education sector budget will make strategic move to address above mentioned challenges to a greater extent. However, it seems their thirst was not quenched.
Some days before MoEVT 2015/2016 budget was presented, Policy Forum organised a breakfast debate on National Budget: 2015/2016, out of which it issued its policy statement focusing on a number of issues, including education sector. I will quote section related to education sector.
In its statement, Policy Forum made ‘a call to refocus 2015/2016 education budget priorities’. The statement said that it recognises that the education sector is given priority within the allocations but their major focus in the 2015/2016 education sector budget is how attentive the allocations are to the learning needs and challenges. These challenges include the long-standing inadequacy of capitation grants, concerns over unimplemented policy and unresolved stakeholder’s grievances within the sector. Therefore, regardless of the amount allocated to this sector in the 2015/16 budget, due consideration should be given to a number of concerns some of which are discussed in the next paragraphs.
Explaining the fee-free education narrative; the new Education and Training Policy (2014) states that ‘the government will ensure that basic education is provided fee-free through the public education system’. The Policy Forum believe that it is well-intended but it should be reflected during the presentation of the 2015/2016 budget revenue and expenditure estimates: the government should clearly state how it plans to ensure that this policy statement on fee-free education is implemented as it has already begun to cause some tensions between parents/guardians and school officials with the former reneging on their commitments to make school contributions.
The statement further said that, the government sets the capitation grant at 10,000/= and 25,000/= per primary and secondary school learner respectively. However, it should be remembered that the current capitation grant values were set in 2002 (primary) and 2004 (secondary).  In both cases, this is more than 10 years ago.  The cost of living has since gone up, inflation has increased, and the value of the Tanzanian shilling has continued to fall. It would not be practical for the government to insist on maintaining the same level of capitation grant when its value (in terms of purchasing power) has decreased. It is therefore our desire that government should clearly state during the 2015/2016 budget planning how it will adjust the capitation grant value to reflect the actual cost of living.
Moreover, the actual PEDP and SEDP performance in relation to the disbursement of the capitation grant has been quite low during the past 10 years. Capitation grants hardly ever reached schools within the planned time-frame or in the intended amounts. And yet, the new education policy has added the scrapping of school fees to this resource challenge. 
The disbursement of the capitation grant to schools since the beginning of PEDP and SEDP has never been satisfactory. According to the Big Results Now (BRN) implementation report for the 2013/2014 financial year, the government was only able to provide an average of 4,200/= instead of 10,000/= per primary school learner and 12,000/= instead of 25,000/= per secondary school learner.
This trend has persisted even in the 2014/15 allocations, where by 30th March 2015, only an average of 865/= instead of 10,000/= had reached public primary schools, while an average of 5,516/= instead of 25,000/= had reached secondary schools.
This year’s budget should provide solutions to the resource gap which results from inadequate and often late capitation grants and the scrapping of school fees. In order to improve management and performance in schools, it is important that these institutions are regularly inspected. Parliament should ensure that, in the 2015/2016 budget, it advises government to review BRN implementation in order to address challenges in areas such as school inspection and raising the morale of teachers to teach and learners to learn”. End of quote.
One of the issues which sparked heated debate during discussion of the MoEVT budget at the Parliament was the basic and secondary schools examination results which by 2014 reached 81 percent pass rate, under the phase of implementation of Big Results Now (BRN) initiative. The major issue here was justification of such results while teaching and learning environment is devastated, manifested by students sitting down due to lack of desks, lack of teachers, inadequate classrooms, lack of teaching and learning materials and equipment, hiking fees in private schools, multitude of contributions demanded from parents, low teacher motivation due to lack of incentives and many more. 
MPs wanted to know what kind of investment to improve the said challenges was made through BRN to such extent that it suddenly uplifted the said academic results. They doubted that improvement in such results could have been through dubious means including reducing of pass levels.
Moreover, in higher education, the Parliament Committee for Social Services revealed that in previous budgets MoEVT has made a number of promises and commitments which are yet to be fulfilled. 
For example, implementation of its 2014/2015 budget have shown that a number of promises have not been fulfilled, for instance by March, 2015, some of the universities and institutions of higher education had not received any shilling for development purposes, including Mzumbe University which was required to receive 850m/-for development projects. 
Moreover, they excited an example of a contractor who has threatened to sue the government in court due to delayed payment of 1.2bn/- after working on construction of students hostel, which was completed since 2009. 
From the mentioned issues, I ask my self a number of questions: if previous budgets were ‘empty promises’, can 2015/2016 budget deliver its promises? What were underpinning causes of non-deliverance of the previous budgets? How can such causes be tackled to ensure future budgets deliver?
One of the underlying causes of non-deliverance of budgets is lack of resources. This hinders a number of ministries to execute their programmes. Further exploration into this matter you reveal that: first, government budget depends much on support from development partners, out of which when they do not fulfill their commitment then the budget collapses resulting into high cuts into ministry budgets; secondly, high level of spending within the ministries has been focused on recurrent expenses rather than development expenses; thirdly, resource allocation within the ministry is not focused on activities that may bring high impact.
Implementation of MoEVT budget depends highly on collected revenue by the Ministry of Finance. So this calls for urgent and bold decisions in ensuring that domestic resource mobilisation as well as allocation of budget to areas with high returns is enhanced. 
I agree that there have been efforts on the part of the government to ensure that our national budget is less dependent on donor funding, for instance the introduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT) and Tax Administration Bills last year in the Parliament is, in part, evidence of these efforts by the government to ensure proper collection and management of financial resources from within.
Policy Forum statement note that recently, when the Minister for Finance Saada Mkuya presented the pre-budget proposals to the Members of Parliament in Dar es Salaam, she pointed out that the 2015/16 budget is pegged at 22.48trn/- from 19.8trn/- for the year 2014/15: an increase of 15 percent.  Of the 22.48trn/-, the recurrent budget is set at 16.7trn/- while development budget is to receive 5.7trn/- (about 26 percent) of the total budget.
In terms of the sources of this budget, the minister highlighted that from the 22.48trn/- budget, 14.82trn/- will be collected locally. On revenue collected locally, Tanzania Revenue Authority is expected to collect 13.35trn/-, compared with 11.297trn/- that the authority was expected to collect in 2014/15. Non tax revenue is expected to be 949.2bn/- while the local authorities are expected to contribute 521.9bn/- to the budget.  Apart from borrowing from both internal and external lenders, the government expects to receive about 2trn/-from Development Partners (DPs).
This move by the government is welcomed and commendable. The biggest challenge, however, is whether the government will be able to collect these revenues, adequately as projections still appear ambitious.
Bearing in mind that this is an election and constitution referendum year, Policy Forum feels more effort is needed to raise revenues; since a lot of resources will be absorbed by these electoral processes.
Is the general national budget realistic? The implementation of the previous budget does not provide reassurance that the forthcoming 2015/16 budget will be executed effectively and realistically. From the minister’s report, delays in disbursement are still critical. For example, until March 2015 only 38 percent of the development budget had been disbursed. 
This literally means that more than 50 percent of the earmarked development projects, including education development projects, have not been implemented, while there remains less than 3 months before the year ends. This was also the case for the recurrent budget, as it has been reported that most of the local authorities have not received the approved budget which was meant for operational expenses.
One would therefore doubt the increase in the budget without a clear statement as to how the funds will be raised.  Lower priority expenditure needs to be quickly ascertained so that government can be prudent in their spending in 2015/16.