Tanzania s efforts to see all school-aged children in primary school got well underway in 2002 with implementation of the Primary Education Development Plan (PEDP) where the planned enrolment of 1,500,000 children was exceeded. The abolition of mandatory contributions including school fees and relaxation of the uniform requirement were among the steps taken under the education sector reform process, which aims to have all primary school aged children in school by 2006.
Major educational issues for girls are late entry into primary grade one, early marriage, poor performance in the Primary School Leaving Exam, and high rates of repetition. At the secondary level, gross enrolment is an alarming 5% for girls and boys. The gender gap in secondary school could increase after the abolition of the quota system for girls.
Socio-cultural beliefs and practices.
Early marriage and pregnancy prevent girls from finishing school. Girls who get pregnant are expelled and the pregnancy is considered to be the girl s fault.
Gender biased socialization in school.
While assertive behaviour is promoted among boys, passive behaviour is encouraged among girls. Girls are called on to perform domestic duties for teachers at school, such as fetching water, reinforcing gender stereotypes and taking time away from learning.
Despite the abolition of school fees, parents are often unable to meet other school costs. This poses a big challenge on the retention of those enrolled. Some parents migrate to distant farms or other districts during the rainy seasons and their children are prone to expulsion from school if they are absent for three consecutive months. Girls normally work to supplement household income while lack of formal employment opportunities discourage children from completing the primary cycle.
Health and HIV/AIDS.
The high number of school pregnancies is an indicator of unprotected sexual activity and the high vulnerability of girls to HIV infection (rates of infection are six times higher for girls than boys). Moreover, girls who are normally caregivers become especially burdened when HIV/AIDS strikes the family, preventing them from regular school attendance.
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