Why is education important? 

The United Nations institutionalised ‘access to primary education for all’ under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to drive economic competitiveness and growth amongst world economies. Since the introduction of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in 2015, this rhetoric has shifted to the need for ‘lifelong learning opportunities for all’, valuing education as a fundamental human right. For Governments, education is, therefore, an essential developmental tool to improve employment opportunities, income prospects and welfare gains internationally. 

This is well-established knowledge, however, in 2018 258 million children remained out of school globally and only 2.6% of humanitarian aid went towards education. Reminding ourselves of the importance of education is necessary to help close the current funding gap. 

Access to education in Tanzania

In December 2015, the Tanzanian Government abolished all school fees as a policy strategy to universalise basic education access for children. According to the World Bank, this resulted in a 33% increase in primary school enrolment. However, aggregate data like this undermine the adverse impacts this policy has had on educational attainment. 

For instance, the Tanzanian Government did not offset the funds previously gained from school fees, leaving schools under-funded, under-resourced, and over-crowded. Education is now no longer merely an issue of access, but of quality.

Although more children than ever are enrolled in school, far too many are not learning - UNICEF, 2020.

"Informal taxation" on Tanzanian parents

As such, schools have been forced to ask families for ‘contributions’ to support their child’s education, including food and building improvement payments. These ‘contributions’ are unregulated, meaning the cost of education has become increasingly unaffordable for parents. 

In some cases, schools are forced to leverage children's education in return for payments. In effect, contributions have become a form of ‘informal taxation’ on parents. Not only does this make access to education more volatile, but for the very poorest of families, children continue to be excluded. Ultimately, the financial strain on families to provide education for their children persists via different means. 

Gender inequalities for girls accessing education in Tanzania

That said, access to education is not only constrained by financial barriers. Social norms and underlying gender disparities continue to view education as an opportunity cost of lost child labour rather than an investment into their future. Financing education is therefore not just a credit issue, but a socio-cultural issue that has not been addressed by the abolition of school fees. For example, primary and secondary drop-out rates remain high with approximately 29 percent of girls and 34 percent of boys estimated to drop out of lower secondary school before completion. Clearly, ‘free education' has not translated to improved educational outcomes for students. 

What is EdUKaid doing?

EdUKaid’s ‘'Farm to Feed’ Project provides a simple, low cost and scalable solution that delivers long-term food and financial security for schools. Operating an income-generating farm reduces school reliance on payments from parents and international aid. Similarly, having a secure food supply ensures students are given nutritious meals that help them concentrate and incentivise them to attend school. This is particularly important given the high school dropout rate. 

Unlike bank loans and credit deposits, the ‘Farm to Feed’ project focuses on generating the capacity of schools to finance education without external support. Not only does this aim to make schools less vulnerable to external shocks such as the UK's recent, and arguably unlawful, decision to reduce international aid from 0.7% to 0.5%. It protects schools from high-interest rates set by banks and credit lenders. Considering schools often have little collateral, this is particularly important. 

EdUKaid Farm to Feed Project - read more