eight facts about education in tanzaniaComprised of what once were two separate states, Zanzibar and Tanganyika, Tanzania now sits in East Africa between Kenya and Mozambique after gaining independence from Britain in 1964. With a population of over 55 million people, Tanzania is the biggest and most populous East African nation. The following 8 facts about education in the United Republic of Tanzania will highlight problems students face in the pursuit of education. They will also map out efforts being made to ensure that students are able to access education.

8 Facts about Education in the United Republic of Tanzania

  1. Throughout the 1970s, a focus was placed on education. Universal primary schooling consisting of seven years was instated. Unfortunately, the demand for secondary school outweighs the budget allotment, and as a result, many parents have been forced to help sponsor said education.
  2. While there is little to no disparity between boys and girls enrolling in the mandatory primary schooling, just one-third of girls who enroll in secondary education will complete it. This may be a contribution to why 83.2 percent of males age 15 and over being able to read and write as opposed to the 73.1 percent of females at the same age level. Contributing factors to girls’ having restrictions on their educations include premature marriages, gender-based violence and financial hardships.
  3. Due to low literacy rates, the Tanzanian government has put a focus on adult education in addition to childhood education. Because of the success of these programs, adult literacy rates have improved drastically. While Tanzania‘s literacy rates are still below the world average, in terms of African nations, it ranks above average.
  4. Another hindrance to children’s education in Tanzania is the lack of qualified teachers available to teach. UNICEF reports that for every 131 students, there is one qualified teacher. This leaves many students without access to the education they deserve.
  5. In addition to not having a sufficient number of teachers staffed in schools, many teachers are left without proper tools to teach adequately. Sixty-six percent of teachers say that they are not equipped with proper teaching supplies. Not providing teachers with the necessary tools to teach is a massive contributor to lower literacy rates.
  6. USAID is working to provide various services designed to increase student retention rates. The organization is working closely to address the restrictions that young girls face in order to let them continue their education. USAID is working in partnerships with the National Plan of Action to End Violence against Women and Children.
  7. With USAID’s involvement, an estimated 19,000 young girls will benefit and have increased support for their continued education. It is predicted that nearly 1.5 million students as a whole will see improvements in their reading, writing and math schooling by 2021. Increasing the quality of school materials will lead to massive change throughout the country.
  8. Another organization passionate about affording education to those in need in Tanzania is UNICEF. By 2021, UNICEF, along with the President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government (PORALG), hopes to increase the availability of safe and inclusive access to basic education. With this plan, the hope is to provide even the most vulnerable young people in Tanzania with proper primary education.

While Tanzania, like many other countries, has room for improvement, these 8 facts about education in the United Republic of Tanzania show that there are strong efforts being made. With effective plans of action in place for the next few years, the future of education in Tanzania looks brighter.

– Emi Cormier
Photo: Flickr

East African FederationA proposed federation between Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda seeks to establish a single currency, political unity, modern infrastructure, improved trade relations and ensured peace. In the 1960s, when many of the above countries won their independence, a political federation was first proposed. Today, all six countries are members of the East African Community (EAC), which started in 1999 as a less ambitious form of unity. The East African Federation remains mostly an idea; however, leaders in all six countries are now working together to see the idea come to fruition.

Where it Stands

The countries began drafting a unified constitution in 2018, which would render each member’s individual constitution subordinate to that of the East African Federation. They have set the deadline for its completion to 2021. The EAC has already neared completion of a monetary union, likely being something akin to the European Union’s euro. The euro has allowed for the free movement of capital, stimulating trade activity between member states. Additionally, all six countries are planning to hold a referendum with their own citizens in order to gauge support.


The countries’ leaders say that a federation will lead to economic development and greater African sovereignty. The advantages of the East African Federation include linkages of infrastructure, which will allow four of the landlocked members to have access to the trading ports of Kenya and Tanzania. Further, the East African Federation, due to its enormity, will have more influence in international diplomacy, and its governmental institutions will become more robust through information sharing.


When integration efforts were attempted in the past, they became derailed by individual national interests and existing tensions. While the East African Federation attempts to overcome these tensions, some doubt its ability to do so. Critics point to trade disputes between Rwanda and Uganda and military rivalries between Tanzania and Rwanda as prominent examples for why unity will remain unaccomplished.

The Promise

East Africa’s economy is the fastest-growing on the continent; GDP increased by 5.7 percent in 2018 and is forecasted to hit 5.9 percent in 2019. According to the World Bank’s most recent data, the average poverty rate for the 6 countries is 49.6 percent. Kenya has the lowest rate with 36.8 percent, and Burundi has the highest with 71.8 percent. The East African Federation promises to improve cooperation methods and increase economic potential, yielding greater growth, quicker development and lasting stability for the region.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in EthiopiaAs a result of systemic exploitation from past and present world systems, most East African nations are entrenched in a cycle of poverty. This cycle often forces such nations to struggle mightily with child malnourishment and Ethiopia is no exception. Although the rate of malnutrition in Ethiopia has dropped seven percent between 2005 and 2011, malnutrition on the whole is still so widespread that an estimated 44 percent of children under the age of five still suffer from growth stunting alone. This harsh reality has prompted USAID to enter the scene in 2011 and 2012, with several programs meant to address various factors such as nutritional (mis)education and storage practices, which contribute to such high rates of child malnutrition.

Further, it is especially significant to note that Ethiopia is the second-most populous nation in Africa, making the weight of this fight with malnutrition even heavier on multiple levels. From an economic standpoint, the effects of such a high prevalence of malnutrition are catastrophic. In fact, the Ethiopian workforce has declined by eight percent due to child mortality related to malnourishment.

Such is an astounding figure; its impact is incredibly significant for the nation’s economy, as losing such a substantial amount of its potential workforce ultimately inhibits the extent to which the nation can grow within the current capitalist world system. Not only that, but a hefty 16.5 percent of Ethiopia’s annual GDP goes towards various costs related to child malnutrition. Thus, not only is malnutrition limiting the successes of the future workforce, it is actively mitigating the successes of the present one.

One of the major challenges the nation faces in addressing the issue of malnutrition in Ethiopia is the overall lack of protein in typical diets. This is largely due to a scarcity of meat and a high death rate among chickens in particular – indigenous chicken breeds have a survival rate of just 50 percent. Consequently, chicken supplies – and the protein chickens provide – are minimal at best.

Yet, an incredible company, Mekelle Farms, has arisen as a result of this challenge. Mekelle Farms produces chickens that are both more fertile and more disease-resistant than local chicken breeds. After raising the chickens for 40 days, Mekelle partners with local governments to sell the chickens to smallholder farmers and rural families. These chickens not only produce up to five times more eggs than their traditional counterparts, they also double the income of those who possess them.

Through their production of more sustainable and successful chickens, Mekelle is actively fighting malnutrition by both increasing the chicken supply (and thus increasing the protein supply) within struggling communities and also improving the economic status of those who own said chickens. This is undeniably a catalyst for change and growth within these communities that are most heavily affected by malnutrition in Ethiopia.

There is still an immense amount of work to be done, as the reality still stands that 3.1 million Ethiopian children under the age of five will be killed by malnutrition every year. But there is much hope going forward, as companies like Mekelle Farms enter the market and engage in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Flickr

Plant Diseases in East AfricaCassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) is a damaging disease of cassava plants that has recently reemerged in the East African Region. The disease, which is spread by the whitefly, is considered the most significant threat to food security along the coast of East Africa. Recent CBSD outbreaks are creating $100 million in damages yearly and have caused severe food shortages in countries like Tanzania and Malawi. In response, the Cassava Diagnostics Project is studying the disease, educating farmers and analyzing the DNA of the plant in hopes of developing resistant strains of cassava to combat plant diseases in East Africa.

Recent CBSD outbreaks are creating $100 million in damages yearly and have caused severe food shortages in countries like Tanzania and Malawi. In response, the Cassava Diagnostics Project (CDP) is studying the disease, educating farmers and analyzing the DNA of the plant in hopes of developing resistant strains of cassava to combat plant diseases in East Africa.

The Cassava Diagnostics Project currently operates in seven African Countries, studying the genetic makeup of the plant and testing different strains from different areas to see which are most resistant. In October 2016, the CDP launched a new diagnostics laboratory in Kenya that has quickly become one of the leading centers for testing both Cassava Mosaic Virus and Cassava Brown Streak Virus. This diagnostics lab is just one of the many locations across East Africa bringing students, scientists and farmers together to solve food shortages caused by CBSD and other viruses.

As part of the effort to develop resistant strains of the plant, gene sequencing is a crucial step in speeding up the process and recreating resistant plants, therefore, possibly avoiding the catastrophe of a major outbreak. By analyzing the molecular makeup of favorable strains, virologists in African countries have successfully cultivated several varieties of cassava that are now showing significant resistance. Thanks to these developments made possible by gene sequencing, the disease may be properly controlled before spreading to Nigeria, the world’s leading cassava producer.

New cassava strains have already saved thousands from a food crisis in Kenya. As the disease-resistant and nutritionally enhanced version of the plant continues to be introduced thanks to gene sequencing, food shortages are expected to drop and standards of living should continue to rise. While the future looks promising, progress remains slow in some areas as planting materials may not be available to farmers for at least three years in Kenya.

Not only is the CDP having a positive impact in terms of its crop innovations, but the infrastructure it has put in place may continue to benefit these African countries even long after Cassava Brown Streak Disease is gone. The Project’s established laboratories have inspired dozens of PhD and Masters students to stay in East Africa to study with the CDP rather than go abroad for education. This next generation of scientists will continue to fight plant diseases in East Africa and may prove vital in solving the next food or health crisis.

Nicholas Dugan

Photo: Google

According to U.N. Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien, the world faces its worst humanitarian crisis since World War II in the current famine affecting certain African and Middle Eastern countries. More than 20 million people in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria are facing severe starvation and malnutrition. In addition to the U.N.’s push to mobilize aid to these countries, smaller organizations have made a concentrated effort to fight famine in East Africa.

5 Organizations Fighting Famine in East Africa

  1. Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) is a nonprofit organization focused on fighting global starvation, annually producing more than a million meals that are shipped to impoverished countries. FMSC operates in several locations around the Twin Cities, hosting volunteer meal preparation shifts six days a week. The current East African crisis has prompted FMSC to increase its efforts. The organization now aims to produce an additional 10 million meals to reduce starvation in Somalia.
  2. The Léger Foundation has been combatting global poverty and social exclusion for over 65 years. In June 2017, it joined Canada’s growing Famine Relief Fund, which focuses on providing aid to the millions of Africans affected by the famine. While currently responding to humanitarian demand in Cameroon, The Léger Foundation is expanding outreach to other countries afflicted by the famine including Nigeria and South Sudan. As a new member of the Famine Relief Fund, the foundation will see its donations doubled by Canada’s government through the end of June to support famine relief.
  3. SOS Children’s Villages is another member of the Famine Relief Fund dedicated to fighting famine in East Africa. SOS traditionally operates as a nonprofit centered on providing homes for orphaned and abandoned children and has built more than 550 children’s villages. These provide children with food, shelter, education and a family life. The recent famine has prompted SOS Children’s Villages to shift its focus to East Africa. Fundraising efforts are now aimed at alleviating food shortages caused by drought and subsequent livestock loss.
  4. Caritas Australia is a Catholic charity working to end poverty and facilitate global development for people of all backgrounds. Recently Caritas launched a program called Africa Emergency Appeal to mobilize its humanitarian network of partners to respond to the famine in East Africa. Caritas and its partner agencies currently provide local assistance in delivering clean water, sanitation supplies and food such as sugar, beans and maize flour.
  5. Save the Children is a British charity that promotes children’s rights and seeks to improve conditions for children globally through healthcare and education. In response to the famine in East Africa, Save the Children aims to reach children under the age of five and provide aid to those most at risk for malnutrition and diseases such as malaria. With humanitarian infrastructure already in place in the affected countries, Save the Children can turn its focus to fighting famine in ways such as increasing malnutrition screenings in Nigeria or distributing vouchers for supplies in Somalia.

These are just a few of the many organizations that have responded swiftly to the growing humanitarian crisis in Africa. While there is still need for further funding in these countries, these organizations are doing all they can to bring immediate relief and save lives.

Nicholas Dugan

Photo: Flickr

Tourism in Kenya
With a concurrent poverty rate of 44 percent and a population of 44 million, Kenya has been the epicenter of mass migration in East Africa. Unfortunately, poor infrastructure, sanitation and absolute poverty have pervaded the country for many years. Even so, tourism in Kenya remains its crowning jewel as it is a microcosm of the country’s cultural and religious diversity.

The country is a haven for all manners of flora and fauna that have recently seen the advent of a new era of ecotourism. Over 62,800 visited Kenya in the month of May 2016 alone.

Kenya made headlines recently with a report by American-based luxury travel network Virtuso declaring that Kenya has topped the world in tourist bookings. This figure is also predicted to rise by a staggering 17 percent in the future.

As a result, tourism in Kenya has played a significant role in the 5.6 percent growth rate the country has experienced recently. Tourism has been a boon in Kenya as it has singularly contributed to 1.6 percent of this growth while bringing in employment opportunities.

Moreover, tourism has been a boon in Kenya because it has pumped more Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) into the country. This paves the way for more opportunities to enterprise and market. Daily Nation reported that Kenya experienced the highest exponential rise in FDI in both Africa and the Middle East.

Consequently, tourism has been a boon for Kenya as it is an integral aspect of this rise because of the investment power that it entails. The capital invested in Kenya’s infrastructure services is also a synergic endeavor that will bolster the tourism sector.

This has resulted in the growth of numerous safari businesses that have sprouted all over. The existence of rich biodiversity and diverse tribes in Kenya has helped these businesses flourish. The dawn of these industries can create great entrepreneurship opportunities for many communities.

The Kenyan Tourism Board (KTB) decided to expand into new markets in Asia to diversify its market. Eyeing the massive great potential of Kenya’s tourism sector, travel trade investors from the Middle East have agreed to invest in Kenya’s tourist sector in Kenya.

Additionally, the Sixth International Conference of African Development is being convened in Kenya, with the focus and objective to advance hotel and accommodation facilities significantly. Forty heads of states, 100 firms and Japanese delegations will discuss opportunities and incentives in Kenya with regard to the development for the further growth of tourism.

The appointment of Joseph Cherutoi as the head of The Tourism Fund and Tourism Finance Corporation is also essential to note, as it will lead the way for a new and successful era in tourism. However, with an influx of over 500,000 tourists to Kenya every year, the people feel that preservation is imperative to safeguard one of the major backbones of their country. Thus, the inception of the concept of ecotourism has ushered in a new dimension of tourism in Kenya.

Ecotourism has spearheaded this movement by involving community-based organizations (CBOs) that are run by the local people, corporate organizations and individuals to aid in initiating improvements and engaging in conservation to ensure a sustainable form of tourism development in Kenya. This has led to a higher propensity to enterprise among the people and has brought many communities together.

Tourism has been a boon for Kenya owing to the manifold opportunities that it will offer the country and the people. Its development is a good sign for the people, the country’s progression and equitable growth.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

The use of Kiswahili as an Official Language of the East African Region
Language plays a pivotal role in creating a country’s identity. The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has decided to reclaim its identity by passing a resolution to make Swahili the second official language of Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda.

The resolution promotes the use of Kiswahili as an official language in domains like offices, hospitals and schools.

Kiswahili has been an official language of the African Union since 2004, and the language will help define the EALA as a union. An agreement between EALA members to speak the same language will represent a stalwart bond between them.

Kiswahili’s roots are in the Bantu language, a language spoken by about 50 percent of the African population. The language’s prevalence will make Kiswahili easier to integrate into society.

In all EALA countries except Uganda, Kiswahili is commonly spoken among the general public. The assembly is looking for help directing the education of Ugandan youth, women and civil societies in the language.

Unifying the EALA’s official language will help create a shared East African identity among member countries.

The language of Kiswahili will facilitate all goings-on in the EALA, from government activities to the tourism industry. In addition to this, according to Rwandan legislator Patricia Hajabakiga, “besides promoting unity among the EAC populace, Kiswahili is a critical medium of communication that will facilitate trade in the region.”

Mariana Camacho

Photo: Flickr

Burundi Refugees
Burundi is a country in East Africa that shares borders with Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. The country’s civil war has left Burundian refugees in a state of emergency.

The tumultuous civil war, which occured from 1993 to 2006, culminated in the parliamentary election of Hutu rebel leader Pierra Nkurunziza. Events similar to those that triggered the war, which claimed 300,000 lives, have once again come into focus.

Although Burundi’s constitution limits presidential incumbency to two terms, President Nkurunziza expressed desire to seek a third term, aggravating opposition groups severely.

A 2015 coup exacerbated the issue further. The power struggle between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnicities contributed to the discord. Although Nkurinziza received 79 percent of the vote, the crisis led to bloodshed and mass emigration, which has crippled Burundi and left many impoverished.

The following 10 facts about Burundi refugees describe their plight:

  1. As highlighted by the 2008 U.N. Human Development Index, Burundi ranks 167 out of 177 countries, with a concurrent rural poverty rate of 68.9 percent.
  2. More than 250,000 Burundian refugees have fled to neighboring countries. Moreover, Tanzania alone is collectively home to 144,000 Burundian refugees.
  3. The Nyarugusu and Nduta refugee camps in Tanzania have reached maximum carrying capacity, and the Mtendelli refugee camp now has to house the surfeit.
  4. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has played a pivotal role in combating the spread of malaria among Burundian refugees and addressing mental health problems. One in two MSF patients in the Tanzanian refugee camps have malaria.
  5. Attackers from Burundi’s ruling party have gang raped and ostracized women, especially female family members of assumed opposition groups. The problem has been widespread in refugee camps.
  6. According to UNHCR, an estimated $134 million is needed to effectively respond to Burundi‘s plight and safeguard the needs of Burundian refugees. However, only $46 million has been raised by donors.
  7. The Brethren Disaster Ministries have provided grants to help the Brethren Church of Rwanda carefully maneuver and support the influx of Burundian refugees into Rwanda. The grants will provide emergency food and supplies to hundreds of families.
  8. The U.N. Security Council has agreed to deploy 228 police forces to monitor and ease the situation in Burundi‘s capital, Bujumbura. Despite this decisive move, the U.N. still needs to seek approval from the Burundian government and cope with the protests that have emerged as a result of the decision.
  9. Many Burundian refugees want an outlet for their products and a way to market their goods. Handcraft cooperatives at Mahama refugee camp in Rwanda have benefited from UNHCR guidance and aid. Most of these cooperatives are spearheaded by women, who now have the opportunity to express their culture and sell their products.
  10. The UNHCR has made great headway with regards to promoting education in refugee camps. A major plan is in the works to set up a university in Mahama camp.

These 10 facts showcase the plight of Burundian refugees. The balance of power between the Tutsi and Hutu ethnicities in military and government institutions is fragile. Keeping it in check is the objective of the international community and Arusha Accords.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Hunger _Burundi
Hunger in Burundi has become a major crisis. After years of conflict and extreme poverty, this East African country has entered into a dangerous position on the world stage.

Here are eight reasons why hunger in Burundi needs to be reduced today:

  1. Burundi was considered the hungriest country in the world in 2014. According to the Global Hunger Index, the levels of hunger in Burundi were, and still are, considered “extremely alarming.” Burundi is one of only two countries to remain in the “red zone” since 1990.
  2. Over half of Burundian children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition. Malnutrition is known to generate delays in physical growth and intellectual development among children. One-third of deaths for children under the age of five are a result of malnutrition. Chronic malnutrition is often caused by development issues, such as poverty and food insecurity.
  3. Only 28 percent of the Burundian population is food secure. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), individuals are considered food secure if they have access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food at all times. Less than one-third of the Burundian population has an adequate amount of food to eat throughout the year.
  4. Civil war has ravaged the Burundian countryside for the past 15 years. Over 200,000 Burundians have been killed during the conflict and there are currently over 250,000 Burundian refugees. The civil war has had an increasingly negative impact on the economy, poverty and hunger in Burundi.
  5. Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world. There is a major correlation between poverty and hunger in Burundi. According to the World Bank, 7 million Burundians are living below the poverty line and over 77 percent of the population is living on less than $2 a day.
  6. Households in Burundi spend up to two-thirds of their income on food, even during the harvest season. Burundi is considered one of the “red zone” countries most affected by increasing food prices, as identified by both the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and WFP. The primary cause of Burundi’s “red zone” status is inadequate domestic food production.
  7. Agricultural production in Burundi has decreased by 24 percent over the past two decades. Agriculture is the cornerstone of Burundi’s economy, accounting for nearly 43 percent of the country’s GDP. Subsistence farmers, which make up 90 percent of families in Burundi, depend on agriculture to meet both their food and income needs. Last year Burundi faced a food production deficit of over 32 percent.
  8. Burundi is extremely prone to natural disasters. According to the 2015 World Risk Index, Burundi was ranked among the top 20 percent of countries most at risk for natural disasters. Just two years ago, Burundi suffered from dangerous torrential rains, causing fatal landslides and flooding. The natural disasters in recent years have contributed to the deterioration of agriculture and food security in Burundi.

Although conditions have grown increasingly unstable, there are organizations working to reduce poverty and hunger in Burundi. For years WFP has been working to feed rural families, primary school children, refugees and pregnant women in Burundi. With the help of international organizations and governments, Burundi has the potential to be a safer and healthier country.

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: Flickr


For years, USAID has worked in East Africa to improve the lives of people in poverty. The East Africa Regional program “works across borders to strengthen food security, improve economic growth, prevent conflict, and improve health systems, with a particular focus on fighting HIV/AIDS.” On May 28, USAID partnered with the East African Community (EAC) to improve health services and most importantly, achieve an AIDS free generation.

EAC and USAID’s new five year project “on Cross-Border Health Integrated Partnership (CB-HIPP) [is] designed to extend integrated health services in strategic border areas and other transport corridor sites,” according to All Africa. Because USAID has invested over $1 billion in the East African region, implementing this program is sure to bring focus to issues that are affecting the community.

This project also has the support of the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). PEPFAR is a U.S. initiative that aims to create a generation free of AIDS by following their five agendas. Their goals are to control the epidemic, efficiently save lives, maintain sustainability, build partnerships and promote human rights. “This historic commitment is the largest by any nation to combat a single disease internationally, and PEPFAR investments also help alleviate suffering from other diseases across the global health spectrum,” says PEPFAR.

The CB-HIPP is focusing on helping sex workers, drug users, migrant workers and others living with HIV/AIDS. They have recognized the risk of easy contagion and are finding ways to contain it. Working closely with the governments of East Africa will help distribute medication and implement the program.

Because “Eastern Africa is the second most affected region by HIV/AIDS in the world after Southern Africa,” according to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), PEPFAR and EAC-USAID’s health program will save millions of people. These programs give hope to those struggling around the world and will one day make it possible to see a world free of HIV/AIDS.

Kimberly Quitzon

Sources: USAID, All Africa PEPFAR United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Photo: Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation