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Pitting Public Schools Against Private Ones Doesn’t Improve Our Education System

The crucial question is not whether public or private schools produce the best workforce but whether Tanzania is preparing its people to thrive in the 21st century.

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In an interview with Clouds FM’s Power Breakfast show on Tuesday, December 19, 2023, Tabora regional commissioner Batilda Buriani boldly announced that the education landscape in Tanzania has shifted remarkably since Samia Suluhu Hassan assumed the presidency. 

“We’re grateful to President Samia Suluhu Hassan for her massive investment in the education sector that has started to pay off,” Ms Buriani said during the interview. “You cannot compare today’s public education with the past. Public education now appears more like private education. Even in national results, public schools outperform private ones.”

A shadow of scepticism drapes the pronouncements extolling the virtues of our public schools. It murmurs amongst the corridors of power, where the very officials championing public education send their own children to the havens of private institutions!

While we must avoid knee-jerk dismissals, let us delve into the unvarnished reality of our educational landscape, painting a nuanced picture beyond mere applause. First, look at the most recent Form Four and Form Six results. In the 2022 Form Four results, which came out in February 2023, the following schools made the top ten. 


I will list them in order of number one to number ten: Kemebos (Kagera), Graiyaki (Mara), St. Francis Girls (Mbeya), Feza Boys (Dar es Salaam), Waja Boys (Geita), Canossa (Dar es Salaam), Twibhoki (Mara), AHMES (Dar es Salaam), Bright Future Girls (Dar es Salaam), and Marian Boys (Pwani). All of these schools are privately owned and operated.

READ MORE: Govt Should Stop Perpetuating Class Differentiation in Our Education System

Subsequently, the ten least performing schools for the Form Four exams were: Pwani Mchangani (Kaskazini Unguja), Ukutini (Kusini Pemba), Kwediboma (Tanga), Rwemondo (Kagera), Namatula (Lindi), Kijini (Kaskazini Unguja), Komkalakala (Tanga), Kwizu (Kilimanjaro), Seuta (Tanga) and Masjid Qubah Muslim (Dar es Salaam). All these schools, except Masjid Qubah, are government-owned and operated.

Now, let us look at the most recent Form Six results, which came out in July 2023. 

The top ten schools in order from number one to number ten are AHMES (Dar es Salaam), Tabora Boys (Tabora), Marian Boys (Pwani), Kemebos (Kagera), Kisimiri (Arusha), Mzumbe (Morogoro), Nyaishozi (Kagera), UWATA (Mbeya), Agape Lutheran Junior Seminary (Kilimanjaro), and Mwandet (Arusha). Of these, four are public schools – Tabora Boys, Kisimiri, Mzumbe and Mwandet.

Unfortunately, I could not find a list of the least-performing schools for the Form Six exams because the government stopped listing the best and worst-performing schools; thus, the lists are based on individual analyses of organisations, especially the media. 

Regardless, it’s safe to assume the trend would lean toward government schools performing more poorly than their private counterparts. 

READ MORE: Disoriented Education: Why University Degree Is Now More Questionable Than Ever?

With such results, how can a high-ranking government official state that public schools are doing better than private schools? On what basis is Ms Buriani, or any other government official who claims the same, basing their statement?

Holistic approach

Instead of engaging in a polarising discourse pitting the public against private schools, I advocate for a more holistic approach to education. Both sectors operate under the same overarching framework – Education Circular No. 4 of 2014 – which dictates tools, equipment, and pedagogical guidelines. 

While a new circular is forthcoming, its full implementation lies years ahead. Therefore, building bridges of collaboration and shared resources might prove more fruitful than fostering competition.

Investing in education is not about counting classrooms but cultivating minds. Private schools, nimble and well-resourced, may flourish, but public institutions, often choked by budgetary weeds and bureaucratic tangles, struggle to grow. Throwing seeds and multiplying schools is not enough. 

The path to educational equity lies in enriching the soil – equipping public schools with dedicated teachers, justly rewarded for their labour, and providing the tools to nurture young minds. Only when quality, not quantity, becomes the central focus can all schools bear the fragrant blooms of academic success.


For the 2023/2024 budget, the Tanzanian government allocated a total of Sh1.67 trillion. Therefore, our education budget is approximately 3.7 per cent of our Sh44.39 trillion budget. 

READ MORE: Education Stakeholders Call for Improved Budget to Boost Quality

Here is a list of the top ten education systems in Africa and the percentage of their budgets allocated to education: Seychelles (10.65 per cent), Tunisia (12.8 per cent), Mauritius (14.32 per cent), South Africa (19.75 per cent), Algeria (13.1 per cent), Botswana (25 per cent), Kenya (27.4 per cent), Cape Verde (15.1 per cent), Egypt (15.3 per cent), and Namibia (27.3 per cent).

A striking pattern emerges from this list: the nations boasting the strongest educational systems in Africa all dedicate at least ten per cent of their national budgets to this crucial sector. 

This correlation speaks volumes. If we aspire to elevate our own educational system, a commensurate increase in investment is demonstrably the pathway forward. 

After all, how can we truly hope to build a thriving nation without first investing in the minds of its people? Education and security, health, and infrastructure must sit firmly among our top priorities.

Our education system stands at a crossroads: while its content may claim dominion over the past, the needs and aspirations of our 21st-century nation lie tragically unreflected. Instead of fostering the spark of innovation, it churns out cogs in a machine skilled only in navigating prescribed paths. 

READ MORE: Almost a Quarter of Tanzania’s Private Primary Schools Are Found in Dar es Salaam. Here’s Why

Yet, irony reigns supreme – the very same voices that trumpet employment as the pinnacle of achievement whisper, under their breath, of self-employment, a cruel mirage in a parched landscape of scarcity. To demand job creation from minds sculpted for service, minds yearning for the familiar comfort of the box is a dissonance too stark to ignore.

The industrialised world races ahead, propelled by the rocket fuel of the digital revolution, while we stumble, burdened by the rusty gears of the industrial age. 

Our veins throb with the bounty of raw materials, unpolished jewels slumbering in the earth, yet we continue to peddle them like trinkets, sending them on a one-way journey to distant factories. 

These alchemists of industry weave our minerals and crops into intricate tapestries of value, only to return them to us adorned with a premium, a cruel reflection of our educational stagnation. Can we truly call ourselves a nation aspiring to industry, burdened by an educational system ill-equipped to forge its own destiny?

National comparisons

Therefore, government leaders should not fixate on comparing public and private schools. Instead, we should measure our entire educational system against other nations. Pitting public and private schools against each other only weakens our own system. 

READ MORE: NECTA’s Decision To No Longer Announce Best School, Student Stirs Debate

The crucial question is not whether public or private schools produce the best workforce but whether Tanzania is preparing its people to thrive in the 21st century. Failure to achieve this is a disservice to the future generations we hope will lead our country.

Instead of resorting to hypocrisy, where public schools are applauded while our public officials’ own children find solace in private halls, our esteemed leaders should embrace true conviction. 

If, as they proclaim, the public system has ascended to such dizzying heights, let them demonstrate their unwavering faith through bold action. I propose a simple test: a law mandating that all children of public officials receive their education within the very system they so ardently champion. 

No public pronouncements are needed, and no grand debates are required. Let silence, pregnant with conviction or choked by hypocrisy, be the definitive answer. Perhaps then, in the quiet chambers of introspection, the necessary steps towards genuine, unified progress will be born.

Thomas Joel Kibwana is an international relations and business development expert. He can be reached at or on X (Twitter) as @thomasjkibwana. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chanzo. If you are interested in publishing in this space, please contact our editors at

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