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A letter from Tanzania

    In Tanzania education is a privilege. Children walk miles through the bush to attend school and discipline is automatic.  No cheeking of teachers and no knives.  I saw class loads of school children in ordered lines at a giraffe farm. The girls were in pink uniform with beautifully plaited hair and the boys in blue shirts and shorts.  The teacher seemed surprised when I commented on how well behaved and well turned out her class was but nevertheless she thanked me courteously.  I saw young Masai children trudging down isolated roads to go to some remote bush school (again in school uniform).

    Education in Tanzania is compulsory for seven years, until children reach the age of 15.  Primary school starts from age 7 and finishes at 13 and is state funded but families still have to pay for uniforms, testing fees and school supplies. Parents have to pay for secondary school and in addition to the tuition fees there are testing, identity and lunch fees and watchman and furniture contributions.  This creates a burden on many families so inevitably some children (especially girls) drop out of the system.  Our guide proudly told me that he was educating his four children privately.  His wife, a teacher, had retrained to be a hairdresser and they were in the process of completing on a salon. This entrepreneurship is now a common feature in Tanzania and I heard many similar tales during my stay.

    Peter the Masai watchman in one of the camps had no education but was learning English from the tourists.  He felt he was very lucky to have a night watchman job. A far cry from those Brits who complain that it is not worth getting out of bed if their take-home pay is not what they got on benefits.

    Many Tanzanians are also very grateful to President George W.  Bush.  In 2008 President Bush, in partnership with the World Bank, distributed mosquito nets to protect 5.2 million children from malaria. In 2011 the former President Bush and his wife Laura were thanked by President Kikwete on a visit to Dar es Salaam for supporting the African country's campaign to curb Aids and HIV infection. Kikwete was referring to the U.S. Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief that Bush initiated and the Obama administration continues to support

    There is now freedom of the press in Tanzania and an outspoken opposition.  There is optimism in Tanzania today with vastly improved communications and a new generation coming up who hopefully will develop free market ideas and continue to expand entrepreneurial activities and thereby bring prosperity for all. 

    Jenny Nicholson is former Deputy Chairman of the CPS.

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