Munga Mtengeti, 44, left Hekima Primary School in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's capital, when the school bell rang, signaling the end of the day's classes. He appeared fatigued, yet he was still lugging a stack of students' exercise books home to check, indicating that the day has not ended for him.
Mtengeti is one of several elementary school teachers in the bustling city who are overburdened with work that is not proportional to their salary.
Despite the stressful environment, he is self-motivated and committed to his work, as are other teachers. “Being a teacher is a call from God, and you must do your best to help children learn no matter how difficult the environment is,” he told Anadolu Agency.
Mtengeti, who has been teaching at the primary level for the past 16 years, is dedicated to building a strong foundation for children at an early age.
"There are many problems, but we don't have to whine," he said.
His day usually starts at 5.00 a.m. to beat the traffic to school, which is at a distance of 21 kilometers (13 miles) from his residence. He was already at school by 7.00 a.m. and prepared for the day's activities, which begin an hour later.
Mtengeti, who is dissatisfied with his monthly salary, spends his afternoons grading homework, preparing teaching materials, and engaging students in extracurricular activities.
A primary school teacher earns around 530,000 Tanzanian shillings ($230) per month on average. However, as life becomes more expensive, the amount they make is insufficient to cover their monthly expenses.
- ‘Free education does not work’
The situation at Lunyanywi primary school in the Njombe region of the country's southern highlands, where teachers seemed deeply demoralized due to low wages, appeared to be much worse.
A teacher was spotted going around a cramped classroom, ensuring that all students pay attention, some of them were sitting on wooden desks and others on a limited aisle to avoid tumbling down.
“No one seems to appreciate what we do. Our salaries are insufficient, and we lack teaching materials to ensure that students receive a high-quality education,” Martina Mwengazi, a teacher at the school, told Anadolu Agency.
Despite the government's free education program, which was introduced in 2017, teachers, on the other hand, complain about overcrowding and a poor working environment.
Although the east African country has been praised for implementing a free education policy for all children, which has resulted in a significant rise in enrolment, critics claim there is a lack of attention on educational quality.
“It simply does not work,” Godfrey Boniventura, head of programs at Hakielimu, a local NGO specialized in education, told Anadolu Agency, citing poor salary as one of the factors that weaken the teaching profession's reputation and urged the government to strengthen its structure.
Most teachers, he argues, have a miserable life, pushing them to engage in entrepreneurial ventures such as selling ice cream and buns, or taking evening classes, often known as tuition.
The noble teaching profession has become a source of derision among the country's socioeconomic strata, with the majority of educators choosing it out of compulsion if they cannot find other means to make a living.
Poor working conditions for teachers have an impact on students, who are the country's future.
Millions of Tanzanian children are facing lost opportunities and a bleak future because their primary schools are failing to prepare them for success in life, according to a World Bank report, titled World Development Report 2018: Learning to Realise Education's Promise.