REPORTS have been heard from Urambo district in  Tabora region that  the councillors assembly has moved a by-law to fine parents up to 300,000 shillings for truancy of their child, failing to attend secondary school or failing to take them to those schools.  The councillors sat to discuss measures on the issue because absenteeism of pupils in ward secondary schools was high, and in a recent report, it was said that parents organise a congratulation party for their sons who fail to be selected to join secondary school. It was in Ruvuma, but it must be true elsewhere.

The district executive director, Richard Luyango, was quoted as affirming that after that decision, truancy or absenteeism will be curbed, so the standard of education in the district will be uplifted, as different from the situation as it is now. He was quite adamant that a heavy fine is the way out to compel parents to take their children to school, and not take them towards the cultivation of tobacco or tendering cows, two concerns of parents he seemed to hold in contempt. Parents have started to complain that the fine imposed will be too high for them to pay.

One feature that is unclear is whether the councillors are a government committee of they are actually elected from the people, and what section of people, the voters who took them there, are ready to pay 0.3m/- for truancy or absenteeism of their children. Nor is it likely that opinion is unanimous in the district as to the merits of secondary schooling as different from cultivating tobacco or tending cattle, if those who finish secondary school are to be taken as role models. Parents have plenty of reasons to be sceptical of secondary schools, especially if pupils come out with division zero in the vast majority in ward secondary schools, for several years now.

It is unlikely that the councillors assembly was incapable of grasping the peasants’ point of view, or equally incapable of thinking of other means of enhancing for instance vocational education fot those working in tobacco farms. That is why there is distance learning at higher level, and evening classes for self-employed or employed youths in urban areas. Such leaning options can be placed along tobacco farms or villages in general,  where youths who are starting to see the need for  education can join, with least payments; if an educational entrepreneur is available.

The key to any mentally engaging endeavour is that someone should be happy with what they are doing, not forced into it because of councillors by-laws or things of the sort, as everyone knows secondary school education is not the gateway to anything in particular, and ward schooling not a gateway to anything really. It is also plausible to say that  councillors know all about this, and as they are part of the society from which they obtained their votes, their comprehension of schooling cannot be entirely removed from that of councillors generally. That is why the harsh penalties for not sending children to secondary schools in preference to helping with economic activity in this or that manner are unlikely to be authentic.

It is not difficult to see in this measure another revenue mobilisation measure for the district council, but whose collection and use will of course not be subject to usually stringent regulations in acconting for the government budget. Here the council would take a hefty cut from the fines imposed, and the rest of the cash remain with the benefiting schools, in like manner as slaves used to have an option of paying lumpsums, by loans of getting a benefactor, to obtain their freedom. The district takes over the children, and parents who want them to help with farming have to pay reasonable compensation to the district for letting the children go….

Nor is it hard to see that plenty of corruption will come up because of that rule, that a lot of extortion will start on poor parents who cannot pay up, such that they lose cattle or several smaller livestock. This sort of use of force has a way of cultivating violence in the society as such animals will be taken away by force, and if those who collect those animals come from another village, enmity builds up, and if they are from the same village, violence can also occur. In the final analysis  note must be taken of the need for education to be voluntary except basic education for all school age children. Maturing youths and their parents can just be left alone.