J.N.S. Mutanyatta

The following case study is from Zanzibar, where one major problem - as in other countries - is the large number of children dropping out of the formal education system or never entering it. The study looks at underlying factors, such as parents' level of education, the contrast between urban and rural areas, the gender issue, etc., and puts forward some alternatives. The author describes the Learning Skills Development Project, which has developed alternative teaching content and methods related to real life and providing preparation for subsequent employment. Dr. J.N.S. Mutanyatta is on the staff of the Department of Adult Education and Extension Service of the University of Dar es Salaam.

Research Initiative for Achieving Education for All

Zanzibar Case Study

Achieving Education for All (EFA), for children, young people and adults, is an enormous task and challenge facing the least developed countries of the world in the 21st century. The full vision of EFA - that of creating a learning society - has had far-reaching implications for African states since the Jomtien 1990 World conference. Despite the Dakar Framework for Action (2000) that put the deadline for achieving EFA at 2015, the achievement of EFA goals is still a distant dream for many states in Africa. It is sad that many African states are severely disadvantaged by the fact that a high percentage of their population does not have access to education in the formal school system.

There are currently over 130 million children out of school world-wide, a high percentage being in Africa. In fact, sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in which numbers of children out of school are rising. It is estimated that by 2015 more than three quarters of the out-of-school children in the world will be in this region. In addition, a high percentage of the adult population in Africa did not have access to basic education in their childhood and are therefore illiterate (ADEA, 1999).

Nevertheless, the vision of EFA recognises, inter alia, education as a key factor in restoring hope by establishing and enhancing a culture of democracy, human rights, peace, justice and universal education, and authentic human development. Compelling reasons for policy initiatives to achieve the goals for EFA are well documented and supported, though with varying levels of political will and resources, both human and financial. However, less well documented are the characteristics of citizens excluded from access to the education system, and there is a lack of research data on their basic learning needs. Barriers to education need to be diagnosed so as to provide concrete empirical evidence (bench-marks) of the existing situation in Member States.

One of the barriers is the current research gap. The international consultative forum on EFA has recommended that countries need to step up their efforts to collect meaningful data with which the progress towards the Jomtien goals can be monitored faithfully, in the context of applying educational research to produce better learning. Consequently, there is an urgent need for EFA research and for the results of research to be made more widely available through data banks and other means, so that Member States in Africa can share and learn from interesting experiences (success stories) within the continent and around the world.

Indeed, research and evaluation studies are essential scientific management tools that will help to realize the concrete goals of EFA. The Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar has already championed the path towards this challenging task of filling the research gap. In 2004 the Zanzibar Government succeeded in undertaking a nation-wide study to establish a database of out-of-school children with the purpose of establishing alternative learning opportunities for formal basic education for out-of-school children. A consultancy study service was made possible by a loan and grant from the African Development Bank (ADB). This paper provides major highlights of the Zanzibar case study.

The Zanzibar Case Study

Context and Rationale

The Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar obtained independence on 12 January 1964, and as from 26 April 1964 Zanzibar has formed part of a union with mainland Tanganyika, the United Republic of Tanzania. The historic Zanzibar Revolution and subsequent union between Zanzibar and Tanganyika not only became exemplary on the African continent, the event also inspired the subsequent successful liberation movements in the southern African region, currently named SADC (Southern African Development Community).

Zanzibar is composed of two main islands of Unguja and Pembe, lying a few kilometres off the coast of East Africa, in the Indian Ocean. The present population is estimated at 890,000 people, the majority of whom are Muslims (99 %), and a few are Christians or Hindus. The official language is Kiswahili while English and Arabic are second languages.

The Zanzibar economy is characterized as among the least developed in the world, with over-dependence on peasant agriculture which is untransformed and hence poor and fragile. The per capita income for many Zanzibaris is put at 235,631/= Tanzania shillings, equivalent to $235.60 US dollars. The majority of citizens live in rural areas and are engaged in small-scale farming, livestock-keeping, fishing and poultry-keeping.

The status and development vision of Zanzibar education are of relevance to this paper. Briefly, the 1964 Revolution created room for an indigenous democratic government which, immediately after the Revolution, instituted a democratic system of education by declaring free education for all children. Yet this bold policy on EFA since 1964 in Zanzibar has never received the publicity it deserves worldwide, unlike the recent 1990 Jomtien World Conference on EFA. Indeed, a democratic system of education underpins the social role of dialectic enlightenment (emancipation and liberation from the exploitation, domination, anxiety and repression that result from restrictions on human life).

The Education Sector country report on Zanzibar (Garabawa, 2003) mentions specific constraints on access to and participation in education. These include:

  • a substantial proportion of school-age children are not in school;
  • repetition rates are high in general, but they are higher for boys than for girls;
  • despite a promising gross enrolment rate, basic education in Zanzibar is characterized by high wastage rates. These are higher in rural areas where children of young age have to work to supplement family income: children of school age accompany their parents during seasonal activities such as fishing and clove-picking instead of attending school, contributing to school absenteeism and eventual drop-out.

The situation analysis of out-of-school children in Zanzibar provided pertinent empirical data, as presented below.

The Objectives of the Research

The research focus was on the development of alternative approaches to formal basic education for out-of school children. The main goals of the study were to contribute to the Government's effort to reduce unemployment and thereby contribute to poverty reduction.

The intended outputs were a clear picture of the magnitude of the educational needs of out-of-school children, and proposals for various modalities and approaches to meet their basic learning needs.

Research Methodology

Data were collected on two aspects, through nation-wide coverage of a sample population of out-of-school children selected by gender and age-group (7-13 years and 14-18 years). The two islands of Pemba and Unguja consist of 252 shehias (smallest grassroot administrative unit). An interview schedule was designed to collect data in each shehia by conducting a house to house survey. Data were collected in relation to indicators of name, gender, location by shehia, educational status (whether never attended school or dropped out of school), and in the case of drop-outs, level of school or standard dropped out. The instrument was administered to all 76 shehias in Pembe and 176 in Unguja.

Also, an in-depth interview schedule was designed to capture a situation analysis of the scale and magnitude of the phenomenon of out-of-school children, as well as of the basic learning needs of respondents. This in-depth instrument was administered to a representative sample in each of the five regions and ten districts. A visionary method was used to help out-of-school children to reflect on the situations to which they aspired (i.e. their future careers) and on their current situations (their preoccupations). The difference between these two situations creates tensions that need to be resolved by the envisaged alternative learning skills development project for out-of-school children. Overall, in each sampled shehia (N = 50) it was planned to interview 20 respondents, making up a study population of 1000 respondents of differing gender and educational status. The adopted ratio between the never attended school category and the drop-outs was put at 3:2 respectively. Thus, in each shelia sampled, the study reached 12 respondents out of 20 who had never attended school, and 8 who had dropped out, in each case covering different genders and age-groups. The distribution was:

Study Findings

National Coverage of Out-of-School Children: Scope and Magnitude

The study conducted a house to house survey to collect data on out-of-school children. All 76 shehias in Pemba were surveyed while in Unguja only 112 shehias out of 144 shehias were surveyed, leaving 32 shehias that failed to submit data in time for the study. Thus, the national baseline data coverage comprised 188 shehias, or 85.5%, and a total of 12,535 respondents (out-of-school children) were reached by the study, revealing the magnitude of the phenomenon of out-of-school children in Zanzibar.

The two categories of out-of-school children were those who had never had the chance to attend formal school and were therefore illiterate (N = 6414, of whom 3600 or 28.7 % male and 2814 or 22.5 % female, totalling 51.2 %). In terms of age-group, those who had never attended school aged 7-13 years were 4990 or 39.8 %, whereas the 14-18 year category numbered 1424 or 11.4 % (716 males and 708 females). The drop-outs from the formal school system numbered 6121 or 48.9% of total respondents, 4518 or 36.04% males and 1603 or 12.8% females. In terms of the age group 7-13 years, the total was 1874 or 14.9 %, consisting of 1369 males and 505 females, while in the 14-18 year-old category the total was 4147 or 33.8%, with 1098 females and 3149 males. In Zanzibar, some parents do not want to reveal the situation of their children freely and honestly. In fact some stakeholders put the figure of out-of-school children at 30,000 or more.

Drop-Out Distribution by Level of Schooling

The distribution pattern of drop-outs by level of schooling shows variations by regional location. Pemba island has more drop-outs (4391 or 55.4%) than Unguja (1503 or 44.6%). The phenomenon of drop-out from formal school reveals very poor internal efficiency of the education system. Dropping out of school occurs at all levels of primary school education but more acutely at standards 2, 3, 4,5 and 6, as shown in in the table below.

Drop-out by Level of Schooling


Situation Analysis of the Sample Population

The study reached a sample population of 1068 (the planned target was 1000 respondents) with a ratio of 3:2 between Unguja and Pemba respectively, broken down into 416 or 39 % who had never attended school and 652 or 61 % drop-outs from formal schooling. Specific background characteristics of respondents included parents' educational status and economic activities, reasons why respondents never attended school, reasons why they dropped of formal school, and respondents' current preoccupations. Curriculum models and implications for the proposed three-year alternative development project were derived.

Contextual Variables as Barriers to Education

Classification of Out-of-School children

The study sought to classify out-of-school children into three categories: (1) on the street children (spending the day-time on the streets but returning home to the family at night or in the evening); (2) street children (living and working on the street full-time with little or no contact with home or parents; and (3) none of the above. Overall, the overwhelming majority of children (90 %) were neither classified as street children nor as on the street children. About 7 % of respondents were classified as on the street children. The problem of street children accounted for about 3 % and is emerging slowly, especially among boys in urban areas Generally, street children are not yet a serious problem in Zanzibar. To be noted with concern is that child labour is widespread in Zanzibar.

Education Status of Parents of Sampled Respondents

The education status of parents is characterized by widespread illiteracy, with Pemba Island being in a more disadvantageous position: in the never attended school category, the majority of mothers (72.4 %) and fathers (62.3 %) had never attended formal schooling and were therefore illiterate. In the drop-out category in Unguja, on the other hand, 38 % of mothers and 33.3 % of fathers had never attended formal schooling. Pemba revealed a majority of mothers (66.2%) and fathers 59.6 % to be illiterate overall, compared with Unguja with 58.2 % of mothers and 55.4 % of fathers who had never attended formal schooling. In general, the education status of parents was characterized by the majority being illiterates, with a range between 33.3 % and 72.4 %. Mothers were more disadvantaged, with a range of 58.2 % to 72.4 %, compared with fathers, with a range 33.3 % to 62.3 %. Generally, the adult illiteracy level in Zanzibar, according to the 1986 census, was 38.5 % (58.1 % among women). The total illiterate population numbered 126,022 people.

Economic Activities of Parents

A total of 1005 sample respondents indicated their parents' economic activities. The majority of parents of out-of-school children were engaged in peasant agriculture (N = 439 or 43.7%) or micro-fishing (N = 183 or 18.2 %). Very few parents were employed in Government jobs (N = 91 or 9.1 %) or private sector jobs (N = 169 or 16.8). Others were engaged in small business (N = 94 or 8.4 %) and larger business (N = 17 or 1.7%). In terms of daily income, the majority of parents engaged in agriculture and fishing were very poor, living on under 1000/ = Tanzania shillings a day. Thus, poverty engulfs the majority of people in Zanzibar.

Out-of-School Children's Work Activities or Child Labour

The majority of out-of-school children (616 out of a sample of 1069) indicated that they did not perform specific work activities. The work activities performed by other children varied and can be classified as child labour. These work activities included agriculture (49 respondents) fishing (52), small business (24), domestic work (24), homefamily work (54) and casual labour (18). Out-of-school children expressed dissatisfaction with their work activities mainly because of low income, difficult working conditions, the laborious nature of the work and lack of skills in the job, including literacy skills.

Contextual Barriers to Enrolment in Formal Education

A total of 416 sampled respondents (Pemba N = 199 and Unguja N = 217) had not attended the formal education system. The major reasons for non-enrolment in formal schooling, in rank order, were: (1) poverty of parents (177 or 42.5 %); (2) parents preventing the child attending (39 or 9.4 %); (3) lack of awareness of the value of education or illness (13 or 3.6 %); (4) long distance to school ("school is far") (11 or 2.6%); (5) fear of corporal punishment at school (9 or 2.2%); (6) staying home to help parents (5 or 1.2 %); and (7) negative attitudes towards school ("I do not like school", 64 or 15.4%).

Reasons why Respondents Dropped out of School

A total of twelve reasons were revealed by respondents (N = 469) for dropping out of school at various levels, especially at standards 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 of basic primary education. In rank order the major reasons for dropping out of school were; poverty of parents (215 or 34 %); parents preventing attendance (70 or 11 %); lack of awareness of the value of education or illness (47 or 7 %); long distance to school (32 or 5%); bad school administration of punishment (21 or 4.5%); marriage (16 or 32%); pregnancy (11 or 2%); dislike of subjects taught (9 or 1.9 %); helping at home (6 or 1.3 %); unsuitable teaching and learning environment (4 or 0.9%); and truancy or dislike of school (159 or 25%).

Empirical Data on Basic Learning Needs of Out-of-School Children

Preferred Work-oriented Skills Training and Career Goals

The basic learning needs of respondents in all age groups and of both genders were captured through a visionary approach. Respondents were asked to indicate their future work preferences after attending the proposed alternative learning skills development project. A total of 18 varied future work aspirations were rank ordered. Commerce (17.3 %) was number one, followed by teaching (13.6 %), office work (8.8%%), medicine (7.8%), fishing (6.9%), hotel management and tourism (5.4 %), and agriculture (5.3 %). Other career goals included tailoring, carpentry, livestock farming, masonry, plumbing, motor mechanics, electrical installation, nursing, bicycle repairs, and driving. It should be stressed that these various work preferences and career goals became factors in the design of the alternative learning skills curriculum.

Respondents' Preferred Life Skills Training

Apart from work-oriented life skills (stadi za maisha), respondents indicated seven areas as their life skills learning needs. These included civic education or democracy/human rights (26.1 %), Zanzibar history (17.9%), culture (13.3%) health education (sexuality) HIV/AIDS and malaria (14.2 %), environmental education (11.7 %), moral education (5.3%) and personality building (3.2%).

Study Outcomes and Implications

The anticipated three-year alternative learning skills development project entails complex interrelated objectives and goals, namely access and equity as part of EFA policy, skills development for employ-ability, poverty reduction linked to income-generating activities, and developing a culture of lifelong learning.

Derived Curriculum areas

In respect to empirical data on the basic learning needs of out-of-school children, there emerged four inter-linked curriculum areas to be taken into account: (1) literacy and numeracy tools, (2) vocational skills, (3) life-skills coaching, and (4) core subjects for mainstream-ing and linkages/harmonization with the formal education system. In relation to core subjects for mainstreaming, reference is made to the adoption of the COBET (Complementary Basic Education and Training) curriculum model used in mainland Tanzania. The COBET model consists of four subject areas:

  • Communication skills - English, Kiswahili, mathematics
  • Vocational skills - agricultural sciences, fine arts, crafts and simple technology utilization
  • General knowledge - Science and technology, history, geography and civics
  • Personality building - Social relationship traditions, values, sports and good behaviour at games

Implications for the Three-Year Integrated Curriculum for the Alternative Learning Skills Development Project

The Curriculum

The proposed three-year integrated skills development curriculum to provide learning opportunities for out-of-school children, has far-reaching implications. In the first place, the proposed framework for an integrated curriculum demands skills training in a variety of trades for employability in a demand-driven labour market economy. This implies a need to develop a competency-based curriculum to meet the diversified and flexible basic learning needs of out-of-school children by age group (7-13 and 14-18 years) and gender. An integrated system of basic education and skills training that provides access and equal opportunities for all children, demands a transformative national curriculum of adaptable skills learning, capable of matching learning to ever-changing innovations in science and technology.

Accordingly, the integrated curriculum for alternative learning skills development project for out-of-school children consists of learning to master literacy and numeracy, including computer literacy, conceptualized in terms of livelihood skills. Thus, in most cases, skills development and literacy tools are planned to start concurrently in the curriculum, and the contents of literacy and numeracy skills are derived from or influenced by trades/businesses or skills inherent in the income-generating or economic activities and basic learning needs of out-of-school children.

Pedagogical Implications

In the second place, an integrated curriculum that combines literacy and numeracy tools as well as various vocational skills and trades, calls for specially trained and qualified facilitators and teachers. The study recommends establishing special open-learning vocational centres in the communities for out-of-school children. Such centres will need to be well equipped with relevant teaching and learning materials, aids including various technologies (computers, internet, TVs etc) and a variety of games suitable for each gender. To be successful and sustainable, the proposed integrated curriculum will need two types of teachers/facilitators who are fully trained and qualified in (a) teaching methodologies that help children learn best, and (b) various trades (carpentry, tailoring etc.). Both pedagogical teachers and skills/ trades instructors will need to be dependable, to have a unique ability to gain out-of-school children's friendship quickly, to respect each child's particular situation, and to be patient and tolerant, self-disciplined and highly committed, and well-trained in instructional methodologies that enhance thinking skills and acquisition of knowledge (essays, lecture, oral tests, etc.), in the development of psychomotor skills (practical learning by doing, i.e. education and production), and in changing and reinforcing attitudes (role-play, discussion, peer counselling, etc.). All of this implies focusing on the development of a child-centred curriculum for optimal learning in the three pedagogical methods of transmissive, interactive and transformative learning, as in the following matrix.

Alternative Methods and Domains of Learning

 Domain of learning
Transmissive methods
Interactive method
Transformative methods
Cognitive domain
• Acquisition of knowledge
• Lecture
• Games
• Panel
• Group discusain
Psychomotor opment
• Skills development
• Masterylearntion
• Mastery learning or learning by domain
 • Stories
• Demonstramon
• Skills practice
• Criterion-referenced testing
Affective domain
• Valuing
• Feeling
• Appreciation
• Interests
  • Role playing
• Stimulation
• Group discussion
• Story telling
• Peer counselling
• Behaviour modification

Note: Training of teachers/facilitators in these methods requires time and expertise

The study recommends the establishment of well-staffed special open vocational learning centres in communities for out-of-school children. This is the most likely model for most children. Such centres could be day centres or have boarding hostels. A functional literacy model, or education with production in a variety of vocational skills, is recommended. The second possible scenario is the work-place apprenticeship model providing on-the-job training especially for older children (14 years and over) who happen to be already engaged in job-related skills. This model comprises training under a contractual agreement between the factory/employer (as master-craftsman) and the learner (apprentice or employee), so that the apprentice is trained for a period of time through practical experience under the supervision of the employer. Indigenous crafts/trades, agriculture, business, etc,, have been acquired through apprenticeship training, and so can be modern science and technology. The apprenticeship system still operates as part of the Workers' Education Policy in Tanzania and needs to be supported and reinforced for many out-of-school young people.


The study provides baseline data on out-of-school children in Zanzibar, categorized into those who never attended formal school and those who dropped out of school at almost any level from standard one to form two. In both cases, specific reasons for never attending school and dropping out of school are provided. At the centre of the debate is the problem of widespread abject poverty for the majority of Zanzibaris, with income below 1,000/ = Tanzania shillings per day (below one US dollar). The worst affected are peasants engaged in agriculture and fishing. Thus, poverty and lack of access to educational opportunities are linked in Zanzibar. Poverty has its inherent historical socio-economic structure, originating in the slave trade and colonialism. Visible hardship and apparent deprivation reveal astonishingly widespread illiteracy among parents of out-of-school children, especially among mothers (i.e. women). An integrated curriculum, characterized by competence-based modules in a variety of vocational skills/trades to fit the basic learning needs of out-of-school children, is proposed by the study.

Essentially, the integrated curriculum proposes that skills development and literacy and numeracy should start concurrently, with the content of literacy and numeracy being derived from or influenced by the trades/businesses or skills inherent in income-generating and economic activities.

The provision of an alternative learning skills development project for out-of-school children, though viable, poses enormous challenges for the Government of Zanzibar, not only in terms of the poverty of its citizens but also due to a fragile national economy and widespread illiteracy among the majority of adults; education for All (EFA) is still a distant dream in Zanzibar. However, where there is a will there is a way. We salute the Zanzibar Government for pioneering this research into out-of-school children in Africa. Both the formal and non-formal education sectors need to open their doors freely so as to meet the basic learning needs of out-of-school children. Africa lags far behind in achieving EFA. Both political will and equitable allocation of resources for EFA - financial and material - are mandatory.


ADEA (The Association for the Development of Education in Africa). 1999. The Dynamics of Non-Formal Education, Volume 1. Published by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

World Education Forum, Dakar. 2000. Framework for Action.

Garabawa J. (2003). The Zanzibar Education Status Report.