TANZANIA: More food allowances for students

The Tanzanian government has increased food allowances for university students by 50%, to help them afford to buy meals.

Education and Vocational Training Minister Dr Shukuru Kawambwa (pictured) announced the increase when he tabled his 2011-12 budget estimates recently.

"We have decided to have meal allowances increased from the current 5,000 Tanzanian Shillings to 7,500 Tanzanian Shillings (US$4.72) per day. We have considered the students' complaints and hope this increase will be helpful to them," Kawambwa said.

However, some students who spoke to University World News in a canteen at the University of Dar es Salaam, said the minister's food allowance increase was small consolation, given that for months they have been asking for a 100% rise.

"Food is expensive here and some students skip meals as they can't afford to buy it. I am not an expert in students' attention spans, but I would imagine that one cannot concentrate during lectures on an empty stomach. I can't," said one student, as she tucked into a modest meal comprising rice, a piece of chicken and water.

Meal allowances have long been at the center of furious rows between the government and the country's burgeoning tertiary education student population. In some instances riots and strikes have broken out and some students have been expelled.

With a general population of nearly 40 million Tanzania has, like most developing countries, come up with a national development blue print - Vision 2025 - which envisages the country becoming a knowledge-based society in which citizens are sufficiently schooled to tackle social problems.

But also like many other African nations, it is struggling to fund the rapid expansion of its school and higher education systems.