KIGOMA, Buhigwe The USAID Public Sector Systems Strengthening Plus (PS3+) Activity implemented in the country with the support from the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has tremendously transformed Buhigwe Primary School.
One of the changes the project has brought about to Buhigwe is to ensure citizens’ engagement in management and delivery of public services. The project is being implemented in collaboration with Tanzanian government through President’s Office – Regional Administration and Local Government (PO – RALG).
To ensure that it attains its objectives, the project has been directing efforts in providing guidelines and technical advice to various councils in the country, including appropriate use of suggestion boxes at the levels of village and ward offices, health centres and various schools to enable citizens to give out their views.
Buhigwe Primary School located at Buhigwe District Council in Kigoma Region is among the beneficiaries of the project in which for a period of one year it recorded huge achievements after pupils were given an opportunity to give out their views in relation to the school development through the suggestion box.
A Standard VII pupil, Venessa James, said that previously the suggestion box was placed close to the headteacher’s office, thus causing glitches for pupils to contribute their views, but the box has since been placed near a classroom and they no longer to use it.
“We have used the suggestion box to request for construction of toilets, classrooms and provision of water at the school; and all the requests have been fulfilled… we are happy for being involved by giving out our suggestions that have finally been worked upon,” she said.
The pupil added that earlier, pupils were forced to walk long distances to fetch water and they were studying in dilapidated classrooms, which threatened their health and safety.
Detailing about the suggestion box, Buhigwe Primary School Assistant Headteacher Mr Goodluck Digimba said that earlier they faced a challenge of getting views from the pupils, because the suggestion box was placed opposite the headteacher’s office thus they did not get any views as the students were scared to offer their suggestions.
The teacher said that after facing such difficulties, they were trained and provided with guidelines through PS3+ project that required them to change the location of the suggestion box by placing it on an area where pupils could be comfortable to use it.
“We placed the suggestion box close to a classroom where it was far from the headteacher’s office … this helped us a lot to get views from the pupils,” Mr Digimba said.
He added that, they also received guidance on how to work on the views, opening the suggestion box and recording the views.
Mr Digimba said that they were required to form a committee to work on the views which comprised two teachers who received training, two pupils and a parent who represented other villagers.
“The suggestion box is opened after one week and the day of opening it we meet as a committee and the keys are kept by two people. We were advised to have an exercise book to record the views so that it can be easy to work on them.
He further said that the exercise is used to record the kind of views presented and how they are being worked upon … among the issues which were raised was the dilapidated classrooms which the school leadership presented it to the district council for action.
Mr Digimba said that the government heard the pupils’ concern and as a result it provided 195.2m/- for construction of seven classrooms and pit latrines.
“Other views which were given out on October 1, 2021, where pupils wrote about lack of sanitary equipment and in addressing such challenge, the school leadership was directed to buy them and pupils were shown how to use and keep them,” Mr Digimba noted.
He also noted that one pupil wrote about being provided with sanitary towels in order to help female pupils to participate fully during lessons, because in the past they were sometimes forced to go back home during lessons due to menstrual cycles, and the school administration worked on the request by finding various stakeholders who provided the pads.
“Besides providing female pupils with sanitary pads we have also allocated a special changing room to be used when the girls are in periods… generally this has helped a lot to reduce the number of female pupils who were missing classes when they are in menstruation,” he said.
According to Mr Digimba, pupils who gave out their views concerning lack of water at the school, the committee directed the school administration to find a solution to the problem.
The school leadership collaborated with Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASA) to install water infrastructure, noting that to date the school has about twenty water taps.
He added that the systems improvement facilitated by PS3+ in collaboration with the government through Buhigwe District Council, has helped a lot to work on views presented by pupils and recorded notable achievements, because pupils have the basic needs that in turn reduce absenteeism.
One of the committee members, Mr Jeremiah Kiji, said the suggestion box at the school has contributed a lot to the success and development of the school and the village in general.
Mr Kiji, who is also a parents’ representative, said before the suggestion box was introduced, the pupils were forced to walk long distances to collect water, thus they wasted time which could be used in lessons.
“We were very pleased when the suggestion box was introduced in the school because it has brough great changes in terms of performance and availability of important services at the school such as water, sanitary and construction of classrooms,” Mr Kiji said.
He noted that all the views presented by the pupils are being taken by the committee for action, noting that he is responsible for analysing and documenting the views.
For her part, a teacher Ms Chausiku Simon explained that before the PS3+ started to make follow up and provide guidance on appropriate use of suggestion box at the school, teachers and students were facing several challenges but they scared to give out their suggestions.
Ms. Simon said the school was facing numerous challenges such as the limited number of pit latrines and lack of clean and safe water. She said the suggestion box has helped pupils to give out their views which were presented to the government and resolved.
“Currently the school has good learning environment for pupils, and this has improved their performance because they have all important needs… we express our gratitude to President Samia Suluhu Hassan for providing funds for construction of classrooms and increase the number of latrines,” she said.
Dr Themistocles Kamugisha, who is an officer with the Education Department at Buhigwe District Council said the suggestion box brought remarkable success in the council, especially at Buhigwe Primary School.
“Sometime back our pupils were afraid to give out their views because the suggestion box was placed near the headteacher’s office and after realising that the suggestion box was placed nearby one of the classrooms and this helped to get many views,” Dr Kamugisha.
One of the issues which were raised by pupils was the lack of latrines, water, and enough classrooms, which were all resolved.
Since the school could not construct the latrines through the Planning and Reporting System (PlanRep) we collected the views and incorporated them in our plans and during the budgeting they were included in the Facility Financial Accounting and Reporting System (FFARS) and the government allocated 192m/- for construction of classrooms and pit latrines.
He said the government through ‘PlanRep’ and ‘FFARS’ dished out some amount of funds for renovating old classrooms.
Dr Kamugisha said through the suggestion box they have recorded huge achievements because they were able to know students’ needs and incorporate them in their budget and planning systems.