The joy and triumphal remark was made last Tuesday by Commissioner of Population Census 2012, Ms Hajjat Amina Mrisho at a meeting in Dar es Salaam of Producers and Users of Statistics meeting. “The preparation involves purchase of equipment, transport and distribution of census items,” Ms Mrisho said. “And that so far, is satisfactory.”
The meaning and enormity of the census leaves no room for a slipshod operation. Accordingly, Ms Mrisho clarified the precision the government approached the task with. “Preparations for the exercise are conducted by utmost care by our experts through observance of purchase of quality equipment, handover time and that of distribution of the items to be used,” she explained.
An elated Ms Mrisho, however, sounded a note of caution that all was not rosy. “The erratic power supply now a daily headache threatens a smooth operation of the prospective population census,” she told the press, shortly before the meeting began.
But it would be unwise to take for granted or belittle a national census given its significance.
“Taking a census regularly enables proper development planning, Mrs Aldeguna Komba, Manager of Social Statistics at National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), explained. The meeting that was attended by various stakeholders in the exercise including the World Bank, UNICEF, Ministry of Finance, NGOs and different organizations of the handicapped.
The nation has carried out four censuses since independence. The first one was in 1967 and, by Ms Komba’s account, followed by a second one in 1978, a third one in 1988 and the last one in 2002. Notwithstanding good progress in the preparations for August census as the countdown to the D-Day approaches, the meeting revealed some shortcomings while discussing the questionnaire to be used.
If any good job is to be made of the fifth census, some amendment of the questionnaire is to be done to remove ambiguity that the October 2 pilot census last year unearthed. That census revealed that some cultural and religious traditions still stood in the way for a smooth operation of the August exercise.
“In Pemba Micheweni census officials failed to get answers from women because a woman was not allowed to answer questions for the family when the man was not present,” Mwalim H. Ameir, a Census Commissar in Zanzibar who also attended the meeting, told the Daily News on Saturday.
The commissar also said the opposition in Zanzibar regards the August census as a political achievement and a chance to embarrass the government. “They say the general elections were rigged and figures blown up in favour of the ruling party – CCC,” Ameir said. “So the people’s number will reveal the true figures to counter-prove the previously alleged numbers. But overall, preparations are as good as they are on the Mainland.”
They may, however, not be so good, according to the revelations by the meeting. How, for instance, would double counting be avoided, or how the question of those who worked night shifts the previous night be solved? “The census is said to take seven days in total, but it will take place in one day only,” Ms Komba clarified.
“There is no problem with people who shall have been on duty outside their homes previous to the exercise the next day. Everybody will be counted where they spent the previous night.” Furthermore, if the census is to be successful, there must be clarity of language. There ought to be no ambiguity of words or sentences. What, for instance, does ‘A house for which the owner pays tax,’ and ‘a house for which the owner pays some money?’
Surely, there was a need to clarify the difference of Kodi nafuu – a affordable tax and malipo nafuu – a affordable payment.
Moreover, in Zanzibar the words of ‘jengo’ and nyumba mean the same, but on the mainland ‘jengo’ is a storey building and nyumba a structure with a couple of rooms for a family, explain a member of one stakeholder organization. The August census is planned to be more comprehensive than any other previous to it.
Such things like literacy need proper determinants. Is ability to read alone the only factor to make one considered literate? another member of the meeting asked. The question of whether Tanzanians visiting a foreign country and those living there were both grouped as Tanzanians in Diaspora on the night previous to the population census also begged clarification.
Found as questionable too in the questionnaire was why the elderly were categorised as disabled people. Even the meaning of disability as used in the questionnaire deserved revision since among the poor souls mentioned, there were many others left out like the hunchbacks.
Ms Mrisho addressed that question by saying, “Disability will entail its limitation and the subject’s ability to work and earn their livelihood.” All said and done, the commissioner for Population Census 2012 said the exercise can be made a lot easier if enough sensitization of the people is done.