Chart of the week #29: “Mgomo Baridi” – How much time do teachers actually spend teaching?

Teachers in Tanzania are often said to be on a “cold strike”- mgomo baridi. Not officially on strike, but seriously demotivated and not putting in anything like the amount of effort that the government expects of them. Some may be absent from their schools, others at school but not in the classroom. This is often cited as one reason why children are not learning as well as they should be.

But exactly how bad is the situation, and how does it compare with teachers in other countries?

The World Bank has been collecting data on this and related topics in health and education. They turn up at schools and health facilities unannounced, and check how many teachers / health facility staff are actually there, and how much work is being done.

(They also observe whether health workers are performing to the expected standard in terms of adherence to clinical guidelines and diagnostic abilities, and asked grade 4 (standard 4 in Tanzania) teachers to take tests based on the Primary School curriculum. I will look at these issues another time.)

So far they have covered four countries – Tanzania in 2010, Kenya in 2012, Uganda in 2013 and Senegal in 2010. I have played around with the data, specifically on teacher absenteeism, to produce the set of charts below:

So what do the charts tell us?

  • Teacher absenteeism is notably worse in Tanzania than in the other three countries.
  • Teachers in Tanzania spend just over two hours each day actually teaching, compared to around 3 hours per day in the other three countries.
  • Teachers in schools in urban Uganda spend almost three times as much time actually teaching as teachers in urban Tanzania.
  • Within Tanzania, teacher absenteeism is notably worse in urban schools than rural schools. In urban areas, the amount of actual teaching done per days drops to just 90%.

And finally, some concluding thoughts:

The situation revealed by this data is not good anywhere. Absenteeism was higher than it should be in all four countries. But it was worst in Tanzania, especially in urban schools.

Primary school teachers in Tanzania have many grievances – from delayed salary payments to complaints about housing. And their salaries are low. It would not be right to lay the blame for absenteeism, etc. entirely on them. Though many people I know are much less generous on this point, there is clearly a need to look again at the issue of teacher motivation, including pay and conditions.

But there is also a need to look at performance management for teachers. If teachers in urban primary schools are teaching, on average, for less than an hour and a half each day, then there is a clear need for more accountability.

I suspect there is space for a kind of “grand bargain”, whereby teachers pay and conditions are reviewed (and improved) in return for greater accountability for performance on their part.

4 thoughts on “Chart of the week #29: “Mgomo Baridi” – How much time do teachers actually spend teaching?

  1. Aidan

    Ben. Another great chart. I cite these data as a cornerstone of an argument about the deep drivers of current and future inequality in East Africa (see Thanks for making them so pretty. May I use them in future presentations?

    My reading of the SDI data for Tanzania suggested that delayed salary payments to teachers was not a major problem. It was cited by less than 10% of teachers as I recall. Am I wrong?

    1. mtega Post author

      Thanks Aidan for your very useful comment. And you are right that the SDI project did look at delays in salary payments, and did find that very few teachers’ salaries were over 2 months late – just 2%. (Oddly this was in the report but not in the accompanying dataset.)

      There are signs, however, that it has become a more significant problem since the survey was conducted. See this article in today’s Guardian, as just the latest example of many. Of course, if it has indeed become a problem more recently, it can’t be used to excuse teacher’s mgomo baridi back in 2010.

      And of course, feel free to use the charts.

  2. Renatus Kamatra

    Hi! I read your article first as a teacher when it was sent by friend of mine from UK but today I have read as a common people and wish to respont to in a different way. This article is very much useful to any Tanzanian especially parents because are the ones to take action whom to blame for their students’ failure. My response will not include any suggestion from my career as a teacher but will largely be as a witness from a work done by a HUMANIST and a SOCIALOGIST from UK. So today evening you may have a reply from my blog though I have not well masted it and almost still under construction but will give you a different view on the strike you talked to.

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