The fight against corruption should begin at school

by Kizito Makoye
Tuesday, 13 May 2014 18:16 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Ever since a school in Tanzania introduced an anti-corruption club, no one wants to skip class anymore.

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (Thomson Reuters Foundation)—At Mtendeni primary school in Dar es Salaam, pupils often dodge classes because they find the lessons boring. But ever since the school introduced an anti-corruption club, no one wants to skip out.

“I like the club, I don’t miss it. It is the only place to learn many issues about corruption and how to avoid it,” says Shakila Othman, a seventh grade student.

Every Friday pupils gather at the school’s assembly hall to showcase their skills in singing, drama, storytelling and satirical art, all part of the club’s activities that are aimed at teaching moral decency.

The school, named after a palm tree, introduced the club as part of government policy to implant the ethics of honesty and moral uprightness among children.  

Some of the plays performed by pupils to demonstrate how corruption is deeply embedded in public sector services are quite revealing.

Girls with their shirts stuffed play sick, pregnant women.  They approach a boy playing the role of a doctor who has stolen life-saving drugs from the village hospital and is unable to provide care to the patients. The scene ends with the women falling down one by one as if they are dying for lack of medical attention.

In another scene, a boy acting as a corrupt contractor extorts bribes during the construction of a village school. But he meets angry villagers who decide to remove him from office and shame him publicly.

Fighting corruption is increasingly an uphill struggle in Tanzania.  The government agency the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) has introduced anti-corruption clubs in primary schools as part of an effort to reach young people at an impressionable age and  inculcate the values of open and responsible governance.

“We believe children at a tender age have the potential to fight corruption that is plaguing our society,” PCCB’s spokesperson Doreen Kapwani told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The clubs are formed as student associations with the mission to sensitise pupils and teachers alike, to raise awareness and empower them to tackle the ills of corruption. Pupils are encouraged to refrain from bad behaviour such as coming to school late, dressing indecently, abusing others, fighting, stealing, cheating in examinations or bribing teachers to get higher grades. The clubs implant core values to make young people responsible citizens, Kapwani said.

“When children learn the reality of everyday corruption from an early age they are likely to reject it, even if their parents take it as a reality of everyday life,” she said.

According to PCCB, 3,949 anti-corruption clubs with 266,300 members had been formed in primary and secondary schools in Tanzania by August 2013.

Teachers called these clubs a revolution in the country’s history of fighting graft and are urging community members to participate in order to help them achieve their goals.

“We are building the generation of morally sound people who will lead the struggle against corruption,” said Deogratius Ngonyani, a teacher at Mtendeni.

Tanzania is not alone in using student clubs.  According to Transparency International, anti-corruption associations in schools have been instrumental in addressing graft in 24 countries across the world, including Chile, Italy, Pakistan and Thailand.

In Cambodia, the chapter organised a youth camp in 2013 to raise awareness about the effect of corruption on politics and economic development. A recent TI report said that stepping up the fight against corruption in education is necessary not only to keep kids in school and achieve their educational goals, but also to ensure that the next generation is prepared to say “No” to corruption.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.