How Much Does School Cost?

In Tanzania, secondary school is not free. There are government (public) schools that are relatively cheap but with the expense of uniforms, shoes, and school supplies plus various school fees it ends up costing about $300/year.  With an average household income of $530 per year, this is more than most families can afford.

Government secondary schools are often overcrowded and staffed with underpaid teachers with poor English skills (secondary school is supposed to be taught exclusively in English) who often just don’t show up for class.  In order to continue to the last 2 years of high school (called A Levels – it’s based on a British system), students must pass a national exam. The pass rate for this exam is abysmal with about 80% of the country failing and unable to finish high school. The small number of students that did pass were almost exclusively from private schools due to their better standards of teaching and overall education. So in Tanzania, private school isn’t about status. It’s about actually having a teacher in your classroom and being able to complete high school.

Since our girls come from families that couldn’t afford to purchase their primary school uniforms, notebooks or even pens (which their primary schools ended up giving them), they need to be provided all of the basic items needed to attend school. Our overall expenses in 2013 are divided here to reflect the cost per student.  Some expenses such as application and registration fees are one time fees that will not need to be paid again.

Here is a dollar-for-dollar breakdown of our spending in our first year of operation in 2013 which paid for school fees and supplies as well as basic medical care for Rabia, Rahma, Scolastica and Nureen for the 1st Term (January-June 2014).  Expenses have remained generally the same for each year thereafter aside from significant medical issues for the girls that we also cover:

School application fees – $30
Transportation to/from entrance exams and start/end of term – $18
School registration fees – $110
1st term (January – June 2014) school fees per girl – $880
School supplies (ream of white paper, mathematical set, pens, glue stick, pencils, graph pad, tracing paper, notebooks, Swahili-English dictionary, ruler, textbooks) – $38

Scolastica Girls shopping for school supplies.
Each student is required by the school to have the following items:

2 pairs black school shoes – $18 ($9 each)
1 pair sneakers – $14
1 pair flip flops for shower – $1
shoe polish and brush – $4
trunk/footlocker – $20
2 padlocks – $2
1 flashlight – $2
bedsheets – $9

In order for a student to survive at school without being ostracized there are basic toiletries and items that our girls wouldn’t use at home because parents cannot afford, but are necessities for living in close quarters with students from wealthier backgrounds (such as deodorant, pajamas, sanitary pads, bath towel, and toilet paper).  Some of these items such as suitcase, pajamas, and bath towel should last the girls throughout school so shouldn’t need to be purchased ever again.

In December 2013, each girl received a bag with the following items for the first term (Jan-June 2014):

2 pairs pajamas – $12 ($6 each)
bars of clothes washing soap – $6
1 bag to transport items – $3
6 packs sanitary pads – $8
2 bags clothes washing powder – $6
watch and battery – $3
2 toothpaste – $2
1 lotion – $2
1 deodorant – $3
3 bars soap – $3
1 bath towel – $5
6 rolls toilet paper – $3
suitcase – $20
lunch and transportation on shopping day – $6


Every dollar spent has gone directly to schools for tuition, or purchasing uniforms, school supplies, and some basic medical care. There are no employees or administrative costs – only girls who need school fees and supplies to continue their education.  For more info, please see the “How you know your funds are being used appropriately” page. Thank you!