Skip to content
Key findings
  • Almost three-fourths (72%) of Tanzanians say it is “never justified” for parents to use physical force to discipline their children. Opposition to physical discipline increased by 31 percentage points between 2017 and 2022.
  • Eight in 10 respondents (81%) say the use of physical force to discipline children is not common in their community.
  • Most Tanzanians say child abuse and neglect (83%) and out-of-school children (74%) are infrequent problems in their community. o Economically disadvantaged citizens are more likely than their better-off counterparts to see child abuse and neglect and out-of-school children as widespread problems.
  • About two-thirds of Tanzanians say resources are available in their community to help abused and neglected children (65%) and children with disability (67%). A slimmer majority (61%) say children and adults with mental or emotional problems can get help. o Poor and less educated citizens are considerably less likely than better-off and more educated respondents to report that support services for vulnerable children are available in their community.
  • Seven in 10 Tanzanians (70%) say the government is doing a good job of protecting and promoting the well-being of vulnerable children. o Fewer than half (48%) of citizens experiencing high lived poverty approve of the government’s performance on child welfare.

Tanzania’s legal and policy arsenal to safeguard children’s rights includes the Law of the Child Act, Child Development Policy, and National Plan of Action to End Violence Against Women and Children, all grounded in the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (United Republic of Tanzania, 2016).

But ensuring the well-being of its children remains a challenge. About half of the population lives below the international poverty line, and Tanzania ranks low on the Human Development Index (160th out of 191 countries), with attendant implications for health, education, and other aspects of well-being (World Bank, 2021; United Nations Development Programme, 2023).

Among major successes, under-5 mortality has dropped by about two-thirds since 2000. Moderate and severe stunting due to malnutrition has also declined but still affects almost one-third of young children. Attendance in lower secondary school is just 28% and one in four children (aged 5-17) are engaged in child labour. Almost one in three girls and one in seven boys experience sexual violence, while more than seven in 10 young people suffer some form of physical violence (UNICEF, 2017, 2022, 2023; United Republic of Tanzania, 2016; U.S. Department of State, 2022).

Corporal punishment of children, which is legal in schools as well as in the home, has been a topic of heated debate, especially in the wake of high-profile reports of a fifth-grader who died after being beaten at school and a viral video clip of an official beating more than a dozen pupils with sticks (Africanews, 2018; Ng’wanakilala, 2019; Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, 2021).

About three in 10 Tanzanian women were married as children, and court-ordered
amendments raising the minimum marriage age for girls from 14 to 18 have so far not been implemented (United Republic of Tanzania, 2016; UNICEF, 2022; Citizen, 2022). In 2021, the government ended a policy that required girls in public schools to undergo pregnancy testing and expelled them if they were pregnant (Center for Reproductive Rights, 2021).

To strengthen the protection of vulnerable children, including more than 800,000 street children, the government has established 30 children’s centers in major cities and is considering updates to the 2009 Law of the Child Act (Tairo, 2022).

This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 questionnaire to explore Africans’ attitudes and perceptions related to child welfare.

Survey findings show that opposition to the use of physical force to discipline children has risen dramatically in Tanzania and is now the majority view. Most citizens say child abuse and neglect and out-of-school children are infrequent problems in their community. A majority of citizens say that the government is doing a good job of promoting child well-being and that resources are available in their community to help vulnerable children, but poor people are significantly less likely to agree on both counts.

Derick Msafiri

Derick Msafiri is an intern for REPOA, the Afrobarometer national <br /> partner in Tanzania.