How can government and other education actors improve education service delivery? In Tanzania, local public sector officials known as Ward Education Officers (WEOs) play a central role in monitoring the quality of basic education. WEOs are local government officials who have frequent contact with schools and a broad set of responsibilities which includes tracking school improvement, supporting teachers and collecting school-level information. In recent years, the Government of Tanzania and donor agencies have sought to bolster the role of the Ward Education Officer by providing them with resources, training and a central role in education programming. For example, the Government of Tanzania’s new School Quality Assurance Framework outlines a key role for WEOs in following up with schools on recommendations stemming from Whole School Visits (school inspections). Part of the rationale for shifting resources and responsibilities to WEOs is the belief that these frontline workers have the relationships, information and credibility necessary to effect change at the school level.

In this note, we leverage data from a nationwide survey conducted in 2019 to shed light on what WEOs do, their understanding of their own role and the constraints they face in executing their responsibilities. We interviewed 397 WEOs responsible for primary schools across 23 districts and six regions of Tanzania as part of a baseline survey conducted between February and May 2019. This note contributes to a growing literature on the activities, self-perceptions and motivation of public sector officials in charge of 'last mile' service delivery. For example, Aiyar and Bhattacharya (2016) use time-use diaries, in-depth interviews and quantitative data to understand the views, attitudes and activities of sub-district education sector officials, called block education officers, in India.