choice versus circumstance in Tanzanian pre-schools

An article on early child development in Tanzania’s newspaper This Day ends with the following analysis

Usually, where there is need, there is opportunity. Realising the big demand for preschool education in Tanzania, many people are capitalising more on this situation to do business rather than provide good early childhood education. Many of the so-called preschools and daycare centres are unfurnished, staffed with unqualified teachers and located in run-down buildings without the necessary sanitation facilities. The prime concern of their private operators is money. Only a few preschools, largely run by religious institutions, offer a high-quality learning curriculum that helps cultivate in children skills for further education. Their standards have led to improved achievements by their former pupils.

But many other preschools being operated in private home grounds and backwoods simply cannot push forward the frontiers of a child’s learning. Yet, these are the places where the majority of low-income families crowd their kids because the cost is low.

The poor normally don’t realise that cheap things eventually cost double.

This strikes me as fundamentally contradictory. The final statement suggests that the poor are to blame, that they put their children in low-quality pre-schools because they fail to realize the poor long-term returns, when in fact the preceding observations suggest that very few options are even available. Would poor families be willing to pay more if higher quality institutions were available? Perhaps! Let’s give them a chance and find out! This echoes what I’ve been reading in Devi Sridhar’s The Battle Against Hunger: Choice, Circumstance, and the World Bank, which explores a nutrition program that focuses entirely on choice and insufficiently on the circumstances around the choice set.

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