Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

23 June 2012

Tanzania: We Are Well Off Because Our East Africa Neighbour Is Worse Off

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AN inter-governmental organization quoted by Tanzanian Vice- President Mohamed Gharib Bilal, says Tanzania's education system is the best in the region.

Vice-President Gharib Bilal, a grand nuclear physicist , was addressing residents of Mtwara when he saw it fit to remind the holl polloi how Tanzania's education was , everything a side better than what other countries in this region have to offer. The good professor was speaking on the authority of the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality.

The SECMEQ is a consortium of 15 countries including Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda, Zanzibar, Tanzania, Swaziland, Mauritius, Lesotho, Namibia , Seychelles & Kenya. I have nothing against Tanzania if its education system is the best in the region.

If anything, I would love to congratulate the educational planners and the Tanzanian government being the best in education However, I have issues with the way politicians in East Africa have always trivialized the supposed gains we have made particularly when such crucial information is passed on to members of the public within a context that is meant for political goal scoring.

Make no mistake, I mean no disrespect to the Honourable Vice- President and Nuclear Physicist because the attempt to classify superiority of education has been made by Kenyan, Ugandan and Rwandan leaders, all at different times while addressing their own hoi polloi. It is a claim which quickly brings a satisfied grin on the face of our audiences who do not know better.

In their excitement they provide applause and go on to pass this message little knowing that the reality may not be as rosy as the claim. While experts in education will reel these statistics of registration of pupils, universal free primary education and the growth in student numbers at our universities, statistics which impress donors and win them funding, the reality on the ground is, proof of the quality of education should be in the outcomes, period.

Any measures and methods of classification of education, which does not judge the overall quality of the graduate at whatever level is mere statistical voyeurism. It is good for political platforms as it wins applause and votes, but in the long term it does cruel injustice to our class 7, forms 2,4,6 and university graduates. What is the point of a university graduate who cannot think independently?

What use is a Form 4 graduate who cannot produce a table if his life depends on it.? Of what benefit is a Form 6 leaver who cannot write a business letter? Why are we quick to celebrate our success vis-a-vis our neighbours while we have been slow to use such instruments as Inter University Council, of Eastern Africa, the National Examinations Council and the syllabus developers to get us syllabi that cut across the region and examinations that are leakage free, among other things?

The political leadership has itself squarely to blame for 50 years of education that was meant for a population that has grown 50 times between and now. The net result is over 3.5m East African youth enter the job market without skills every year and no receptacles prepared by the technocrats with the political backing of the leaders.

The net result is a Boda Boda economy where every young man thinks riding a motorcycle is a job and dying in the process is heroism. It has resulted in chaos, youth who know no order and lack in discipline. But they are out of our politician's hair. East Africans must turn away from the easier route of telling our fellow citizens we are doing well because our neighbours are doing badly.

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