7 January 2013

Tanzania: There Is Nothing to Fear but School Fee Itself

EVEN to older adults who stopped going to school many years, the new academic year starting in January is still guaranteed to give them spine chilling fears.

And the school phobia this time has nothing to do with the old trepidation of facing that stick-welding, stern-looking Mathematics teacher every Monday morning, with an uncompleted homework.

Their fears, however, still have something to do with sums, but this time should be the sum total of school fees and other bills bundled in their children's school reports that they had no time to glance at during the merrymaking month of December.

"Your teachers are demented; what on earth do they want all this money for?" is usually an indignant sentence coming from any sobering parent just waking up from last December's stupor.

Apparently, that is usually what is expected to be heard in essentially most Arusha homes in which children and youths are about to report back to school this January. This has also been the case with many other Januaries in the past and likely to be sustained in future.

January, the first month of the year is usually bad news to most parents in Arusha, Moshi and other Northern Zone townships whose residents have been celebrating in December, the last month of the previous year.

For the majority of people here, the happy-go-lucky and care-free partying attitude of the year-ending month of December are fast being swallowed by the shocking reality of the school fees demanding, bill paying and credit settling sessions of January.

The drastic changing fortunes among local northerners during the successive last and first months of the year, has just become a typical case of the snake which tries to swallow its own tail. A number of Arusha residents who spoke to this paper were simply more than happy to give their testimonies on how celebrations can turn into mourning at the turn of New Year Eve.

Mr Frank Mshana, a resident of Olasiti area is on view that it is time Tanzanians, especially Arusha residents, woke up to the bitter reality that times have changed and excessive investments in partying should be channelled into more useful endeavours.

"People here need to be reminded that the country has just entered the free labour market under the East African Community (EAC), which means the competition now should be on education, career achievements and intellectual properties but certainly not on lavish parties, irresponsible orgies and other shallow excuses for celebration," he said.

But it is hard to kill tradition as Ms Lilian Michael of Mbauda (Kibo) observes; "It has always been the trend for people here to use the end-of-year holiday seasons in merry-making, indulgence and competing on who can throw the most glamorous party under the excuse of holy communion, weddings, Christmas and New year."

"Like our neighbours across the border, people should now invest in education and compete in sending their youth to school and further studies abroad," she advices. The pains people face in January is usually the result of 'Bonfires of the vanities,' that normally precede in December.

Mr Nicholas Joseph of Sanawari says the amount of money that irresponsible people burn in the month of December is astounding and all that is just because people want to show off. "Come January and everybody is broke and can't afford school fees.

It is now time somebody advised people here to start thinking beyond eating and drinking and instead invest for the future," he concludes. From Uzunguni posh area, Ms Rhoda Mbowe begs to differ; "There is nothing wrong with 'Ubarikio' (Holy Communion) or baptism festive as long as they are not used as excuses for irresponsible, mindless parties," she says.

Rhoda adds: "I have seen parents selling farms and livestock just to stage celebrations, but do not apply same efforts in funding education for their children!" And as the result, the scorching heat of January burns right into the pockets of majority of residents in Arusha, Moshi and other parts of the Northern Zone, a vicinity which reportedly stages more than its fair share of end of the year parties. The (December) party is just over; this is January and if there is anything to be feared then it must be school fees.

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