14 February 2013

Tanzania: Mtwara Gas Saga Dust Finally Settles Down

THE dust seems to settle down in Mtwara now after days of chaos and lawlessness in what was termed as the resident's anger on the plan by the government to connect Dar es Salaam with a natural gas pipeline from the region.

A recent survey by the 'Daily News' found out that majority of the people there have decided to call it a "by gone" and are keen in focus- ing on the future though with lots of flashbacks in mind. Youths in particular have so many hopes but they are also engulfed with cynicism. "Mtwara is peaceful, you do not have to worry about a thing but people here are not speaking the same language, there are a lot of confusions in the people's minds over the gas exploration and how it will go about in benefiting the natives," said Mohammed Mwinyimkuu a petty trader in Mtwara Municipality.

Mwinyimkuu a fish mon- ger at a market near Mtwara bus terminal is himself cyni- cal not about the opportunities that the gas exploration activities may bring, but about his ability and the abil- ity of many other youths in the region to survive within the gas economy. His fears are shared by many others and it is mainly coming from one strong point that many youths there did not get advanced education or in other words they are il- literate.

"I am not sure that I will be able to secure employment in one of the gas exploration companies here, I dropped out of primary school when I was in Standard Four and I do not see myself in any formal employment," said Rashid Kazi a motorcyclist in the municipality. Kazi is not alone, there are so many other youths in the area that never went to school to at least complete the lowest level of Standard Seven and some elites say that those are the people who made the majority, the ones who took on the streets demanding that natural gas should not be taken out of Mtwara.

"The problem is big be- cause we are having too many youths who dropped out of school and thus they are going through hardships to make ends meet. These are the people who cannot easily internalize technical aspects of the gas economy and here is where the problem comes," said Lazaro Msigwa a teacher. Having lived and worked in Mtwara for more than ten years now, Mr Msigwa says, "I find the natives of the region to be complacent with the education and development they have.

Most of them, particularly youths, do not make efforts to advance themselves academically de- spite the availability of such opportunities. There are pro- grammes for ordinary and ad- vanced secondary education, certificate and diplomas that are available which people could seize to advance them- selves academically," People should not sit back and blame the government because they are to a larger extent the cre- ators of their of their own predicaments, he added.

He pointed out that edu- cation was not one of the priorities of people in the region and that parents were not keen in following up their children development in edu- cation. "Whereas it is believed all over the world that educa- tion is key to success in life, here in Mtwara things are different. We face serious challenges when it comes to teaching because the number of school dropouts is high and even for some of those in school they are not serious with studies," he said.

Mr Msigwa was of the opinion that Mtwara resi- dents should not think that they deserve to benefit from the gas economy simply be- cause they are natives but it should rather be "survival for the fittest" in the sense that merits should determine who benefits the most from the country natural resource. Announcing the 2012 Form Two National Examination results, last month, the Education and Vocational Training Deputy Minister Philipo Mulugo named Mt- wara and Lindi regions as the poorest in performance.

He went further and men- tioned the 10 schools that per- formed poorly in the regions as Kinjumbi, Miguruwe and Njinjo from Kilwa District; Mbembaleo and Marambo in Nachingwea also in Lindi Region. He named others as Mihambwe, Jinduma, Kiroma, Luagala all in Tandahimba District as well as Napacho and Litipu in Newala District of Mtwara Region.

This situation forced the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Office in charge of Regional Administration and Local Governments, Mr Kassimu Majaliwa, to em- bark on a five-day tour of the two regions to meet various education stakeholders in a bid to find answers to ques- tions raised over poor perfor- mance. He met teachers, education officers, academic supervisors and parents. His main mission was to find out why failure has continued despite efforts to improve teaching and learning environments in the two regions.

The tour was successful as many of the stakeholders were open to the deputy minister, who is also an MP for Ruangwa in Lindi Region. They listed a number of chal- lenges, and asked the admin- istrators in the two regions to address their concerns if they wanted education standards to improve. The Mtwara Regional Commissioner, Col Joseph Simbakalia also admits that the cultural, social and eco- nomical setup of the region is a challenge that residents ought to work on as a prereq- uisite in benefitting from the gas economy.

"Talking of the gas econ- omy that is under construc- tion in this region, I see so many opportunities in almost all the sectors and people can benefit in various ways," he said. Col Simbakalia noted that it was wrong to always focus on formal employment, cau- tioning that gas exploration companies do not dwell on permanent employments. "It should be noted that offshore activities of gas exploration requires specialized skills which are rare in the country and all other services are rendered through contracts with various companies therefore the major focus should be on how people can benefit from what they are doing where they work now," he said.

The RC added that for the people who have invested in public transport they should, for example, think of im- proving service to cater for increased demand as many people will be going to Mt- wara, live and work from there. "Our farmers, pastoralists and poultry keepers should start thinking on how they will go about supplying rel- evant products to the region and benefiting from the opportunities about to come as the massive natural gas exploration takes shape," he said.

Col Simbakalia noted that Mtwara town was facing a challenge of accommodation as there were no enough modern houses to cater for increased demand as many people were now forced to fly to Mtwara and back to Dar es Salaam every day. "Many activities of gas exploration will make Mt- wara industrial and this means that there will be many people coming in and there will be increased demand of various services hence op- portunity for many Mtwara residents to benefit," he said.

Col Simbakalia, however, does not believe that residents of Mtwara were lazy but say they are forced to produce for consumption due to limited market opportunities. "I do not believe when people say that Mtwara resi- dents are lazy, I think they are forced to produce what they consume due to limited demand but when the de- mand increases I hope they will put in many efforts to benefit," he said.

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