12 June 2016

Tanzania: Ask What You Will Do for Education in Tanzania

Photo: Mohamed Mambo/Daily News
President John Magufuli shares a light moment with three Bunge Primary School pupils.

I was recently reading an article on the website of a Nigerian newspaper and was amazed by a recent news item in that country.

Apparently, the minister of information, an Al-hajj said in part and I quote, "..the federal government made cash recoveries totaling N78,325,354,631.82; US $185,119,584.61; 3,508,355.46 pounds sterling and 11,250 euros from 29th May 2015 to 25th May 2016. I can tell you that this is just a tip of the iceberg..." Recovered means the money was lost, right?

Maybe it accidentally fell from government coffers to unknown accounts in foreign or local banks and deposit boxes. And maybe Prezzo Buhari came to power and created a lost and found deposit box so now whenever the current government finds 'lost money' it automatically lands there.

Perhaps the 78.3 billion naira were recovered locally while the $185 million was found in America and the 3.5 million pounds were lying somewhere in the now disunited kingdom that is trying to exit the European Union.

This is big money and if we are to believe the words of his Excellency Lai Mohammed, a lot more public money is still lost and awaiting recovery. It just goes to show that the bigger the national cake, the larger the slices that can magically disappear.

Imagine what Tanzania's Magufuli can do with such money in the education sector. He has gained quite a following in Nigeria. And he can do quite a bit if we in Tanzania manage to recover lost monies in Swiss, British, American or other currency. Currently we are caught up in the government budget season, with all kinds of people weighing in regarding what the government should fund in education.

As if the government of the day is Santa Claus and Christmas came early. We are also in the month of Ramadan. Let us take to our hearts some spiritual lessons of the month such as being frugal, helping the ones in need and fostering the spirit of togetherness and brotherhood. Is this not the spirit that compels fasting folks to invite people of other faiths to share in the iftar? Some wealthier folks also organise and finance evening breakfast for those less endowed.

When I lived in Pakistan, I was invited to quite a few iftar gatherings. I must have added a few pounds of fat during the Ramadan over the years. Alas, my Tanzanian Muslim friends have not been as readily welcoming as my Pakistani hosts of yester years. Back to education.

Prophet Mohammad, PBUH, put a lot of emphasis on the importance of education, urging his daughters to seek knowledge even if that meant going to China for it. I believe any good moumeen would do whatever it takes to ensure his children receive the best education they can.

Perhaps in this holy month, clerics can urge their flock especially in peripheral provinces such as Mtwara, Lindi and Kigoma to ensure their children both male and female, go to school.

No government can drag your children to school even an overzealous provincial commissioner was to personally whip parents of truant kids or the police regularly arrest guardians of children sent to herd cattle and lamb. Is sending kids to school enough?

Absolutely not. There is a lot individuals and communities can do. When I was in junior primary school, the government abolished middle schools and expanded lower primary schools to accommodate more pupils and higher classes.

Did the Wachagga wait for government to build new classrooms? Not really. Even us pupils participated in collecting building materials such as sand and gravel from river Karanga for making bricks.

The wananchi provided the labour and materials like timber and cement. Now that education is free again, a few hundred thousand children who had previously been hidden from view, have shown up at school premises.

Existing structures cannot accommodate. It is time for whole villages to chip in. Those villages being served by a particular school must be mobilised to build more classrooms and toilet facilities.

As citizens we should not be waiting for government to do everything. We are part of governance. We have a wealth of retired civil servants with excellent knowledge, skills and patience to teach, especially in secondary and tertiary schools. When will the minister of education think outside the box of recruiting teachers from training colleges and education faculties?

I know I can teach and I am certain there are a few thousand Tanzanians like me who can lend their skills for the good of present and future generations of Watanzania.

Please create a formal mechanism that will allow district authorities and school leaders to recruit retired persons from near their schools. Recruiting temp teachers from neighbourhoods means the transport and accommodation issues will not be an issue for them.

This is something us citizens can do for education in Tanzania. Another teacher solution is to invite teachers from Kenya, Uganda, Malawi or even Zimbabwe to come and teach in Tanzania at local salaries. We are in the 21st century where goods and services are exchanged easily across borders.

If we keep crash training of more teachers to cover existing teacher shortages, we will end up with many who do not like teaching but are doing it as duty. We can train people to become teachers, but we cannot make them good teachers by more training.

The best teachers enjoy their work, they love teaching. Any of us can remember such teachers in each of our schools. Parents would know if their son or daughter loves teaching and/or has the ability to teach others.

If we love our Tanzania, we should encourage our bright kids to become teachers. Teaching is a noble and well respected profession. At least it used to be, not because teachers were highly paid, but because teachers moulded society by producing engineers, medics, soldiers and all other professionals.

It is time for every Tanzanian to invest in education. Our time, our money, our timber and bricks and our sons and daughters. God bless Tanzania.

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