19 June 2017

Tanzania: Our Youth Must Prepare to Learn After College

editorial

Giving an address when launching the second China-Tanzania Job Fair at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) on Saturday, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan counselled graduates not to take the jobs they get for granted.

Ms Hassan's is a most apt advice, coming at a time when, despite our comparatively low number of annual graduate output when compared to the situation in other East African countries, jobs are nowadays hard to come by, even for those who finish university.

While getting a job for university graduate was virtually automatic up to the 1980s when the country used to produce less than 3,000 degree holders a year, today our two dozen-plus universities churn out around 10,000 of them!

The big question now is: how relevant is the content of the courses our youth are offered at our learning institutions to the available opportunities job opportunities?

This is an important question, because many youth have the tendency to join university with the belief that with a degree in hand, employers out there--the government especially--will take them up as a matter of course.

That is a very wrong notion, for today, there are job acquisition challenges that were not there at independence to the 1980s.

Besides the graduate glut in certain fields, there is also the question of the government's lack of capacity to absorb fresh employees, even when there are vacancies, because of budget constraints.

For instance, while it is clear to all that we have shortage of doctors in public hospitals, hundreds of qualified doctors are jobless! It is no wonder that, when the Kenya government requested doctors from Tanzania to fill the gap caused by a doctors' strike in the neighbouring country earlier this year, at least 500 of our medics applied.

Degree holders

An important thing which today's degree holders and others must comprehend is that, in the current job market, one's credentials--irrespective of the quality of one's grades--cannot be enough. To paraphrase UDSM Vice Chancellor Rwekaza Mukandala's words, university graduates who secure jobs must be ready to learn from colleagues and supervisors.

Prof Mukandala's is a most precious advice and one can only ignore it at one's peril. Why, he is saying, very aptly, that an employee must be poised learn new skills and adapt to new technologies that can only be acquired at the workplace and not in the college which gave one a First Class Honours degree.

As Mwalimu Julius Nyerere used to keep on reminding Tanzanian elites when he was the Chancellor of the UDSM, one is issued with a degrees certificate, not for proving it to professors that one knows a lot; rather, one is thus conferred for amply demonstrating one's level of understanding the extent of one's ignorance.

Mwalimu Nyerere's advice is even more crucial today than it was during his time, for technology, which rules in virtually all aspects of life today, changes so fast that what one learns at university might be obsolete by the time one gets a job.

It means, Tanzanian must revive the reading culture, for in this world's immediate future, whether in business, self-employment or the salaried job workplace, success will be determined, not by what one learnt, but what one will be capable of learning.

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