Education for self-reliance: How Tanzania’s Universities can raise graduates’ employment opportunities

I GOT the inspiration to write this article immediately after reading a presentation in T H E C I T I Z E N newspaper of Saturday, 11th May, 2019, by Epiphania Kimaro; wherein she cogently narrates her own personal experience regarding how “an additional professional qualification” can enhance employment opportunities for University graduates and those of other Higher Learning institutions;” and proceeds from there to give some positive advise to such institutions, urging them “to establish the much needed shift from the conventional, to new and more competitive ways of imparting knowledge.”

She continues thus: “They (the Universities and other institutions of higher learning) should consider creating environments, which will enable students to pursue professional qualifications in parallel with, or in addition to, their nonprofessional degrees, by using methods such as “enriching their curricula with material, which will prepare students to take exams for additional professional qualifications and taking deliberate action to provide awareness, guidance and encouragement to their students to take such additional courses for professional qualifications, when they are pursuing their chosen conventional study courses.”

Kudos to Ms Epiphania Kimaro for her enlightening contribution. She actually started her presentation by drawing attention to the obvious fact, that “unemployment remains a key challenge for many developing countries, including Tanzania, where new graduates continue to flood the increasingly competitive global jobs market yearly.”

And then she asks the pertinent question: “What then, can our higher learning institutions do, in order to increase Tanzania graduates’ marketability in the global economy?

It is in answer to this question, that she preceded giving her advice, which is quoted above. After reading her piece, three points quickly came to my mind, which will form the basis of my presentation in today’s article.

They are the following:- The first is to strongly encourage the present day Higher Learning Institutions and their students, to adopt and implement the sound advice given by Ms Epiphania.

The second is to ‘add value’ to her thoughts, by pointing out that such action, if taken, will hugely contribute to the practical implementation of Mwalimu Nyerere’s philosophy of “Education for Self-Reliance.”

The third is to discourage people whose tendency is to blame the current ‘gradate unemployment’ plight, by making comparisons with “the good old days”, when University students were literally ‘guaranteed’ employment immediately after graduation.

I will start with this last one. No comparison with the distant past An anonymous wise man once expressed the view that “another indicator of the fact that one is ageing (apart from the number of years he has clocked), is what he thinks and talks about.”

He was referring to some ‘ oldies’ who are very fond of ‘ going back’ to their nostalgic reminiscences of the ‘good old days’ and comparing them with the present day unfavourable circumstances. Unfortunately, this includes some of the journalists who regularly consult me on a variety of issues which arise from time to time, who have a similar tendency of asking me the question: “how was it during your leadership days?

In other words, they want to make comparisons between the present and the very distant past. Granted, that may be fine in some cases. But, surely not in the case of graduates’ unemployment.

Thus, my reply has always been that it is actually unreasonable to make such comparisons, simply because of the vastly changed circumstances which have occurred, having been created by the major changes of Government policy on that issue.

The governing University education policy that was in place at the time when the public University of Dar es Salaam was established way back in 197 0, was that the University’s mission was “to provide training solely for the purpose of producing the high level manpower required for filling vacancies in the public service.”

Hence for that reason, student admissions to that University were strictly controlled and deliberately aligned with the achievement of that particular objective.

In fact, there had been established a “High Level Manpower Allocation Committee, whose function was to allocate graduating students to available positions in the public service.

In other words, e v e r y graduating student was ass ure d of employment. Those were the proverbial “good old days” which, obviously, cannot possibly be replicated in the present circumstances, when tens of thousands of students are graduating every year from more than fifty Universities.

The reason for the subsequent change of policy In the course of time, this restrictive policy had to be changed. And it was repealed and replaced by a new policy, under which University education was to be regarded as a ‘ human right’, which every academically qualified student was entitled to receive.

It is this major change of policy which facilitated the creation of additional public Universities, as well as the introduction of many private Universities; plus the corresponding large increase in the number of graduating students; inevitably bringing with it the current nagging problem of graduate unemployment; whose viable solution can only be found in self-employment; that is, if our Universities will provide the necessary enabling skills.

And, indeed, this will be a practical implementation of the philosophy of “Education for Self- Reliance”. The targets were the majority rural school leavers Under the prevailing circumstances of 1967 when the policy of “Education for Self-Reliance” was promulgated, with only one University and a mere handful of higher learning institutions; the principal targets of this policy were actually the children of the rural peasant parents, who constituted the vast majority of the country’s primary and Secondary school leavers and who, realistically, had no hope of access to higher education.

It is in relation to these, that the ESR policy document stated thus:- “Our schools must, in fact, become communities that practice the precept of selfreliance . . . All Schools, but especially primary and Secondary Schools and other forms of higher education, must contribute to their own upkeep.

They must be economic communities, as well as social and educational communities. Each School should have, as an integral part of it, a farm, or workshop, which provides the food eaten by the relevant school community and also makes some contribution to the total national income”. But the University was not excluded.

That is why, in his speech titled “Address by the Chancellor of the University, on the tenth anniversary celebrations (Dar es Salaam, 2 9th August, 1980); Mwalimu Nyerere queried as follows (with regard to the issue of undertaking physical production and service activities, aimed at offsetting expenses and bringing in additional revenue): “can we say that the University is playing a vanguard role in the question of education for selfreliance?”. Of course, the answer was a loud NO.

That is precisely why, in my considered opinion, the suggestions made by Ms Epiphania Kimaro, which are quoted above, would make a huge contribution to the implementation of the policy of ‘Education for Self-Reliance’ at the University level of education.

Obviously not in respect of the envisaged ‘extra-curricular’ productive activities, but in the Universities giving their students ‘an additional professional qualification’ for those who need it; in order to enhance their opportunities for self-employment and as a consequence thereof, their individual selfreliance.

The South African general elections of 8 th May, 20 1 9 There was another issue which is of great political importance, that took place last week and therefore easily qualifies for discussion in this week’s “current affairs” column, since, presumably, it is still ‘current’ in the minds of our readers.

I am referring to the just concluded general election in South Africa, whose final results were announced last Saturday, 11th May, 2019. The dominant point which was underscored in sections of our print media, was that this was “ANC’s worst ever showing” in all of that country’s general elections held so far; just because it received “the smallest mandate since 1994, when Nelson Mandela led it to victory in the first multi-racial polls”. That is of course true.

Hence, it is important for our own ruling party, CCM; to draw some lessons from the ANC’s comparatively unsatisfactory performance. There are two such lessons.

The first is the inescapable need for CCM to understand what has caused this apparent “loss of faith” in ANC by such a large proportion of the voting public of South Africa.

In my humble opinion, the good or bad image of any political party, but more particularly the ruling party, depends almost entirely on the behaviour, or conduct, plus the public actions of its top national leader, i.e. the party President or Chairman.

Now, it is fairly common knowledge that the previous national leader of the ANC, President Jacob Z uma’s public image had ‘plummeted down the mountainside’; with endless accusations of a variety of scandals, including corruption and the misuse of Government funds on purely personal projects.

The second lesson is the apparent poor management by the ANC Government, of the country’s economy and the social services delivery system. Under President Z uma’s leadership, that country was cruelly subjected to a sluggish economic growth, plus record unemployment. These are the factors which obviously tend to alienate people from supporting their ruling party and actually motivate them to punish that party at the time of elections, by voting for the opposition parties.

It is therefore incumbent upon CCM, to endeavour to keep these evils at bay, come rain, come sunshine. Indeed, CCM itself has already had a taste of what may be described as “voters anger” when, during the 2 010 general elections, this party was subjected to a similar punishment! At that time, CCM was being accused of “harbouring and protecting” among its leadership ranks, certain individuals who were deemed to be ‘ M afis adi’, the Kiswahili word used to describe those leaders who engage themselves in corruption, or other scandals, in blatant breach of the leadership code of ethics.

The voters anger was manifestly expresses and directed to where it would register most vividly, that is, in the Presidential poll; wherein President Kikwete’s majority was drastically reduced to 61 percent, down from 80 percent which he had scored in the previous (2 005) Presidential election.

The point was of course taken by CCM and soon thereafter, the party national Chairman Jakaya Kikwete, wisely put in place a mechanism for reviewing the entire party’s affairs, including its structure, in order to determine precisely what had led to this undesirable turn of events.

Appropriate remedial measures were soon recommended and adopted, by the party National Executive Committee (NEC) in 2011, in the form of new party guidelines headlined “Kujivua gamba.”

One wise man, Malcolm X , is on record as having said the following: “there is no better lesson than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.”

The apparent ‘loss of faith” in ANC by the voters of South displayed in the general election of 8 th May, 2019; should not only be a lesson, but also a good reason, for that party to ‘ re-examine its conscience’ and take any necessary steps which will “enable it to do better the next time”.

piomsek wa@ gmail.com / 0754767576.

Author: Pius Msekwa

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