It needs a lot of dedication, love, patriotism and commitment for your country and people that you serve to do so.
This week meet one of the legends in the history of youths of this country who is worth emulating.
It is none other than the District Administrative Secretary for Mufindi district, Ms Maria Francis Itala whose story is fascinating and exemplary for the young generation. She was born in Sumbawanga district at Mwazye village.
Her parents, Mr Francis Xaviery Itala and Mrs Domitila Sangu were both civil servants. The father is a retired politician and district commissioner and the mother was an ex-primary teacher. Maria finished her primary school at Funguni Primary in Pangani, Tanga region in 1984.
She pursued her secondary education at Korogwe Girls Secondary School in 1988 and joined advanced level education at Msalato Girls Secondary School in Dodoma in 1991. She is happy to be one of the beneficiaries of the National Service programme, which she attended at Itende JKT camp in 1992 under operation ‘Miaka 30 ya Uhuru’ (thirty years of independence).
She also studied her Advanced Diploma in Public Administration, first degree at the then Institute of Development Management (now Mzumbe University) in 1997 and in 2004 completed her master’s degree in public administration majoring in human resources management from Mzumbe University based in Morogoro region. She has nine siblings. She adds that:
“Two of my brothers have passed away leaving behind children that I look after.” Though she was born the seventh in the family she is now taking the lead. As a youth she always wanted to become a doctor, but her late brother changed her dreams.
“My ambition was to become a doctor when I grow up, but my brother who was pursuing a degree then influenced my decision, when I saw him speaking three different foreign languages,” she said.
She told this reporter that her brother had been doing linguistics offering French, English and Latin at university level. She says that she was so much impressed by her brother that she fell in love with the languages. “So I started taking history, geography and literature at A Level,” Maria said.
However, she never became a linguist, shattering all her dreams. She has two kids. She is a single parent taking care of her children. Their names are Moureen and Hillary. She said that she is able to reconcile her daily duties in the office and family responsibilities.
She explains that because of her role as a mother, she has been able to take leadership position in her job whenever she handles community issues. “It is not different from what I do in my family in terms of counselling, decision making and taking the lead in helping others,” she said.
She added that she always handles various issues brought by women, youth and men. She narrates that she was able to save a woman who almost lost her house. She took measures to ensure that the loan, which was collected by the woman’s husband, was settled.
“I did advise the woman to approach the credit company who were about to dispose the property after the husband had squandered the money and defaulted payment and she was able to negotiate a deal,” she said.
She attributes part of her success to time management, which she learned at national service. She said that in all the five districts that she worked the challenge was to ensure that the assistance needed by the people reaches them on time.
For example, if there is a fire outbreak, epidemics, breach of peace or national delegation and any other problems as a DAS you have to be focused, diligent and above all exercise good time management. But Maria’s career begins with a humble life in remote areas in some parts of the country.
She attributes her success in her profession to be as a result of her cooperation with people in areas she has been deployed by the government. She started her first appointment on July 1999 in Shinyanga region, which was a new place far away from her parents.
The secret behind my success today is patience, cooperation and remaining loyal and accountable to both the people that I serve and the government,” she said. She also said it was obvious that at the college you learn about diversity, but upon joining your post after graduation from college you face the reality about the life of an ordinary Tanzanian.
Therefore, she argues that it becomes imperative for you to learn and improvise how to face challenges emanating from the people and finding solutions to their problems. “It is also tough to live in rural settings where facilities and social services are still minimum,” she said.
Her career began in Shinyanga district, where she was appointed as Administrative Officer III. “Later in 2000, I was posted at Maswa as Acting DAS where I spent one year,” she said. In January 2001, she was transferred to Meatu in Shinyanga to serve as administrative officer.
She said she remained in Meatu until 2006. “Ask anyone who has lived there in those years and you will be surprised how I could survive.” “I was lucky to be there because there was an opportunity for me to pursue my master’s degree, though life was really tough at Meatu,” she said.
What had driven her to go back to school were the challenges that she faced in her job. “I was always facing new situations both simple and complex that required me to pay attention to them and give solutions to both employees’ and wananchi’s problems,” she explained.
It was her ambition to reach the epic of her profession in the field of administration where she can offer scientific solutions to people’s problems. Some of the problems that she continues to encounter in her profession as a DAS include some critical community issues.
She talks passionately of solving problems of street children, which is becoming rampant in the district. She said that part of the problem is the community which cares least about such orphans and destitutes.
She said that: “The government is always engaging the communities through education, sensitizing them on the importance of helping such kids. “Our efforts have yielded some dividends in some areas where NGOs and individuals have taken initiative to help such kids, but it is still not enough,” she said.
Another crucial area is on gender violence that the DAS is dealing with very often. “Many communities in the country have a mindset that women abuse is justified,” she said. Maria said that unfortunately as a result of women’s ignorance they fail to demand their basic rights.
But she is confident that education is the key to ending this violence and humiliation for women. She told the ‘Daily News on Saturday’ that the DC’s office in Mufindi district has continued to convene public meetings to educate women on their rights.
“We always go to the wards, villages to tell women that everyone has equal rights like men,” she said. She added that her team also encourages women to join groups that conduct development activities to gain economic prosperity. But even the most serious matter on men’s empowerment is what the DAS tackle everyday.
Most men are reluctant to face the district commissioner’s team to explain their problems when visiting them to offer free counselling and advice. Many rural men are ignorant of their economic and social status restraints and are not ready to share their shortcomings, which leaves them in the poverty cycle.
It is expected that the ward secondary schools will bring a revolution to the young generation. “These schools have started reducing ignorance to these youths. The students attending to these schools are also a catalyst to their parents in terms of sharing knowledge that they acquire from these schools,” she said.
She, however, said that the challenge facing the communities is once the students complete form IV, most of them end up jobless. She appeals to the government to establish technical colleges or centres where those who cannot pursue A level studies can join and learn some trades.
She also recommends that more Folk Development Colleges should be built in the districts so that students who complete O level can study technical courses, agriculture, livestock keeping, beekeeping, fisheries and health education.
In Shinyanga and other areas there are land dispute issues raging between farmers and livestock keepers, she said. But in Mufindi the land issues are centred on land disposal through selling it to investors. “We continue to advise the residents not to be tempted to sell their land but they should enter into partnership with investors,” said Maria.
Because most people are living below the poverty line and are ignorant of the consequences of selling their land, they fall into trap when lured by unscrupulous people to do so. It is sad, says the DAS, that these people out of ignorance sell their land at a throw away price which later brings serious consequences to their families, as they cannot find a space to grow their crops.
But the district authorities including the office of DC, have embarked on extending education to the people to realize the danger of selling their land, she said. According to her most people who own farms in areas surrounding SAO Hill industries (Green Resources) in Mufindi district had been highly affected by sale of their land.
“After the DC’s office conducted education campaigns recently to these families, it has helped them to stop selling their land to investors and other business people as well as individuals haphazardly,” she said. However, she concludes her interview with an advice to those who want to join any administrative position that they should strive to be just and fair.
She sums up by concluding that a leader should always be committed and dedicated in his or her duties and should also have deep passion for his or her people. “Above all a leader should value humanity and remain patriotic for the country.”