Sunday, December 7, 2008

Losing the future...

Whenever I speak to or meet my friend Rakesh Rajani the discussion necessarily leads to the state of education in Tanzania (I hope this post will get him out of the woods -:)).

There are strong arguments that our “education system” needs a major revamp – starting with changing the content of curricular, a rethink of the philosophy behind the current incentive systems (for teachers and for the learners), reconstitution of the education bureaucracy, emphasis on the accountability over output, refocus on the value for money for education funding, and many other matters.

At the end of the day, education matters only in what it achieves (in consideration of the time and cost associated with acquiring that “education”). In Bongo, if you finish Form Six (High School), you will have spent 13 years in school. But then, you will not have acquired any “life skill”. These 13 years are only “preparatory” – for another level of education. I think this would have been fine if opportunities for higher level of education were plentiful. So, you get a lot of young people who have spent 11 or 13 years in school but the condition of their lot has not improved or opportunities for a better livelihood have not been greatly enhanced as a result of that education.

I think that back in the days, when we were building a different kind of a society, it was probably alright to have “some education for many” as opposed to “more education for some” – because we had to make a tough decision on the basis of lack of resources. The philosophy was probably that reading and writing was enough of an empowerment to the masses.

Of course, there were vocational training initiatives, and we had these other colleges called Folk Development Colleges, to impart vocational skills but I think the volume of these institutes, and timidity in boldness, frustrated their impact.

I believe there is tremendous thirst among Tanzanians to have their kids get a better education. But I think the way we measure success in learning has to be reassessed, particularly in this new brave world. The focus on an all-important “final” exam I think creates a dangerous obsession with passing by all means –encouraging cheating and exam buying.

I also think that there is a creeping dangerous culture of “credentials” that ought to be substituted with the predominance of the culture of learning. Everyone wants to be seen as “learned” (with drive-by PhDs) without worrying whether or not they have gone through the rigours of learning. Once our kids learn from us of this obsession, the future of the nation is in peril.

Then, there is a whole different question of funding for education. Back in Nyerere times, we made a choice about the focus of our education. Now, where a major part of our education budget is funded by the “development partners”, foreign nationals get to make a decision about the content of our curricular and the whole posture of our education system. You all remember the fiasco of few years ago on the curriculum.

Let me not make this post too long…but I wanted to share some of my thoughts on this matter. I think the future of “Taifa Letu” depends on what and how our kids learn. There is nothing more important.


Anonymous said...

Rakesh Rajani

Anonymous said...

I agree with so much of what you have to say. I do not have a college education, yet I have operated for 33 years a very successful business servicing the needs of well-educated and sophisticated professionals. Many of them represent their education and their professions well; but too many of them have proven themselves untrustworthy. Money and privilege, for them, is the goal. I teach children life skills that I call Outfluence. Outfluence is awareness of your silent communication and its impact on others, and also awareness of how the silent communication of others impacts you. I teach children to think about the needs of others before thinking about their needs. The results are better, more enlightened, human beings who have learned to respect their fellow human beings. I wish you well in your struggle to teach your children what is really important in life, and what will lead them to happiness and fulfillment.

Anonymous said...

I wish marehemu JK could listen to his own words! A very fine words indeed!


Our policy should revolve around this cry, our governance should listen to that cry, it is natural cry, it is a cry which cannot be ignored, it is the cry that can set us free!

I am not pretending to be an expert on this issue, but it is COMMON SENSE, our education bureacracy does not work, it is ineffective, outdated and it is long overdue.

We need to spend huge bulks to solve our education system, and one of the easiest way, we should look not far, but at our neighbours education system, particularly in Kenya. We can deny them land but, we cannot deny them their intellects, LOL!

We need to replicate their education system onto our system, emphasizing on early child education and literacy.

and I believe we can do that, by spending money, there is no escape on this, we need to reeducate our primary teachers, build the best institutes on our own country, and welcome those teachers from Kenya and teaching our own. Currently being a teacher, then you are deemed to be in poverty line, we need to change that culture, as fast as we can think of, and this intself would encourage the best to join the professions. As I said start with primary schools, and work our way up. It is a process which will face revolts and challenges but thats the only way out for us, I guess!.

I have been in Tanga, and I have experienced myself and see that, there is a school in Raskazone area, International school, I remember 5years back, not now, the majority of teachers, teaching there are comming from Mombasa, and I was told on record, it was the best school, for the children, than any other school in that region. Not a single students failed standard seven, thats an achievement on its right. I am sure there are similar stories else where around the country.

Why government dont show case this example and follow the lead, the work has been cut out for them, or pilot system, if that would work on our own public schools. or use this as a replication for others and not just for priviledges.

As I said, funding is key to this, and hey why not !!! It is our FUTURE isn't it. If COLONIALISTS have been successfull in building our current primary and secondary schools with RESOURCES, for their own porching BENEFITS, why should we fail, in doing the same?? Whose BENEFIT IS THAT?

By Mchangiaji

Anonymous said...


Adding to that, Nyerere dreamnt of us having education system, that only saves his political views and concepts at that time,

If you look at his quote carefully and you will see that, it is a fine and catching words, depending on your inteprations, but if you start listening to them, you will see that he is talking a lot of liberations, that it means to him on my perspective and view, is that EDUCATION SHOULD ONLY SAVE THE POLITICAL PURPOSE OF THAT TIME, ANYTHING OTHERWISE SHOULD BE CONSIDERED AGAINST THE STATUS QUO.

I do remember studying SIASA subject, oh man!, I kind remember all CCM political hierarchy and structure, Matawi ya shina ya Kata, na Halmashauri kuu, and so and so forth, and you remember this, engraving words, before a teacher comming to a class, we would stand up and go SIASA YA UBAGUZI WA RANGI NI UNYAMA, SHIKAMOOOO MWAAALIMU! oh well that my revisiting story.

JK make sure that, he ultimatelly politized the education system, e.g. study only in swahili on all subjects, no more English, thats one of the policy in education, and inconsequence the luck of literacy, because the nation was young, and there were no plentiful books to read in swahili at that time, the INTENTION was good but DAMAGING, and this is because of his heavy handed approach, on things, and thats lead us to these generations of leaders we have today, and we have a big vacuum of educated citizens.

Thats why it leads to people, who hanging for the degree, phd and so on, are typically become so much occupied with their education and self possesed in such aways they forget all together, what it means to them and us, rather it becomes self indulgence or useless, this is because in some part of JK Nyerere policy towards education, I would call it TIGHT LIP - PROTECTIONISM. People are now breaking out of that loop, see how important it is and forget the realm and purpose of that education, and spend much time concentrate on self indulgance, and thats THE DANGER. and the only way to break that cyle particulary on policy making decision, is to gather them together, plenty of them as a sort of THINK TANK, presents them with problems to come out with solutions, then they will sort realize their potential and concentrate whats important. In other words GIVE THEM a job to do and sort bench mark them periodically!- and the later is a job of a leader, who is willing to give them a chance and purpose, currently NO! old guard are sort fearfull of that, for their own self interest

However, I believe we are in transition periods, a lot of well educated people are emerging mostly from private institutes or self taught abroad, and filling that gap! Once the fine minds are allowed onto our government sectors, institutes and policy making machines, you will see a lot of changes in this country. We are in a cross roads as a nation, we are only starting to negotiate with the OLD guard, if you know what I am saying, once he gives us the key, you will see a shine new day, I believe!.

By Mchangiaji

Anonymous said...

Education has never been a passport to a better life, it serves and should purposely enable to view ideas in different light. when we come to our education system, where do you real start to bring those necessary changes? sometimes i wonder!!! where did we go wrong? is it the money? is it the will? is it the failure to recognize and accept change? back to mwalimu(JK) for a second. mwalimu had so many ideas( i love him for that)but a lot of crambling in education system Tanzania started when mwalimu was still in power. did he lack the know how? or did he had a poor supporting cast?( i belive he couldnt do it all by himself) or is there more to it than just leadership? we all know or sense that there is something terribly wrong that is eating, erroding,and destroy our nation when comes to matters concering our development. what is it? it can't be just leadership and corruption? but what is it? MY IDEA: the vampire who hold us back anajua kuwa tukifail darasani( kufail i mean tukishindwa kuelimika ingawa tunaenda darasani)tutafaili everywhere else:kwangu mimi changes start with my family. lets dig the chanzo cha kufail in our education system. instead of just say let chance the curriculum we should ask ourselves where in the curriculum we have failed? i real dont have the answer for this issue of education im just full of questions. LETS BUILD THE NATION THE OLD FASHION WAY BLOCK BY BLOCK.

Faustine said...

I too agree with most of what was said in this article.
Our current education system is too theoretical and outdated that it does not prepare one to have creative thinking and the necessary skills to compete in the existing job market.
The curriculum content and the focus of our education system are also not relevant to this time and age.
Apart the curriculum content, we do have enough classes, desks, teachers, books and school labs.
All these call for an overhaul of the entire education system.
A nation with weak education and health system, is as good as a doomed one.We need to back to the basics and try to figure out what we need from our education system.


Thuwein said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Most of us here agree that our education system is outdated and it doesn’t fit in with Globalisation era of the 21century
The whole structure needs overhaul. Spending 13 years just to get basic education is a waste of time, which resulted to most teenagers leaving school lacking life skill and direction to face the challenge of future life. We should look to India for Ideas and not Kenya, India (upon her Independence in 1947) Literacy rate was only 12% but now it is 73% and has the 2nd largest academic system in the world, Indians top both tough HSMP (high skill Immigration Programme) visa system in UK and (H1-B) in US .
If you look in context there are numerous problem within our educational system which needs complete overhaul. I will try to name few:
1. System - We should adapt a new model which will offer students more purpose and opportunities to fulfil their potential, target should not be academic achievement only but vocational/trade achievement as well, Compulsory education should be only 10 years of primary/secondary schooling with emphasize to Maths, science, reading and writing skills (medium of instruction has to be English) upon completion of this basic stage of education, those successful academically should spend another 3 years at advance level and eventually tertiary education with emphasize in Science and Technology while the remaining group should spend 3 or 4 years of vocational/ trade education where emphasis should be on life skills and then introduced directly into workforce upon graduating.
2. Resources- we lack almost everything! not enough teachers, big classroom, poor teaching methods, poor facilities, text books all these need immediate improvement.
3. Government policy toward education - Our government priority towards Education is shocking! We have large cabinet (about 20+ the size of UK cabinet which include 3 secretaries of state for Wales, N. Ireland and Scotland) with so many unnecessary ministry and deputy ministers yet we spend only 18% of our budget in education, why we don't cut all these unnecessary ministerial position and department and invest that money into education? Down-scale government size and spend those money towards tuition fees, teachers welfare and health care? We must offer decent salaries and improve teachers living conditions. Only by creating this good teaching environment we will be able to attracts best teachers to compete with the like of Botswana.
For example, why we have 2 very similar ministry?
1. Education and Vocational Training,
2. Labour, Employment and Youth Development. Now what’s wrong with just plain
1. Education ,Work and Youth Development?

Anonymous said...


Thats even better and excellent approach in looking at India, for our educational template, but I suspect, if our country, our government for that matter, have the guts, courage, and motivation of considering that approach.

The only reason I am saying my neighbouring country, is because our education system is so bad, that we only need to look at our neighbouring countries for a start, India, China, Europe and US, that would come in consideration in later stages, of that progression. May be I am wrong, but Tanzania at it is now, we are not having that progressive approach, competitiveness, ambitious and dare devils approach as currently speaking, but I believe once we start engaging in more discussions on these issue on national level, we will be able to see whats the holes we are having on our Educational garment, and those must be fixed, It really make me sad! and I am sure, we will start making notice of the problem, and see how GRANDE it is!

It is one of the TOP priority facing this NATION in its history no doubt, and thats include Health care system, as mentioned by other contributors.

I leave you with great insight and debate on India VS America Educational System. Internet is such a blessing, who knows will have wireless broadband coverage in whole Tanzania, just like RWANDA by 2015 lol, and God knows where is that gonna lead us to!

I love this country!!

By Mchangiaji

Anonymous said...

Education systems of any country saves the purpose at a particular time, it needs not to be static – Nyerere’s ideas for our education was good enough then, but as years went on it needed to be updated every few decades, we weren’t able to do that.. We are still using 19th century education system in the 21st century as a result.

The measure of good education system is not how many kids pass a particular exam by whatever percentage or how fluent they are on one or a bunch of foreign languages. I think a good education system is one that enables its learners apply the knowledge they gained during their studies on their daily life for the rest of their lives.

We need to have the education system that makes every one responsible to make it succeed, I will call this education system full participatory education system, meaning the job of educating our youngsters should not be left on the hands of teachers (educators) lone. There must be a partnership amongst teachers, parents, students and all stakeholders at all levels of education for our system isn’t good enough from early child hood education to college level.

Our education system should be set up in such a way that;

1) It stimulates curiosity and critical thinking from really early on the education journey.

2) Teach them kids the importance of hard work individually and as a team

3) Teach them sincere respect of authority – How about respecting your job or the people who puts you in power early on?

4) and respect of law of the land - Rushwa, ufisadi will be taken care of in the process.
5) Patriotism should also be embedded in our education system – talk about kunywa maji ya bendera not ya CCM, I’m talking about ya bendera ya Taifa

Generali Ulimwengu wrote an article about this very issue, Please pay him a visit at

Anonymous said...

The problem with our education system in TZ is that it is not application oriented. And believe it or not---the problem is on the supply side of things. When one learns from a teacher who did not learn well himself/herself in the first place, the results are the problems that have been brought to the table of this blog. So we need to reform our education system in Tanzania in a manner that will address the demand (applied education) and supply (teaching skills) problems simultaneously.

The problem with public policy in developing countries is that we rely on international development institutions too much. These institutions tend to have the "one jacket fits all" sort of policy recommendation package. Why not work with these institutions (foreign aid recipient sectors such as education) to design policies that fit the local context?

Regarding the question just asked, I bet January would say ukiwa umekaa unaangalia mpira ni rahisi kusema "pale jamaa angempiga chenga, halafu ampasie mwenzake wafunge goli!" Anyway, najua wote humu ni wakereketwa wa taifa letu na hii yote ni constructive exchange.

Happy Eid Mubarak Everyone!


Rash said...

Finally someone touched the important issue in our society. Tanzania education system is crippled from top to bottom. I mean from kindergarten to university. I think at the begging the focus was to impower Tanzanian to focus on self-reliance, however the gear change after collapse of Azimio la Arusha, and we never found our destination since then.

I can speak from my experience, i graduated A-level with good performance; however, when i joined college things were not the same. The system prepared you to be hired, while hakuna kazi.

Baada ya 2005 tumeona booming ya vyuo from each side of the country. Some of this institutes doesn't have even one PhD holder instructor. We can not see the side effects of this turmoil now, however in the future we're going to face the challenge of high number of graduates with less qualifications.

The challenges of this globalization are too high, however in Tanzania we're still stucked in the madivo age system. UDSM inafungwa i think once every year sababu ya migomo isiyo na kichwa wala miguu (Poor Management system from University management team to students).

Our standardize test doesn't help anything, instead it incubates young fellows with HIGH CRAMMING CAPACITY.

Now we're in Malaysia booming era. Wazee wetu believes that as long as the university is not in Tanzania, then it is the best.

We will not fix any problem without revamping our eduation system from bottom to the top. I believe the 1960's strategy ambayo tumerithi kwa mkoloni haifanyi kazi. Hizi challenges zote nilikuwa nategemea hiyo diaspora ya wasomi hapo Tanzania ingelichukua hili swala na kufanya research kisha wangekuja na solution na recommendations.

I think kwa Tanzania we don't have time ya kupiga propaganda, it's a time to put the talk into action.

Eid Mubarack

alex said...

a lot has been said,but let me be very clear on what we need as a nation:

1.political will to bolster our education system.

2.committed stewards to see that political will is implemented and so;

a.improve teacher's teaching and living conditions.

b.upgrade teacher's pay and allowances.

c.give high priority to science and maths subjects in schools.

d.integrate ICT in education system.

e.aligning educational output to needs of various industries in our economy.


Anonymous said...

I beg to differ with Mchangiaji, there is nothing special about Kenyan education, that is very old way of thinking that Kenyan education is superior than our education, make a research and see if there anything beneficial that they have in their system that we don't have, English language have been used as a tool for many years to make people think that our neigbhours education is superior because of the confidence the graduates of any level( Nursery, primary of university ) will have compared to our graduate of the same level. therefore in summary I wouldn't agree to replicate what Kenyan have in their education because there is nothing special or new. I would also agree the point of taking techers from kenya, in short they are like us, nothing special. my approach in this is to include a trainings in our education system that eventually will lead Tanzania to formal jobs, this can be one way to deal with our education system,we have a lot of informal jobs that needs to be checked on, plenty of informal business, plenty of informal workers, plenty of informal resources. In short what I am talking about is if we could try a little bit harder to strenghern our informal sector perhaps could help, look at mining industry, look at transportation industry, look at social welfare and supportive staff industry and you name it

Anonymous said...

"Kenya is among 5 other Africa Nations that could rival "Asian Tigers" by 2015 " - J Cohen, Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

Anonymous said...

"Kenya is among 5 other Africa Nations that could rival "Asian Tigers" by 2015 " - J Cohen, Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

I agree with the the statement only if Western countries agree to do so. This is international politics, you know whether we like or not, western countries still have an upper hand on influencing our economy, if they decide they can also replace Zimbabwe to Kenya to be the so called 5 countries to be like Asian tigers by 2015. ( because we all know the situation in Zimbabwe economy is because the western doesn't want Mugabe politics, so if the Western countries like your politics and your country have resources obvious you will be on top of us, so I will not surprise if Kenya will be like Asian Tigers in 2015 only if the Western accept that, but keep aside internation politics which sometimes are not for the benefit of all citizens but few individuals , and let the fair game play, based on the resources Tanzania have in 2015 Tanzania will be far ahead of Most african countries when it comes to economy this is also depending on how our leaders will lead the country) Of course it is not only western influence that determine countries's economy there is also a part of countries effort but there is Western influence in all economic matters. Tanzania for so many years is said to be the last but one yaani before Mozambique only, even Somalia was placed before us when it comes ot poorest countries in the world but do you believe on it? or it is just another politik

Anonymous said...

Thank Mchangiaji for your wonderful insight,
Talk about broadband connection, I wish your dream will become true sooner rather than later, Broadband is such a vital weapon in educating masses, this is the reason we see Asian countries advance at alarming rate, just few days ago President-elect Obama stressed out the importance of every American kid to have broadband access, the Americans realize their kids are being pushed aside academically by their Asians counterparts, I hope our leader will recognise the importance of having wide broadband coverage, after all If the like of Rwanda can do it, why shouldn't we? It is a matter of getting your priorities right.
Kaka Trio your are good visionary and you touched very critical issue of Patriotism, I think we should incorporate patriotism subject in our curriculum, yes we are patriotic nation but most of us don't fully understand how to live and contribute as true Patriot? That is one reason why we end-up with a corrupted system. It take some of us the opportunity to work and live in western world to come to terms to what patriotism exactly means? If we prepare our kids from very early on to be responsible and patriot citizen we may have a chance to produce a workforce of hardworking/ anti-corrupt men and women this country would be proud of.
Equally important is instilling the belief in our children, we have to encourage them into believing in their ability to be the best, believing their importance, believing they are equally good if not better than any western kid ( this is what Indians and Chinese instil in their children)

Anonymous said...

January and political pundits.

I thought this story is BIZZARE!

I just saw the breaking news on about the Illinois Governor(Rob Blagojevich) who, apart from other corruption charges, has been arrested for TRYING TO SELL OBAMA'S SENATE SEAT!

He's been investigated for a while for fraud and other federal charges and was being wiretaped. He's the one to appoint someone for the empty senate seat, and was going to appoint himself if nobody would "BUY IT" lol!

His own words, "f**k Obama, I want to make money"
Talking about tough economic times, guess you can put a price on anything these days.

But, how low can you go??

Anonymous said...

Wadau hivi ni kweli JK anamlinda Bob Mugabe kama hii article inavyo suggest ?

Anonymous said...

It is currently on ebay, I dont know how much would that fetch?,

or if you opt for the actual leathered seat, - you can buy it here

By Mchangiaji

Anonymous said...

I was looking and reading about Education Systems in India and Kenya,

My optimum conclusion on this, is that we have a lot a lot of work to do!

In Kenya they have their own huge, problem on Higher Education system, they are currently working on it. See the Video Kenya Working on Higher Education

Kenya Educational System

On India, I dont know where should I start, I encourage for those who interested, can learn more about Education System in India here, particulary on various teachers academies from elementary to Higher education. I think thats very important in preparing our teachers. They even have their own Green School, see the video students working on echo friendly mosquito repelant.

My Conclusion on these, we should start with the government initiating a very broad and wide discussion on this education matter, from low level and higher level debates, discussing about comprehessive solutions, and my guessing is that MEDIA should play its part in doing that, whether in TV and newspaper, kinda a similar approach on WAR on AIDS, in which we are doing pretty good job, that energy should also be channeled on Education, Education, until we see even the little ones speaking understandbly about the role of education on our society.

Then the government should form a special task force, of well capable and knowleageable figurers who understand our needs and desire to reform our education system for good, they should be given task of FACT FINDING MISSIONS, from selective international educations system, such as India, China, and yes include our own neighbours, i.e. Kenya, Uganda and similarly to other sourthern African countries.

Last but not least as emphasized by Kweli, Broadband is playing huge part, in understand and educating myself on various issues around the world, and I think that right should be given to all Tanzanians, I guess.

By Mchangiaji

Anonymous said...

thanks everybody for well constructive contribution, however, mine is taking the direction of not going to learn anyone's education system until we know our problem. What's wrong with our education system? it is much better to start thinking to identifying and list down all our problems before we decide to copy anyone's else system. I will not talk about curriculum because it is a bit technical for just to talk for the sake of talking, though there are things that you don't need a lot of expertism for you to talk like someone already said the issue of including IT studies or broadband wchich is ok. however there are so many things have to be done before thinking of copying someone's else system,think about classrooms,wages,books,desks,blackboards,chalks,laboratories, hostels,services like infamary,dispensaries,playgrounds and you name it, all these need money and nationalists spirits ( sio wizi tena wa hela za vitabu n.k) my point to summarize is all these things are not in good shape as we all know and we all know the standards they should be, let start there