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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Govt should take varsity students` views seriously

29th March 2012
Editorial Cartoon

Students in institutions of higher learning in Tanzania have lately made wide-ranging comments, including recommendations, on the delivery of education in the country.

In their 90-page “letter”, a copy of which we have, they cite a number of factors they see as problems or challenges and believe the government ought to look into as a matter of urgency to spare the country’s education system a troubled future.

In their ‘Letter from Students of Higher Learning Institutions to the Government on Strikes and Demonstrations in Universities,’ the students call upon the government – through the Education and Vocational Training ministry – to coordinate the computation of tuition and other fees at the relevant public and private schools, colleges and universities across the country.

They see that a reliable way to minimise, if not end, undue bureaucracy in the sector and provide room for students from poor and rich families alike to pursue higher education and training without let or hindrance.

The students also recommend the formation of a regulatory authority to monitor the education sector and ensure that, come financial year 2012/2013, higher priority is given to the building of more hostels in all public universities while pressing private ones to follow suit.

“We are advising the government not to allow opening up of private university branches until the requisite infrastructures are put in place,” their letter says.

The students also advise that, in the event of crises at university campuses, the government should seek to trace and deal with the root causes of the unrest and working out a peaceful end instead of calling in riot police.

They further recommend that the issuance of allowances to students be handled directly and exclusively by the Higher Education Students’ Loans Board in order to forestall needless disputes between students and college authorities.

They argue that the modality would reduce incidents of corruption, including issuance of loans to ghost students, particularly if all eligible students have special loans accounts at banks.

Unfortunately, we are told that a copy of the letter was sent to the Education ministry some four weeks ago but appears to have miscarried.

It may that the letter has indeed yet to land at the ministry’s offices, but this matter little so long as the students have made their views and recommendations public.

Thus, despite the anomaly, we hope the government will not wait until they get a copy of said “letter” to start acting on the issue – preferably only seeking clarification from the students’ organisations as necessary.

The practice of many public officials waiting for everything to officially land on their tables before they act does not point to good governance and is often counter-productive. Assuming the students have aired their views in good faith, and we find no cause to suspect that is not the case, our humble opinion is that the relevant authorities should appreciate the importance of doing things the modern way – by, so to speak, striking the iron while it is still hot.

That is sure to pay handsome dividends, including helping to stem the tide of unrest in our institutions of higher learning.

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