Namtumbo is one of Tanzania’s districts endowed with lush vegetative cover and large tracts of arable land, which could be the envy of some barren areas of the country threatened with desert encroachment.
With a population of more than 200,000 people scattered in an area of 20,375 square kilometres, this southern Tanzania district is slowly attracting international newspaper headlines, thanks to the discovery of huge uranium deposits at the Likuyu Sekamaganga area.
Small airplanes, hitherto uncommon in the area, are hovering over the Namtumbo sky as foreign investors scamper for the exploitation of uranium, a radioactive element that occurs naturally in low concentrations (a few parts per million) in soil, rock, and surface and groundwater.
Currently, Mantra Tanzania Limited is involved in a uranium mining project at Likuyu in which it has said that there is an inferred mineral resource of uranium oxide amounting to 35.9 million pounds.
Economists say the Namtumbo of yester-years will never be the same again as the discovery of uranium is set to change its economic standing in the history of Tanzania’s development.
But, behind the glorious story of the district’s riches in uranium and the expansive land for cultivation, there lies the scourge of “education apathy” – the lack of awareness on the importance of education among the general populace, to put it clearly.
Ruvuma regional and Namtumbo district education stakeholders are worried that this problem is likely to stand on the way of the area’s development in this supersonic age.
“Some parents lack awareness on the importance of education. This makes even their children to abandon schooling as they feel they are wasting their time,” says Baraka Kapinga, a teacher at Nasuri Secondary School.
“We have been educating parents to consider education as an important instrument for social and economic reconstitution,” he explains.
Like other areas of Tanzania, Namtumbo district faces a myriad of problems plaguing its education sector. The problems range from shortages of teachers, classrooms, dormitories, laboratories, teachers’ quarters, textbooks, transport facilities to lack of incentives for teachers, seemingly working in a hostile environment.
These problems, over time have wrecked the country’s once vibrant education system putting millions of children out of school because the system cannot accommodate their growing number.
Sadly, this is happening in this 21st Century, when the rest of the world has gone nuclear in computerisation of technological breakthroughs.
There is no doubt that education is the bedrock of modern civilisation, without which other endeavours would fail if the country does not do something now to avert dire consequences on our national development aspirations.
“The challenge before government is to invest the resources that are desperately needed to rebuild a free, comprehensive, quality public education system,” says Augustine Mlowe, headmaster of Namabengo Secondary School.
Attention must be paid to the following needs if Tanzania is to attain global relevance: provision of a foundation of knowledge and skills that are durable and transferable to address decline in job security, production of knowledgeable workers that can match global competitiveness, upgrading curriculum and content standards at all levels in response to rapid technological change and the development of the nation’s intellectual capital to meet local needs, national competitiveness and global relevance.
As a way of tackling the multi-faceted problems bedeviling the sector, educational reforms must be participatory and adequately supervised.
A lot has been said about the decay in our education system resulting from official negligence over the decades. Government has at different times set up panels to review the education policy and make changes.
Inconsistencies in policy formulation and shabby implementation of warped curricula have contributed to utter relegation of education to the background by governments at all levels.
In recent years, Tanzania has seen many complaints from teachers regarding their emoluments. Since this vocation is very stressful, some teachers have lost confident in the country’s political establishment when authorities play hanky panky games with their emoluments.
It isn’t a concocted story that one could foresee a scenario where teachers would go to school only to while away the time, without teaching. Education authorities need to look at the teachers’ problems holistically and apply proper solutions.
Like the rest of the society, this group of professionals is reeling under severe economic constraints, calling the state to make their living reasonably meaningful.
The problems plaguing Namtumbo’s education sector are the same impediments facing other districts of Tanzania although the environment may differ from one place to another.
To invigorate the ailing education sector, the historic opportunity is anchored so much on the country’s leaders to pilot the ship of state. History is beckoning on the President Jakaya Kikwete administration to re-invent the wheel of education. That is the transformation the country needs.