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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Standardising school fees-and prices of trousers, hotel rooms

24th December 2011

Each passing day in Tanzania some mandarins are busy at work restoring this or that facet of a discredited Ujamaa style of life, whose principal facet is to standardize incomes, and if one wishes to get more, pays a bribe or obtains a bribe.

Refusing to accept a competitive framework for goods and services is the reason for bribes in all socioeconomic formations that are essentially non-capitalist in nature, or espouse a state-based truncated capitalism, where service organizations of government ministries get registered as ‘companies,’while having no shareholders, or profit and loss awareness, and talk of its incomes as ‘revenues.’ That is what Tanzania’s economy has persistently been.

The origin of this sentiment is a fundamentally primitive attitude that people should live like they are in a village, where they often wake up and go to dig at this or that person’s shamba, and the same for the weeding and harvesting, and the late Mwalimu Nyerere and quite a few others in Africa after independence thought this was the best social formation in the world.

When it arises out of tradition, that is one thing and when it is imposed by the state it is another, so Ujamaa villages collapsed catastrophically, but one shall not hear of

anything on that issue at higher institutes of learning or professional and commercial bodies; they all just remember the parastatals and work day and night to save those which still exist.

That the state spends hundreds of billions of shillings yearly wastefully baby-sitting them is irrelevant to them.

When Ujamaa was in the vogue, no private hospitals were allowed, and private schools belonging to religious organizations were nationalized or taken over by the state, under the guise of preventing ‘exploitation,’ while Nyerere was unaware that what he was promoting was little more than a ‘colonial mode of production.’

It constituted in having three classes of people in society, those in the village who worked in their farms together for the common good and those living in towns, where they were unavoidably employed either by the government as civil servants of various ranks or roles, or by Asian dukawallahs and a few factory owners. In between were vagabonds to be ‘repatriated.’

Mwalimu was on record one day, and perhaps not just once, to say that someone should not get rich using the pain that people have in falling sick or being hospitalized for a long time, in that it was immoral to make a profit from medical practice.

Hospitals to him had to be government owned or operated by religious institutions, and schools preferably had to be government owned so that no divisive values of this or that religion were taught to pupils and students, though this rule could not be maintained for long, and soon hospitals and schools of a private character started to come up. When he left office, the country started to breathe freely but prefects, mandarins are still sobbing.

That is why they don’t lose an opportunity to rock the system of liberty that was created and nurtured during the second phase presidency while Mwalimu looked on shaking his head, saying ‘to defend Ujamaa one needs to have the head of madman,’ implying that one had to be very brave, whereas in fact he was perfectly right.

It required someone who had instantly forgotten the lows that the country sank in terms of economy and society, and in which it is still immersed, as change was halting and in many areas still wanting. For instance the system of ‘national education’ is still in place, and now we hear pupils have passed Standard VII but should to a literacy test to join secondary school!

All it requires to change the system of education to a performing one is to hand schools to private agencies of a charitable character on the one hand, and religious organizations on the other hand, who shall all presumably wish to educate their children in English.

They would put up their own organizational methods of rapidly brushing up the teachers’ competence in the language, as well as getting auxiliary English classes for pupils and students – and then set examinations they want on the basis of serious syllabuses in whatever country of origin that the organization (church or charity) would take as a

model. Then, when they move to higher levels of education, whoever is recruiting pupils or students, or technical training applicants, would have the liberty to set a matriculation test, for instance for university, to gain admission.

One aspect about such a system is that it would have to tie up any syllabus with a ontrolling organization, for instance in the past we had Cambridge Examinations Syndicate for most of Commonwealth secondary school and high school exams, while university colleges fell under the University of London curriculum. If the government would put up an inspectorate, it would consist in checking what controlling

organization’s model syllabus is being used, and the facilities or standards, since it is the competition that enables the provision of services to improve and rise to the top. When the ‘national examinations’ system persists, nothing can change because there is no incentive for innovation or change.

Experts in the sphere of education routinely talk about ‘investing in education’ to solve the country’s poor educational standards, whereas the proper issue is to place it entirely under a competitive system for schools as well as for syllabuses.

Not only do graduated fail to express themselves in English but most students just want to cram some notes and sit for exam, teachers can’t waste time marking unreadable papers so they resort to a multiple choice format of examinations as an appealing solution. This way, higher passing levels are possible as a student just needs an idea of the answer, not to fully express things, a situation that can’t be ended without micro-level school competition.

If multiple choice exam and filling in some blanks becomes the standard format of exams, it would not be surprising if some sort of literacy competence test is needed to join secondary school – where however the need is singularly diminished because the multiple choice format of exams shall be available at that end as well. In that case

the proper motivation for bringing about that test would be the Jairo-Makinda syndrome: to create events where sitting allowances can be paid, and in another aspect, those joining secondary school would pay an initial 10,000/- for the test, which would never be recorded in district revenue. It would be funds for ‘development projects’ for each school, while in actual fact only allocated amounts for development projects would be used, and extra income shared out as per the prevailing methods.

That is why it was disheartening to hear of plans to ‘standardize’ fees for private secondary schools, a new plan by Ministry of Education mandarins since all they have a bother for is the profit that school owners get, not the standards they set and observe – which, if you ask them, they will tell you it is ministry inspectors who will ensure there are standards.

As a matter of fact, standardizing fees means removing incentive for standards, that is,

being better than the next school, as parents do not take their children to a school because of guidelines or recommendations by the ministry; it is word of mouth which serves as agency. It is the usual marketing rule of four ‘pees’ – from product, price and then packaging and promotion. Parents need to hear ‘from the horse’s mouth’ that a school teaches well, and then the fee levels.

When one invests in building a private school of secondary school, the specific quality of buildings reflects the ‘packaging’ element in the marketing ‘pees,’ that when a parent visits the school he has a feeling that the premises are well organized, tidy, and this ordinarily reflects seriousness and purpose.

Such a parent will not visit two or three other premises to see if there are better offers, specifically with regard to school environment, but if he can afford the fees, will gladly place the child there. When the school authorities are aware that it is each child’s performance, and each parent’s satisfaction that will determine how their school is ranked

in society, the sort of people that will seek to bring their children there, it will place an administration that shall work day and night to ensure standards are kept; mandarins hate it.

Corrupt mandarins want schools to be at the mercy of ministry inspectors as to whether they should remain open or closed, in which case they first kill their profit levels by placing low fees for everyone, and when they are no longer motivated, complaints start coming in as to the quality of laboratory facilities, corrupt mandarins will go there to shut down the school.

A bribe will be paid, some laboratory equipment bought, and then the school is open again, in which case ministry inspectors will pretend to inspect, knowing fully that they are only seeking bribes, and school owners will pretend to improve the school, knowing fully that after the bribe is paid the school will not be bothered for at least two years.

This method of doing things is a ‘haven of peace’ for mandarins, and this is what they want to ensure it is introduced.

From a logical point of view, there is no more sense in standardizing school fees than standardizing prices for trousers or hotel rooms, as in each case the question reverts to how much an entrepreneur should make an effort to invest in terms of the ‘packaging’ of the product, what it looks from the outside, and then fix its quality level – training, equipment, etc.

What mandarins (socialist bureaucrats) hate is the profit level, but when they add a ‘zero’ to an 80,000/- unjustified per diem, so that it is 800,000/- they expect the rest of

us to remain calm and composed, to listen to the Controller and Auditor General plus the Chief Secretary whitewashing that affair. And when the noise is too high about government misconduct, they bring up an artificial source of discord, and attention is directed at the new, pointless dispute.

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