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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

What, indeed, is in a name?

23rd January 2012
Editorial cartoon

Recent years have seen the number of universities and university colleges in Tanzania grow in quick succession. Real mushrooming, one might say.

What no one can deny is that the development has led to an appreciable rise in the number of graduates in the country although there is clearly no consensus over whether it has also meant anything in terms of the quality of the education and training offered is subject to discussion.

Debate is raging on whether middle-cadre technical training plus several years of practice should take precedence over plain university education when it comes to considering a job applicant for employment.

Again, public opinion is widely divided here, particularly in that the level of actual performance “on the pitch” on numerous occasions belies that of one’s academic education or professional training. But there is no denying that the combination of education, training and experience usually stands as the best answer.

Of course, this is assuming that both the training and the education are relevant or appropriate and of the desired quality while by “experience” we don’t mean merely the number of years one has been engaged in some kind of work. In other words, it should not be experience in the mediocre.

It is also to be appreciated that, much as we would aspire for first, second and third degrees, conditions rule out the possibility of every Tanzanian pursuing university education. In any case, not every employment opportunity calls for PhDs and similarly sky high qualifications.

It is partly for this reason that education and training in Tanzania falls under three main categories: basic – overseen by the Vocational Education and Training Authority (VETA), middle-cadre – overseen by the National Council for Technical Education (NACTE), and university level – overseen by the Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU).

Unfortunately, we have in recent years witnessed a fast-developing trend pointing to an obsession with university education which has made some people and institutions take the VETA and NACTE levels of education and training for granted in the mistaken belief that only university graduates count.

Mainly as a result of this misconception, all manner of education and training have been spending sleepless nights scheming how to graduate into universities or university colleges as soon as practicable – with the ability to deliver not considered of much that consequence.

Luckily, after what one could safely describe as a regrettable delay, the government has intervened by putting an immediate stop to the much-cherished transformation of schools and colleges into universities.

The decision, as announced by Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda in Arusha on Saturday, is not without consolation as non-university education and training institutions meeting laid down requirement, conditions and procedures will still be at liberty to offer degree-level and equivalent courses.

This means that, all things considered, the change is just a matter of names. We therefore call upon all education stakeholders to take the government’s intervention seriously but positively be as it means our nation well. Shakespeare says it all in Romeo and Juliet: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

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