On November 26, this year President Jakaya Kikwete is expected to launch a rare fund in academics aimed at boosting two very crucial subjects in university and college education.
To be known as the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Memorial scholarship fund, it will be used to sponsor students who excel in science and mathematics subjects.
The Bank of Tanzania (BoT) which is spearheading the establishment of the fund said on Tuesday that the launch will be a side matter to the bank’s two-day biennial conference of financial institutions slated for Arusha.
Setting up funds for the purpose of promoting tertiary education in Tanzania is not a new thing.
There have been massive efforts in this regard, ranging from the thousands of schools set up through the PEDP (2003-2007) and SEDP (2004-2009) and higher learning institutions in the past 20 years through public as well as private means.
Thanks to the efforts, Tanzania has grown from only one institution of higher education (a University College) in 1961 to more than 200 tertiary training institutions today, according to the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training.
Many institutions, especially companies have of recent come up with a number of programmes aimed at sponsoring financially incapable Tanzanians to pursue education.
Despite all these developments, establishing a specific fund for the purpose of promoting science and mathematics in the realm of higher learning academics in Tanzania has been more talk than real practice.
More bizarre is that while enrolment at colleges and universities has increased from slightly over 50,000 students in 2006 to well over 90,000, the number of students taking mathematics and science has not increased proportionally.
It would be useless to expect the country to advance much in the effort to promote economic growth unless it seriously addresses the current shortage of skilled manpower, whose foundation is mainly in being well grounded in maths and science.
The demand for scientists and mathematicians, particularly with the advent of expanding mining and oil drilling profession has been on the rise, with the government in a rush to assemble such manpower.
We need not only rush, but must also find ways of sustaining the grooming of such skills.
It is because of this that we commend the Bank of Tanzania for pioneering to promote these fields of study, which we hope would increase the number of scientists who are of high demand at this time when our nation is clearly poised for a major economic leap.
But while kudos go to BoT, we think that it is high time other organizations - companies and NGOs emulate the spirit shown by the bank.
Let it be understood that organisations, especially companies are the biggest consumers of these educational products — scientists and mathematicians. Because of this, they should always remember that it is not enough for them to pick the best cream of scientists and mathematicians in the market, but it is important for them to know how they are made, and crucially take part in enabling their making.