Overhauling of education vital option as improvement strategy

21Feb 2020
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Overhauling of education vital option as improvement strategy

A NEW idea has been floated, in a report by the Parliamentary Social Services and Community Development committee, that a commission be formed to overhaul the country’s education system.

It is likely that the report will attract immense interest, with some quarters having reservations with respect to the quality of products coming out of all levels of education in the country, going by the report. But could it also be what one would elect to refer to as fishing in troubled waters?

It is a bit easy to use anyone’s frustrations to make a case for something that in a more sober moment the person wouldn’t think about it, but at the spur of the moment it looks entirely credible and appealing.

The reason for this worry is that the government is reported to be busy reviewing the national education policy, and contributions in the form of ideas would be welcome – only that it is an overhaul that some MPs and other people are demanding.

Listening to what the MPs said might be enlightening enough on the purposes, relative to what an overhaul entails, but the matter is ostensibly left to the commission recommended to sort out.

But the legislators pointedly said that what was needed was the overhauling of the education system in the country from kindergarten and all the way to university.

The explanation given was that the education now available in the country does not respond to the massive changes in the world, including in science and technology. Still, computers are gradually being made available in schools and obviously that isn’t entirely easy cost-wise.

The committee said that for the system to produce more competent and competitive job creators as opposed to half-baked job seekers, an education commission should be formed to set out what is required so that the government can implement the changes.

Clearly, this binds the government in that it would have to form a commission and proceed with implementation. This would suggest that the parliamentary committee would skip the ministerial review on how to improve education, and indeed transfer the task elsewhere.

That is essentially what the committee’s chairman was saying – that the Education ministry would swing into action by forming a commission to undertake a review of the system. It would then hopefully proceed to implement what the commission will have said, and there would be no government veto on the contents of the report.

That is a way of doing things rather different from what applies at present, where decisions of that level are made by the President and a commission can only study and advise, not study and have the government tied down with it.

What is being dangled is that the commission’s report will be followed by major changes making Tanzanians completing studies at schools and colleges able to employ themselves or become more easily employable.

The idea is given as if one is switching on a light, whereas the fruits of a new system of education can’t be immediate and only reforms can be tested more or less rapidly.

Wishing for future school or college leavers who are entirely different from the present crop has its merits, but remains just that: wishful thinking.

Can MPs or anyone else really be so sure of the solution to this problem? Couldn’t things work better, say, if any ideas fed into a ministerial review to start with? Just a thought…


Prompt revamping of Central railway line a must as work on SGR continues


IMPLEMENTATION of Tanzania’s ambitious Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project is understood to be registering steady progress. Meanwhile, woes relating to the operations of the decades-old Central line have not ended.

Lately, the Tanzania Railway Corporation has had to suspend its passenger and cargo services from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma and Mwanza ports on account of damage on the line following heavy rains.

Passengers who were on board a Dar es Salaam-bound disrupted passenger train have been trickling out of Dodoma by bus, depending on the availability of the fares they were refunded by TRC.

At times train fares are low enough and if one is stranded along the route, merely refunding the fare might not be enough for one to proceed to original destination. It is this problem that Dodoma district authorities noticed, subsequently demanding that TRC obtain alternative means of transport like commuter buses to help them out.

TRC has conducted a study and satisfied itself that there are sections of the central line that are routinely or traditionally damaged by floodwaters.

It all comes back to the phenomenon now known as El Nino, and the public here started to hear of it in the late 1990s, which is a weather disturbance that comes up towards Christmas. Of course, it is not a joyful appendage to the festival as such.

It is also noteworthy that the Dodoma authorities hailed the TRC management for prompt communication on potential danger if the train were to pass along that route as intended. This precaution must have helped to save lives, as hundreds of travellers would have been at great risk had the warnings sounded from the flooded areas not been heeded.

It is now a waiting period for the corporation to complete a study on revamping the section, and obtaining permission to converge resources for the job.

At a certain point, TRC had talked about landing partners from the business community as well as UN agencies in moving food and other material for refugee zones and other troubled areas farther inland.

This initiative had to do with obtaining engines and wagons without waiting for the annual budget estimations for the relevant allocation. That was by all accounts a good move, even if it appears its scope needs to be widened to take care of the new developments – that it is rail revamping, and not just obtaining wagons and engines, which must be considered.

How far this earlier arrangement can be stretched to cover the new requirements will be clear after TRC clarifies where their partners stand in that context.

But instead of this being a purely corporate matter, the government could act speedily by extending urgently needed funds before the budget procedure is taken up, so that the others also look into their sources to see what can be done. That would be a potentially win-win situation.

Yet care must be taken to avoid entering into unauthorised debt even if it is an urgent matter, as that situation can plainly lead to confusion, where costing inspections are not properly conducted. Indeed, it must be a matter of both speed and standards.