We ought to train our people more and more for a purpose

12Sep 2018
The Guardian
We ought to train our people more and more for a purpose

JUST a little under four years ago, we underlined the fact it was only to be expected that a country blessed with abundant reserves of oil should have big enough numbers of the right personnel to serve the industry.

We did so only days after the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) announced that it would likely be confirmed that the country had massive reserves of crude oil, what with the completion of the first stage of a survey in Lake Tanganyika waters.

According to TPDC officials, neighbouring Uganda had already discovered oil in the Lake Albert belt – and the environment there was much similar to that of Lake Tanganyika.

The officials were upbeat, noting that they saw every indication of striking oil in the latter lake because several previous surveys had pointed to the rich presence of some rocks with huge potential for oil production.

Soon thereafter, Dar es Salaam hosted a workshop meant to acquaint various professionals on how the oil industry operates. It attracted a sizeable number of government officials from various sectors.

A resource person, a geologist, cautioned participants that interference by politicians in the industry would prove disruptive by scaring away some firms intending or planning to invest in the country. He said, if he had his way, experts would be left to operate only as the principles of their profession dictated.

We may find it extremely hard to exclude the oil industry from politics, but that would not rule out the fact that the country would need to exercise maximum care before actually going into oil exploitation in earnest.

Many experts argue that human resources are by far the most important factor of production, the advancement of which must be among the major items on the nation’s development agenda particularly as relates to the oil and gas industry.

They say that whenever and wherever there are significant discoveries of oil and natural gas, and indeed the existence of any other natural resources, there is immense demand for a strong local workforce – experts and non-experts. 

It is unfortunate that many job seekers seldom have the education, training, skills and experience directly related to the employment opportunities on offer.

To illustrate this just a bit: the oil and gas sector would need experienced riggers, drillers, seismic crew, logistics coordinators, clearing and forwarding agents as well as hospitality industry personnel.

Globally, oil and gas companies are very strict with regard to health and safety and one of the disqualifications for anyone they would contemplate engaging is non-compliance with health and safety requirements.

There is also the issue of problems with communication skills – unfortunately, in our case, often particularly with respect to proficiency in English. Poor command of the language has on numerous occasions proved the undoing of many otherwise excellent Tanzanians when they face job interviewing panels.

We may fault the idea, but in cases where a company may wish to send candidates to study specific trades, often this may not be possible unless one is comfortable with the language.

Too bad, sound knowledge of English is usually decisive even for common-cadre positions like housekeeping – not to mention managerial ones.

There are doubtless big numbers of Tanzanians with the requisite qualifications, and these should get first-line consideration whenever there are vacancies – with expatriates considered only as a last resort and in full compliance of the laws of the land.

It is therefore of fundamental importance for the nation, the government in particular, to train more Tanzanian nationals as a way of ensuring that as many of our own people as possible assume strategic positions in the emerging oil and gas industry and all other sectors.

Even more importantly, though, every effort should be made to minimise the possibility of the local experts we end up with “lying fallow” upon completing their expensive training just because the economy cannot absorb them. And this should not apply only to the oil and gas industry.

It is common knowledge that the country already has a big number of all manner of college and university graduates for whom years of hunting for salaried jobs has proved a wild goose chase.

This is a tricky, complex and even tragic situation which the nation needs to address with as much speed and seriousness as it can if it is not to degenerate into a crisis of crippling proportions.

One moral here is that we should move to train the present generation – and posterity – more and more for a purpose, which would presuppose that we would take an especially critical look  at the kind of education and training we offer or we expect for the experts we would appreciate making available for the nation’s use.    



How are science laboratories in ‘ward’ secondary schools doing?


AS recently as just over a decade ago, our country was grappling with a serious shortage of public secondary schools, with some districts having as few as two.

Even worse, most of these schools had hopelessly few teachers and quality basic needs such as classrooms, equipment and facilities like science laboratories, lab apparatus and well-stocked reference libraries.

To its credit, though some might say as part of its obligation, the government moved to rectify matters, chiefly by establishing or supporting the putting up and equipping – across the country – of what are commonly referred to as ward-level public secondary schools.

Some of these schools are not well placed in terms of staffing, equipment and other basic needs, but at least they exist and can evolve into better institutions.

A major challenge is for all concerned to come to the schools’ help, and this includes the government, the private sector and all other stakeholders with the nation’s best interests at heart.

Aware of constraints relating to availability of funds, the government went on to direct regional commissioners across the country to do the most they could to ensure that all public secondary schools in their respective areas of jurisdiction had science laboratories by a given deadline.

The government was emphatic that funds for the purpose would be sourced from municipal council coffers, with members of the public chipping in.

This was evidently a tall order for the regional authorities but, by and large, there was noticeable progress at the implementation level.

But some ‘improvisation’ came in handy in several regions, with some suspending the construction of more schools so that municipalities could channel money into the building of science laboratories.

A decade of engagement in project implementation is very much worth writing home amount, and hence our advice that we take stock of the headway made since the government’s decision to ease the shortage of public secondary schools through the special crusade cited.

Surely, it will pay handsome dividends injecting more money into the initiative and making sure that all the school labs put up are of the expected quality and genuinely serve the intended purpose.

Harsh as the situation on the ground may be, we should desist from looking on helplessly as projects we have worked so hard to implement for the good of our people go to waste just because we cannot staff or equip them to satisfaction. It is thus worth asking ourselves: How are our “ward-level” public secondary schools doing?

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