Govt may scrap compulsory retirement for varsity staff

25May 2019
Polycarp Machira
DODOMA
The Guardian
Govt may scrap compulsory retirement for varsity staff

IN effort to ensure higher learning institutions have enough teaching staff, the government now wants to extend or abolish retirement age for lecturers altogether, the National Assembly heard yesterday.

The Deputy Minister of State in the President's Office (Regional Administration and Local Governments), Mwita Waitara said here that the government would borrow a leaf from other countries that have increased the retirement age for lecturers or abolished it altogether.

He argued that while lecturers in Tanzania retire at 65 years of age, in neighbouring Kenya they retire at 70 and in Germany there is no retirement age for lecturers, while in the United Kingdom they have reviewed the system because it takes them 40 years to prepare lecturers.

"Why can't the government review the retirement age for lecturers in the country to help solve the existing shortage of them at higher learning institutions?" he asked.

He went further citing the 2017 report by the Tanzania Higher Learning Institutes Trade Union (THTU) which put the shortage of academic staff in the institutions at 44 percent.

The lawmaker said for instance the report shows that the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS) has a shortage of 65 percent of academic staff while the Mbeya University of Science and Technology (MUST) has a 54 percent shortage of staff.

The deputy minister pointed out that 53 percent of lecturers retire while they are still strong to keep on serving, and if no action is taken, the shortage of lecturers is likely to worsen.

Responding to a question by Nkenge MP Diodorus Kamala (CCM), the deputy admitted that lecturers in Tanzania retire when they are still energetic enough to continue serving.

"It is true the situation is not all that good and that there are lecturers who retire when they can still perform their duties and thus it is not a bad idea to review the system and if possible increase the retirement age just like in other countries," he said.

In the main question, Kamala noted that there is a growing trend whereby higher learning institutions employ staff from outside the country to improve research and professionalism.

 "How many lecturers have been employed in universities in Tanzania over the past ten years?" he demanded, seeking to be briefed on the success or otherwise brought by hiring foreign lecturers.

Waitara responded that there were a total of 502 foreign education experts employed in 17 higher learning institutions, eight public and nine private institutions between 2008 and 2018.

Following government and institutions’ efforts to empower local experts, the number of foreign counterparts is on the decline whereby existing ones stood at 151 in the 2018/2019 academic year, he added.