The last two weeks have seen the country being deeply engaged on the subject of education. The discussion has been so serious that it has shaken the nation to the core.
The first issue was the national educational budget whereby the government allocated less than one per cent of the whole budget.
This could imply that we lack priority. It could also show we are going contrary to the declared intent of raising educational standards even as the country is heading towards industrialisation -- a vehicle to ensure the country attains the middle income status where the average per capita income shall be around $3,000 (Sh7 million).
Also in the same budget session, the Union Parliament appeared to be divided when several members went up in arms challenging the government for imposing fees directive.
The lawmakers argued that although it was a service but it also had commercial implications as they had acquired bank loans. The government had to bow to the pressure. As this was going on the nation was told about the unconventional arrangement at St Joseph University where some unqualified students - mainly who had just completed Form Four -- were admitted for degree courses, thus raising huge concerns. The university management defended its position but also proved that the programme had all the blessings from the educational authorities.
And, for sure, there was no need not to trust their explanation as the University of Dodoma somehow had a similar programme. Under the programme over 7,800 students had been admitted and were going on with their studies - preparing them to become science teachers.
The Dodoma University issue was presented differently to the public. First it was reported that there was a strike by lecturers over non-payment of their monies. Secondly, it was said the issue was the number of students, whereby earlier it had been agreed that there would only be 1,800 but which later climbed to 7,800. This was the crux of the matter. Then came the supremo, President John Magufuli, who was furious over the matter, probably due to the manner he was informed by his assistants. And, the information fed to him it was that the admitted students were indeed failures and deserve no place in a university.
President Magufuli fully supported the general sacking of all the students lumping them together as having lacked the requisite qualifications. But equally Magufuli was not in agreement with the whole programme. He is in record for saying it was not proper to have "vilaza" (bogus students) on such an important educational programme.
Unfortunately, Dr Magufuli showed no pity for the many students who had sufficient qualifications, who found themselves being victimised for the government failure to pay the lecturers their due pays. In my opinion, the President looked at the issue with slanted eyes. He failed to see how these thousands were saved from the streets and were heading towards benefitting the society in a myriad ways.
Certainly, the whole saga has further caused more commotion on the already confused educational system in the country whereby our products cannot compete in the East African Community and the Southern Africa Development Community, let alone globally.
We are of opinion that our educational system is at a cross roads and urgent action must be taken. Such response must be taken now and not tomorrow as tomorrow would be too late.
We call upon for a national educational conference that will deal on the current situation to determine how and where we went wrong but most importantly charting the way forward.
Source: The Citizen