Friday, July 18, 2008

Has Tanzania finally torn apart Nyerere’s legacy?


One of the finest debates in Tanzania’s newspapers a few days ago was the debate about the Tanzanian education system. Critics of the system thought it was substandard, inferior and a disservice to the growing population of Tanzanians.

There were obvious concerns that the current products of the University of Dar-es-Salaam along with other local universities were incapable of competing with their counterparts from Kenya and Uganda; that products from Kenyan and Ugandan universities were better prepared for the competitive business world. However, what took me aback was the vicious attack on the use of Kiswahili in Tanzania’s institutions of learning at all levels. Because Kiswahili was Tanzania’s national language, Tanzanians spoke it freely and even preferred it in institutions of learning.

Quoting a number of professors from the University of Dar-es-Salaam, it was revealing that professors were frustrated by the low level of English language forcing them to resort to Kiswahili in order for their lectures to have meaning. More disturbing was the realisation that Tanzanians may not be as good masters of Kiswahili as the rest of East Africa may think. A number of them were said not to speak it well and even considered it as foreign as English. In Kenya, we always assume that Kiswahili is an urban language only useful for communicating with other ethnic communities when we are in town. When we get back to our rural homes, we abundantly indulge in our mother tongues with relish to the extent that for one to be elected a Member of Parliament in a rural constituency, proficiency in one’s mother tongue becomes a prerequisite.

What I didn’t know was that this is also the trend in Tanzania, contrary to our belief that Tanzanians only speak Kiswahili. Right now, many Tanzanians, journalists included, speak sheng Kiswahili, a corruption of English, Kiswahili and other local languages. It is very common to find words such as feki for fake, penalti for penalty and bethidei for birthday in reputable daily newspapers. For this reason, many able Tanzanians are sending their children to local expatriate schools or better still send their children to Kenya and Uganda before shipping them to the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries for quality education. Quality education here includes the notion that a good command of written and spoken English makes one a cut above the crowd.

If this degrading of Kiswahili succeeds, Nyerere’s philosophy of one language, one nation will have faltered. My fear is that if Tanzania loses the grip on Kiswahili, there may be no real motivation for the rest of the East African Community citizens to master the language considered the lingua franca of our region. However, the most shocking setback for Nyerere’s enduring philosophy was the realisation that last week, the Tanzanian Parliament finally made it official that the country had abandoned Ujamaism—the country’s version of socialism.

This policy statement was made in Parliament by Tanzania’s minister for East African Cooperation as part of the clarification that the breakup of the EAC in 1977 was due to divergent economic policies pursued by the three partner states at the time. For that reason, implementing protocols on the Common Market, Customs Union and the Monetary Union became impractical. At that time, while Julius Nyerere’s CCM pursued Socialism with vigour, Milton Obote’s UPC was toying with the Common Man’s Charter while Jomo Kenyatta’s kitchen cabinet clung to the Western mode of capitalism inherited from the British and buoyed by the Americans.

With the death of Ujamaism, the curtain will definitely fall on the most celebrated Arusha Declaration where the philosophy of Nyerere’s African Socialism was expounded. What may worry ordinary Tanzanians most is that as they embrace the new culture of capitalism that made them disparage Kenyans as a man-eat-man society, will they stomach the new culture of greed that has seen so many of their leaders in the Kikwete government thrown into the political wilderness? It is true Nyerere’s economic policies failed miserably to the extent that before he quit office, Tanzania was truly a man-eat-nothing society. There was nothing to buy in the shops. A bar of soap or cooking oil could cost and arm and a leg. However, despite all these hardships, Tanzanians were a proud people. There were few beggars on the streets while common theft or bank robberies were unheard of. All the land belonged to the state.

Will the end of Ujamaism usher in unbridled greed and high level corruption that has permeated the Kenyan society?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The argument is baseless as it sounds of a mere campain to demonize TZ edu. system when we come to a no. of research conducted by respective uni.(s) in EA. Uni of Dar leads in that category so i wonder which criteria have been considered to disapprove the education system.
anyway even the recent riots in Kenya tells all that there is nothing to be proud of when it comes to edu. system in Kenya. by the way most of Kenyans are not accepted to enter universities in abroad without taking a one year intensive a level study to catch up with lack of a level in their country.

na kuhusu kiswahili nadhani umechanganyikiwa kufikiri eti hatujui kiswahili. Kiswahili kama lugha nyingine inasumbuliwa na vilugha vido vidogo vinavyoathiri lugha mama yaani (lahaja/slang kwa ki-Ingereza) lugha ya kiserikali inasisitiza matumizi ya lugha isiyo ya mitaani japo, haiwezekani kuzuia kukua kwa hivyo vilugha haswa kwa vijana