By Chris Nkwatsibwe
Biyi Bandele, a London-based African blogger had the following to say about Tanzania’s new education policy:
“Until every single mathematical theorem and every single theory in astrophysics and cosmology, and in medicine, and in chemistry, and in every single sphere of knowledge is written or available in translation in Kiswahili and Igbo and every other African language, I personally will always reject and abhor that easy [and easily comforting, xenophobic language] that dresses itself in the ultimately empty, and cheap, and hokey, and cheaply sentimental rhetoric of noble nationalism. I’ve been to Tanzania, and I’ve been to Zanzibar. And I’ve been to many countries in East Africa. What Tanzania needs now, what East Africa needs now, and what Africa needs now isn’t another instance of brainless, reflexive, macho posturing [which this is]. What we need, what we really need, is to have tens of thousands—millions—of our best minds, schooled not only in Swahili, Hausa, Xhosa, and Yoruba, and every major African language but also in English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and in Urdu, Hindi, Arabic, Farsi, Chinese and Japanese, and in every single language on this little planet called earth, where knowledge—not just cheap, populist, propaganda—is disseminated.” -
I can’t agree more.
In my other opinion, to believe that in a globalized world where competition for relevance, human resource and investments is not only based on your ability to produce the best quality of product, but also the country’s ability to relate with other nations, that you will certainly breakthrough by domesticating and localizing the human resource is an absurdity of the highest order.
For Tanzania to change the medium of instruction in public schools from English to Kiswahili in a hope to elevate the level ‘passing’ or rather reduce the level of failing in the education system represents willingness by the government of Tanzania to settle for less. A close examination at the countries whose development, the government Tanzania aspires to reflects a need to review the new government paradigm. It is infantile for the Tanzanian government to think that the country will develop to a competitive level by closing itself away from the rest of the world.
Firstly, education is basically meant for developing human resource whose role in generating returns on human capital cannot be limited to carrying out production within the boundaries of Tanzania. The new policy however would lead to production of a resource that may only find relevance in the east African community, and with the present spiraling levels of youth unemployment in the region, it still remains to be determined whether Tanzania would increase on the competitive advantage of her Nationals by ‘domesticating’ her education system.
Secondly, for any economy to develop there should be in increase in both the domestic and foreign savings of the country. This can be accumulated by Nationals working with in and or outside the boundaries of the country. More so, there should be an increase in a country’s exports inform of services and products. The new Tanzanian government policy fails on both fronts; her nationals’ competitiveness on foreign market would be limited due to the communication dilemma at the international level, this would definitely affect the country’s returns on her human capital whose opportunities would only mutate around the East African community.
The Tanzanian government should rather concentrate on building credible education system infrastructure that creates opportunities for talent identification and development to enhance innovation and creativity rather that incur the cost of amending the ‘instruction mode’. A more technical and vocational system will increase productivity and value addition.
Chris Nkwatsibwe is a Human Rights activist from Uganda
The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES