Future Tanzania Education needs complete overhaul

Tony Zakaria

IF high education level was the formula for economic success, all university professors would be among the world’s richest persons. Maybe they are rich in knowledge and academic wisdom.

I do not know of any academic dons on the Forbes list of the richest people on mother Earth.Is a college degree a recipe for success or is it just a ticket to employment Maybe it is the item on a CV that gets a job seeker the chance to meet the interview panel.

How come the richest man on this planet did not need a degree to earn his billions? Bill Gates loves to preach to the young about the importance of education and hopefully they believe him.

Perhaps honourable Robert Mugabe should be the richest and most successful president given his seven hard-earned degrees. The guy is educated for sure. While other presidents accumulate honorary PhDs, he earned his the hard way.

He could be rich, he is famous but not from his 18 academic and honorary degrees. Former teacher Mugabe should be admired greatly by both young and old for managing to study and obtain Bachelor of Arts, bachelor of science, bachelor of laws and bachelor of administration. But that was and probably still is in Rhodesia and later Zimbabwe.

Am sure there are quite a few other developed and developing countries where one can study for more than one academic discipline. In Tanzania it is forbidden to do bachelor of science and later bachelor of arts by the same person. To get bachelors degree admission, one has to go to high school (grade 13 and 14) and obtain passes in three relevant subjects.

To study for B.Sc and B.A. in one lifetime in Tanzania, one will need to do form five and six twice just to qualify for admission to the relevant university faculty. Does this sound right? Anyway, this is not where I want to go with this topic today.

If for some reason Tanzanian authorities find it difficult to accept the whole philosophy of continuing education so that a diploma holder can enrol in a degree programme that is their problem.

The question is, how relevant are the degrees and diplomas being offered relevant for the changes in the market now and for the next 20 years? Let me illustrate a little.

Three decades ago a department,a manager,a business director or private doctor needed a secretary to type letters,arrange internal and external appointments, do filing of correspondence and take notes in shorthand for a department meeting. That type of secretary began to disappear with the demise of the typewriter and the desk phone.

There are still dinosaur bosses who use secretaries this way. Modern bosses can use digital calendars to organise their appointments, filing is done mostly electronically and many managers do their own typing.

Mobile phones have made it easy to make travel bookings and even pay for services. Electronic mail has made traditional post offices with their mail boxes almost obsolete. When was the last time you received a letter or postcard via the post office? And yet brick and mortar post offices abound in the land of the Kilimanjaro. There are quite a few ‘colleges’ that offer secretarial training in Tanzania.

And those who earn secretarial credentials are frustrated there are few jobs for their chosen career. Have you noticed how hand-held devices are taking over tasks that needed human resources to do?

If you own a car in the last three years you noticed how easy it was to pay the annual car registration from the comfort of one’s home. No more long queues at the revenue authority to pay a TRA cashier or a bank teller.

Now you can pay for fuel, a haircut, groceries, building hardware and electronic household goods using mobile money. Salaries for most employees except casual labourers are nowadays paid electronically via bank transfers.

The cashiers who used to withdraw dangerous amounts of money for paying company employees are no longer needed. So how if at all, have we modified the training of accountants and auditors to cope with the changing emoney transactions?

The old style cashiers are dying out as cash modalities fade from regular use. How many professions may go bust in future so we do not plan to produce them when they may no longer be needed? We need to think ahead. Take lawyers and doctors for example.

The internet is awash with free and paid legal advice that is probably more accessible and helpful than chasing a physical lawyer who may not be right for your issue. Getting legal advice in Tanzania is pretty difficult even though we are training 1,000 plus new lawyers annually.

Lawyers and doctors are rare in Ruritania,I mean rural Tanzania. But where there is no doctor there is internet at the palm of your hand. Just Google free medical or legal advice and see what you get.

There are are many computer and mobile phone applications for this kind of stuff. In 10 years the new generation of geeks in our homes will not be going to a clinic to check their health status.

Do we think we should keep training more lawyers? Medical training should be changed completely. What about engineers?

While Tesla and Google are working to build computers on wheels (electric driverless cars) traditional auto makers are struggling to sell cars with fuel combustion engines.Which engineers are we training and how to retrain existing ones? Technology and computers are taking over the world.

The largest taxi company in the new world is called Uber. It does not own a single car, just the technology to bring together travellers and car owners. Young and old entrepreneurs are making fortunes from creating apps and Youtube video channels.

Tanzanian students are busy learning about liberation struggles and the history of slavery. Maybe we need to tear to pieces existing syllabuses and create new ones from scratch to cater for future needs.

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