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Are our graduates irrelevant?

Tuesday June 08 2021
Graduates pic
By Kasera Nick Oyoo

Is it possible for university graduates – not just in Tanzania, but all over East Africa – to be relevant vis-à-vis local solutions when we still teach them using books inherited from Colonial rulers?

These thoughts came to me during the recently Ujuzi Fair held at the Jamhuri Stadium in Dodoma last week.

To be fair, there were remarkable demonstrations by different institutions – universities included – of what strides they are making in adopting new ways of doing things.

Visiting a few universities, it was obvious that the teaching aids continue to be dominated by books produced some even 50 years ago, whose ‘revised editions’ continue to guide learners and their teachers.

This piece is not a well-structured scientific study on teaching aids, but it is one of those allowable methodologies in research that are observed.

This also came at a time when this columnist has been putting together a research team on M-Health, and was really struggling among health professionals to find those who know what ‘M-Health’ is.

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There is a need to grow our body of knowledge if we are to solve our problems. After all, don’t they say local problems need local solutions? Now, should we be wondering why, for example, we still have no local solutions on management of Lake Victoria ecosystems?

Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, which have common ownership of Lake Victoria, each seems to have an individual approach.

But, while this is not necessarily a bad thing, it nonetheless bodes on lunacy that, over the last 50-plus years of political independence, the most common denominator the three have about Lake Victoria is the action they take against illegal fishing!

Common sense would demand that we have a joint approach; and that joint approach would become our Bible – if you will – which each government follows in sustainable management of the lake.

That information ought to be contained in books freely available in our institutions. But, on the information I have from a distinguished librarian, there are very few books of this nature by our local scholars in the vast library she manages.

Our libraries are full of books by international scholars – and this ought to worry us. I studied Physics using Philip Abbott some forty odd years ago.

Yes, the theories of buoyancy may remain the same; but: how the hell will our young lads see solutions to buoyancy on Lake Victoria, or River Pangani from Abbott’s far-removed theories?

I may be simplistic here, but what this means is that there is a need to have local solutions for local problems... And our scholars ought to do more than the overrated, oft-quoted studies for a bachelor’s degree at UDSM, a master’s at LSE, and a PhD at Antwerp University without showing how the knowledge so gained has been re-packaged so as to benefit locals.

It is not surprising that this 27-year-old master’s in econometrics Student whose first degree at a local university was categorical to me in a conversation that they have not been taught anything about blue economy.

Instead, the grad said with a glint in his eye that they have been taught about the huge economic transformation of Far Eastern counties like Malaysia and Singapore.

Fair enough for our future negotiators of mikataba in our Ministry of Finance, and our economists at the Bank of Tanzania, to know how Malaysia transformed from a poor country like Tanzania at independence to a high net-worth economy today.

But, must this approach be at the expense of knowing that just like we have a National Housing Corporation, Kenya and Uganda also have a similar housing company with near similar mandates. I mean the localisation of the learner’s content.

Localising content – with the added enthusiasm and drive for the learner to seek knowledge rather than cram information for the purposes of passing examinations – will help others like our young econometrician to understand the local context, and provide local workable solutions.

Kasera Nick Oyoo is a research and communications consultant with Midas Touche East Africa