Today, October 14, is Nyerere Day in Tanzania, a public holiday marking the 22nd anniversary of the death of the founder of Tanzanian nationalism – and also an iconic African leader of his time.
Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere died from natural causes in a London hospital on October 14, 1999 at the young age of 77 years – relatively speaking.
This was after he effectively spearheaded the movement for freedom and political independence from foreign rule not only for his mother country, but also for several central and southern African countries that included South Africa after decades of an apartheid system of government in that country, currently Africa’s second-largest economy after Nigeria.
Usually, the highlight of the Nyerere Day celebration is the formal extinguishing of the Uhuru Torch, generally considered a symbol of Tanzania’s independence and national unity.
The Uhuru Torch was first lit formally on the top (Uhuru Peak) of Mount Kilimanjaro – at 5,895 metres above sea level the world’s highest stand-alone mountain, also called the ‘Roof of Africa’ – “to shine (as Mwalimu Nyerere said on October 22, 1959) beyond our borders, giving hope where there was despair; love where there was hate, and dignity where before there was only humiliation…”
This year, the Uhuru Torch was officially lit on May 17 in Zanzibar’s South Unguja Region where the current Head of State, President Samia Suluhu Hassan, was born.
The lighting symbolically flagged-off the Uhuru Torch Race through 150 administrative districts with the motto “Information and Communications Technology is the Basis of a Sustainable Nation; It Should be Used Appropriately” to officially launch various socioeconomic development projects.
The Torch Race ends today in Chato District, the birthplace of President Hassan’s predecessor and mentor, the late President John Magufuli, who died on March 17 this year.
MOVE ON EDUCATION APT, BUT…
The age-old problem of classroom shortages and cramped spaces in our schools continues in this day and age. However, there is a glimmer of hope that the problem could soon end, thus making teaching and learning a smooth operation.
In that regard, government plans to construct 12,000 classrooms for secondary schools – for which over one million pupils have been selected to join next January – and 3,000 primary school classrooms are most welcome.
Some Sh302.7 billion – part of the Sh535.6 billion allocated to the Education ministry – will be used to improve school accommodation facilities for the ever-rising numbers of learners.
This also calls for improvement of the teacher/student ratio, which should ideally be at 1:40, but currently surpasses that standard mark in primary and secondary schools. Also, there is a need to recruit more teachers to match the rising number of learners in seeking quality education.
The teachers shortage harms not only students, but also the few available teachers, and the education system as a whole. So, as we strive to ensure that adequately-furnished classrooms are available, we should also give priority to teachers’ welfare, including decent housing and remuneration. The government’s plans are laudable, generally, and we hail it for seeking to improve the teaching and learning environment as opportunities so arise.