THE emphasis on education since our country won independence from Britain in 1961 has been so tremendous that the general opinion is that we are passing through an era of educational revolution without really being fully conscious of it.
Our experience since independence has indicated that shortage of talents and skills needed for development could decisively retard economic progress. We, therefore, accorded the creation and improvement of “human capital" premier attention in development planning.
One major focus of educational policy in Tanzania has been the ultimate provision of formal education to every child of school going age to at least primary school level, on the ground that universal education is vital in improving people’s receptiveness to new ideas.
The other objective of educational policy is the creation of an adequate stock of skills needed in the process of social and economic development.
Two major problems have tended to impair the successes of our educational programme. There is the constraint arising from the serious shortage of qualified and competent technical teaching staff. So also the persistent problem of the educational gap among the different geographical areas of the country.
One question that nags many Tanzanians is the prospect of employment for graduates of the different levels of our educational schemes - primary, post-primary and the universities.
In spite of the lofty hopes of our development plans, it is evident that one of the tensions of our economic progress is the high rate of unemployment prevailing all over the urban centres of the country.
This situation has sparked off protests from critics who feel that educational development should be tailored to suit our manpower requirements.
Schooling is the largest investment in human capital. This implies that most of the economic capabilities of people are not given at birth or at the time when children first start their schooling. The acquired skills and capabilities are given through the subjects studied in the schools.
Over the last more than four and a half decades, Tanzania has devoted a large amount of resources to the expansion of education at all levels of the educational ladder. The largest share has been absorbed by primary education, which has come to be regarded as the problem child. Graduates at all levels hope to escape from their parental occupations.
When parents sacrificed everything to train their children in schools, it was with the intention that they should never return to take out a precarious existence in the traditional sector.
They were being groomed for service in the modern sector as members of the elite group. These pious hopes are confronted by the call for rural transformation as the only panacea for solving our protracted economic difficulties, especially with regard to inflation.
Rich countries can afford to provide education for its own sake – that is, for its academic excellence. But in Tanzania, the concept of education should be for the purpose of earning a living since its prime objective is to bring the individual to a point where he or she can do a job or work with such skill, intelligence, taste and responsibility, that his or her occupation becomes a source of creative and satisfying living.
What we require to do now is to pursue these grandiose proposals with the urgency they deserve. More than anything, priority should be given to labour-intensive projects. Our best hope is that our educational system must produce a large population of practical persons who can stand on their own feet without waiting for salaried jobs.