Conferences, meetings, workshops and seminars come in all shapes and size – and oftentimes most simply come and go, leaving behind little impression.
But there was some uniqueness about this National Conference on Education in Tanzania opened late last month by no lesser a personality than Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda.
The University of Dar es Salaam’s School of Education had assumed the leadership role in organising this particular “meeting of minds”.
No wonder, among the delegates were several highly distinguished scholars and experts from a number of universities and various other academic and research institutions.
Also in attendance were representatives of a rich cross-section of non-governmental and community based organisations as well as institutions, agencies and other stakeholders that have been partnering with Tanzania in supporting the development of education in the country.
As noted by the PM, the conference was called primarily to take stock of the successes and challenges as well as explore innovative strategies of reforming Tanzania’s education system and recommend the best modalities of knocking into shape and implementing a service delivery structure most able to carry the country into a safe, confident and gainful future.
It is surely too early to say whether, and if so to what extent, the cross-fertilisation of ideas and experiences many watchers eagerly expected to see at play at the conference has achieved the desired objectives.
Still, even by merely setting out to cast critical looks at an education system commonly viewed as far from desirable considering the needs, demands and aspirations of our people in an era of globalisation, the conference ought to be seen as a landmark event that came at a most opportune moment in time.
Going by developments in recent years, it is Tanzanians themselves who have voiced the gravest of concern over what are commonly perceived as crippling deficiencies in the country’s education system.
Rightly or wrongly, many observers argue that the quality of education and training at practically all levels is experiencing a slow but sure decline – that, particularly in public institutions of learning, the tendency now is to go for quantity rather than quality.
Even worse, though, is that it has also been lately “discovered” that even some of the so-called international or English-medium and other private schools and colleges charging hefty amounts of fees because they once were believed to offer superb quality education and training now appear but pale shadows of their former selves.
The results of last year’s national Form Four examinations have made even more people disillusioned, especially in that sop many candidates performed poorly that too few have qualified for Form Five enrolment in public schools – which has made the government wondering what to do about it.
Hundreds of candidates had meanwhile “prematurely” secured Form Five enrolment in private secondary schools – just in case… – and it’s only now that some are rethinking their decisions, after doing well in the exams. This is adding to the headaches of the Education and Vocational Training ministry’s planners and individual schools.
It will be great discovering that this conference has richly added to plans to boost the standard of our education and seeing evidence of more similarly rehabilitative efforts in being made.