SUNDAY December 17, 2023
By Patty Magubira
The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania
The Tanzania government has reminded its higher learning institutions to live up to their core mandates and collaborate with each other and respective professional gurus to meet their crosscutting needs.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Professor Carolyne Nombo, observed that universities were losing focus of their core mandates by establishing schools to fill gaps of services they could outsource.
Addressing heads of departments at Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in Arusha, Tanzania, recently, Prof Nombo said the ministry was liaising with the Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU) to enforce the directive.
“You do not need to establish a whole school to commercialise your prototypes, you can just engage business experts, lest you deviate from your mandate of carrying out scientific and technological research,” she explained.
To avoid duplication of courses, Prof Nombo said the NM-AIST, for instance, could liaise with Mzumbe University for its management expertise needs for it to remain focused on scientific and technological research.
Prof Anthony Mshandete, the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic, Research and Innovation, told the Permanent Secretary that MN-AIST had established a School of Business Studies and Humanities (BuSH) in 2011 to offer Master’s and PhD courses with a view of grooming effective industrial captains, entrepreneurs and innovation managers,
Prof Nombo commended the NM-AIST, however, for mobilising funds and other resources to ensure the institution goes in the right direction, admitting that the government could meet barely 10 per cent of its budget, given competing needs of other sectors.
With four patents currently in place at NM-AIST, the government’s burden of subsidising it would greatly be reduced, as the institution would no longer be heavily dependent on the national coffers.
“Resource mobilisation is a crucial aspect, if we rely on one basket only, we cannot make it,” cautioned Prof Nombo, admitting once again that NM-AIST was the government’s important ally in pushing the country into high-level development.
“There’s no country that develops without good application of science and technology,” stressed Prof Nombo, saying over 200 lecturers scattered in other universities in the country was a ripple effect of the NM-AIST.
“Reaching out to community being one of your five pillars, your visibility is important. Tanzanians should know all what you achieve for them to feel the presence of and own NM-AIST,” said Prof Nombo, adding:
“Disseminating your research findings also will testify that the institution is living up to the Nelson Mandela’s Pan-Africanism dream.”
NM-AIST being in Tanzania’s tourism capital of Arusha had a competitive advantage of attracting tourists to borrow a leaf from the institution’s book.
All what NM-AIST needed to do was to identify areas out of its research niche that would attract tourists and develop products that would, in turn, generate revenue and increase visibility of the institution locally, abroad and overseas.
It was time the 14-year old NM-AIST interrogated itself whether it was really Pan-Africanist by solving African and global challenges instead of looking at the growing number of students and countries drawn from.
“Much as NM-AIST is named after an eminent African, the institution must carry his dream,” stressed Prof Nombo, querying whether the institution could realise its dream with human and other resources at its disposal.
Looking at the NM-AIST staff profile with only two fully-fledged professors, Prof Nombo said the institution still had a long way to go.
Out of 326 staff of the NM-AIST, 148 are in the Academic Department, with two professors, 18 associate professors, 15 senior lecturers, 34 lecturers and 79 assistant lecturers.
Prof Nombo was optimistic, nevertheless, that with the Higher Education Economic Transformation (HEET) project in progress, the number of professors would soon shoot up.
Mr Daniel Fissoo, the NM-AIST Chief Planning Officer, said HEET, a five-year national project worth $425 million, aimed at strengthening the learning environment and aligning priority programmes with the labour market.
Its primary goal is to enhance delivery of knowledge and produce graduates who meet the demand and standard of the current and future market.
The project offers scholarships to lecturers, improves dormitories, lecture rooms, conference halls and other infrastructure to both public and private universities countrywide.
It is understood that over $1 million has been earmarked for scholarships for lecturers from private universities alone.
Prof Nombo advised the NM-AIST to also consider devising strategies for engaging women as the government did through Samia Scholarship with a view of promoting female students who perform better in science studies.
“I am glad you engage students in the management of the institution. Mind you, students are clients of the institution,” the Permanent secretary said.
In so doing, she explained, the management directly got feedback on the students’ concerns and created the environment for its clients to pursue their studies comfortably.
Prof Nombo pleaded with the Human Resource Department to assist the NM-AIST in building a calm entity whose staff abode by procedures and ethics of the land.
The value of any mature professional scientist and technologist was measured by his adherence to civil service standing orders.
Education institutions are a place for people to learn civilisation. Otherwise, those passing through the institutions were difficult to get to.
“Lecturers should, therefore, become role models for students to emulate them. We cannot produce civilised students if we do not have those values ourselves,” she insistedΩ