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Tanzanian universities today

Part 5/6 in a series on the history of Tanzanian universities

So far, we’ve covered a bunch of historical info about education and politics in Tanzania: postcolonialism, founding and accreditation, the 1960s-70s and 2001 onwards.

What does this mean for universities in Tanzania today? One writer has described Tanzanian universities in terms of a tension between socialist ideals (thanks to Nyerere) and capitalist practice (due to pragmatic concerns in a globalised world).

Nyerere’s ideas endure — education as the means to progress and self-reliance — but institutional practice has moved from anti-colonialism towards cooperation. For example, tertiary education is conducted in English and western lecturers are welcomed in Tanzanian universities.

Similarly, the government’s tertiary student loans suggest that universities are open to all, but often it’s only those from private schools who enrol in universities, while the government has a history of not paying the loans (on time, if at all). Students can be exasperated by the inequality and inefficiency they observe. They want to see things change and are sick of being told to be patient or to wait their turn.

This all makes for a rather confused identity, even construed as saying one thing and doing another. Of course, that’s not unique to Tanzania: think of Australia, in which ‘the bush’ and ‘the underdog’ are national icons, yet Australians are pretty much the wealthiest people in the world and 90% of them live in coastal cities! Tanzanian universities, perhaps like Tanzanian people, experience a constant push and pull between idealism and pragmatism; socialist ideals and capitalist practice; self-reliance and cooperation.

In the final post in this series, we’ll briefly consider some of the implications of all this for student ministry in Tanzania.

Categories: Uncategorized University ministry Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

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