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Tanzanian universities: implications for student ministry

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

We’ve sketched out a brief history of Tanzanian universities: postcolonialism, founding and accreditation, the 1960s-70s, 2001 and the present day. There’s a range of implications for student ministry to do with things like:

  • The legitimacy of student ministry in universities — especially considering the former sacred/secular divide in tertiary education;
  • Models of student ministry: developing something that is uniquely Tanzanian and relevant to the Tanzanian context, rather than a model from elsewhere (one example: Australian uni ministry has a lot to do with camp-conferences, but Tanzanian students may not have access to campsites or money for ‘getaways’);
  • The sustainability of a ministry involving (white, Western) Australians and the challenge of building (and funding) Tanzanian leadership;
  • Discipleship in Tanzanian universities: what are the key issues?

Let’s focus for a moment on the last one and, in particular, how to interact with the tension between socialist ideals and capitalist practice.

There’s a great deal to affirm about Tanzanian socialist ideals: collective identity, social responsibility and love for others all have deep biblical associations. However, these ideals have also led to economic disaster. Does that undermine them? Students we talked to in Tanzania were pretty interested both in wealth creation and in migration, and why wouldn’t they be!

If, despite the feelings of hopelessness and the poverty and cost to their families, students are to remain in Tanzania, they’re going to need:

  • To be well-equipped with tools to undo corruption, greed and self-centredness;
  • To believe that transformation is possible.

These, perhaps, will be the issues we’ll discover time and again: building moral character and love for others that manifests in action. At one level, these values are deeply Tanzanian: it sounds like what Nyerere was trying to do. And like Nyerere, we don’t see this as ‘our’ (Western) job to do. We expect that this will be a work of Tanzanian students. We expect that they will apply these concepts in their own culture; we’ll just be part of the conversation.

But there’s a fundamental difference from Nyerere’s ideas as well, because we believe this is the work of the Holy Spirit, in which greed is replaced with concern for others and self-centredness with service only insofar as students are deeply converted to Christ. It is the Holy Spirit that provides these resources.

We believe that this transformation in individuals has a flow-on effect: these lives of service not only change systems but are so compelling that they lead to opportunities to speak of our compelling God, to inviting others to know and live for him. And so it is knowing Jesus, being changed by him and living lives for him, that will see Tanzania transformed.

Categories: Tanzania 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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