On the weekend I had the privilege of witnessing the 31st AGM of TAFES Tanzania and its second national Leadership Training Seminar.
TAFES is a Christian organisation working with Tanzanian university and college campuses. The Tanzanian higher education sector had 259,266 students enrolled for the 2020-21 academic year, with about 63,000 students being admitted each year on average. For its part, TAFES was working with student fellowships on 76 campuses with a combined total of 4,553 student members.
That’s less than 2% of the national student population. Is that too insignificant? Certainly as TAFES we have been aiming to broaden the scope of our work, but to what extent should we be aiming to bridge that gap?
On the way home from the AGM, I rode with TAFES graduate Faustin,* a senior accountant in the judiciary who supervises fifty of the seventy-odd accountants in his arm. He works under another TAFES graduate.
‘As I see it,’ I said, ‘the vision is not to make 260,000 Christians; it’s to create a witness to Christ on campus and to do a work that creates a generation living for Jesus in their work, families, research, teaching, and every walk of life.’
‘Yes,’ he said. He told me about one TAFES graduate who is a presidential appointee. Prior to the appointment, that department had lost the trust of the government and had had its funding cut. Since this TAFES graduate was appointed a couple of years ago, the department has been affirmed in parliament, and the government has increased its funding again. ‘It is shining,’ said Faustin.
In the most recent round of presidential nominees, he went on, there are ten district commissioners and regional commissioners. Two or three are TAFES graduates from the late 90s and early 2000s.
That’s the vision, he told me: to have 20-30% who ‘shine’.
This is the vision for ten times better: a community-within-the-community who stand out, not because they are smarter or more ambitious, but because of their ‘good works’, their integrity and excellence and other-centredness, the fruit of following a different Lord.
The national Leadership Training Seminar began the next day, and National Director Mussa Kimaro began outlining the vision to 100+ TAFES student leaders.
He explained that the vision of TAFES goes beyond its own student fellowships to the university and college campuses in their entirety. It’s a vision that originated with the IFES vision: to have a witness to Christ in every one of the world’s universities. As has been said before in IFES, this is not just a ministry to students, but a ministry by Christian students to the university as a whole.
Since 2000, the number of Tanzanian students and campuses has exploded, and it has been a challenge for TAFES to keep up. Yet the vision for ‘shining’ remains. In the next post, I’ll look at how Mussa presented it to the student leaders.
* Name changed
Header image: silver/aluminium pendant by Agnieszka Maksymiuk
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.