This past week it was reported, to the dismay of many, that a leading medical training institution had revoked 160 degree certificates, citing irregularities in granting those certificates. Jaws dropped everywhere.
According to reports, the university has been struggling with cheating, examination paper leakages and other instances of dishonest behaviour practised by university institutions, faculty and students, but to no avail.
A local newspaper was reporting that between 2015 and 2021, over 300 Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree holders had been directed to authenticate their certificates, suspected of being counterfeits, but over half of them had failed to comply with the order.
So, now the University Senate had reached the decision to revoke the degrees of those “graduates” who had chosen to not comply with the order... “refusing to return academic transcripts issued to them without the knowledge and endorsement of the University Senate, despite thorough reminders”.
No requisite due diligence
Put plainly, the university authorities discovered that some degrees had been awarded without the requisite due diligence, and that these authorities had ordered holders of these degrees to come forward and show the bona fides of their certificates but the latter had refused to obey the instruction. That would mean that many of the doctors in the cohorts referred to were out and about practising “medicine” without the requisite qualifications; quacks on the loose, so to speak.
The question I asked myself immediately I saw this news item was whether this was a special version of the crap hitting the fan, which would arouse disbelief, anger, fear, anxiety and panic sufficient to jolt Tanzanians into realising that matters have gone to an extent where resolute action – whatever that might mean—needed to be taken to arrest the situation.
But then I found myself being answered by a small voice from inside of me, telling me, rhetorically: So, what is new? Isn’t cheating our way of doing things?
Reduced to a syndicate
Indeed, what is new? It is known that our education has been reduced to a syndicate for teaching our learners how to sit examinations and get high marks, whether or not they actually understand what they are being examined in.
School owners want to attract as many parents as they can because that means higher revenues for them, and the parents are attracted to the “best performing” schools, meaning those schools who score highest in national exams; so school owners buy exam papers and sell them to their students to help their students score high marks and attract other parents to bring their children to the school. It is not a vicious circle, it is an industry we are all caught up in.
Before we could recover our collective jaws as a nation, we were treated to another jaw-dropper. A visibly irate President Samia Suluhu Hassan publicly announced that it had been discovered that financial malpractices were rampant in public institutions, occasioning massive losses. She had been presented with reports by the Controller and Auditor General and the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau.
The president elucidated on some irregularities that had been flagged up by the two oversight bodies, showing unacceptable variances between budgetary plans and actual amounts disbursed. Also mentioned were parastatal organisations that had long outlived their usefulness but continued to amass monumental losses, a major drain on the country’s exchequer.
She sounded sore and hurt, saying at one stage, “we ourselves are killing our country” and pledging resolute action to stop the financial haemorrhage. Experts and analysts are still mulling the president’s preoccupation, but there is already a sense of deja vu, because over and over again, over the years, the same usual suspects came up on this same parade, but little was done to stem their infractions.
I have this eerie feeling that these are endemic problems which have been sewn into our body politic and our bureaucracy, and to uproot them one has to pull the whole edifice down, with the rats and the cockroaches.
But the point I opened with (about fake doctors running around with their scalpels and scissors, operating on the legs of people with headaches), will not allow me sleep for a couple of nights.
We happen to have a young minister responsible to education, and he is someone I do respect. But my respect for his personal ability does not go as far as believing that he and his ministry can alone find a cure for the ills in the education docket; they are too much for a minister and his/her ministry;
What is needed is a strategic national rethinking, and this should be done at the most strategic level, involving the head of state herself. The point here is that as a nation we have to redefine the kind of education we think is appropriate for our people, and take deliberate long-term plans to reorder our philosophy and practical interventions to craft a learning society, not a society of zombies.
I suspect I’ll be back.
Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]