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Merits and demerits of mushrooming private universities
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Friday, 01 October 2010 05:21

LYAMUYA STANLEY

OBVIOUSLY, the implementations of the Secondary Education Development Program (SEDP) in the country had given birth to an increased number of students completing Form Six or Advanced Secondary School Education (ACSE).

These students are now in tens of thousands and as revealed last year by the National Examinations Council of Tanzania (Necta) executive secretary Dr. Joyce Ndalichako, around 32,000 students who completed Form Six in February 2009 had attained the required qualifications to join universities education in the academic year 2009/10.

These students, about 12,052 girls and 19,750 boys had passed their Advanced Secondary Education Examinations (ASEE) in Divisions I-III.

The said students are expecting to be enrolled in both public and private universities across the country with some who will be lucky enough will get a chance of pursuing their higher education in other universities across the globe.

It is obvious that those who have Divisions I and II will get a place in public universities after filling in the required application forms. These students, according to the policy by the government will be entitled to educational loans from the Higher Education Student Loans Board (HESLB).

Some of these students with Division I and II pass grades will also get a place in private universities after opting or choosing to study in them. Private universities also accept Divisions III students whose parents or other institutions can agree to pay for both their respective tuitions, accommodation and other expenses.

For those lucky to join public universities the doors will be open for them in places like the University of Dar-es-salaam (UDSM), University of Dodoma (UDOM), Mzumbe University , UCLAS, Muhimbili University College of Health Science (MUCHS) and Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA).

The same applies to those joining private universities, as the doors will be open for them in places like St. Augustine University, Tumaini University, Ruaha University, Stephano Moshi Memorial University, St John University, St. Joseph University, IMTU, Mt. Meru University, Bishop Kolowa University and others.

I am not worried at all with those students who will be joining public universities. However, my great worries are to those students who will be joining private universities.

First is the fact that during recent years the country has seen an increase or an influx in the number of registered private universities whose benefits to the community or the nation are not clear.

In recent years, we have all observed cases whereby religious institutions (especially of the Christian denomination) have been competing to open up private universities as much as they can.

In recent years, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT) through its education department has opened up universities such as KCM College, Makumira College and Iringa College all under the umbrella of Tumaini University .

Not withstanding, Tumaini University also has opened up campuses in Dar es Salaam as Tumaini University, Dar es Salaam campus.

Of late ELCT has opened up another university known as Stephano Moshi Memorial University by just converting the former Masoka College situated at Kibosho, Moshi Rural in Kilimanjaro region.

In Tanga region, precisely in Lushoto district ELCT has opened up another university known now as Bishop Kolowa Memorial University .

The Roman Catholic Church has expanded the former Nyegezi Institute to the now known as St Augustine University while at the same time converting the former Teachers College at Kibosho in Kilimanjaro region to what is now Mwenge University.

Again, the Catholic Church through certain nuns from India, has built and opened up St Joseph University catering for Engineering and Technical studies in Dar and Ruvuma.

The Anglican Church was not left behind they have opened up a university housed at the premises of the former Mazengo Secondary School, known as St John University .

Religious institutions like the Ismailia under HH The Agha Khan and other denominations have opened IMTU and the Islamic University College in Morogoro. The latter is homed at the former refugee camp for ANC fighters, known by then as Mazimbu, after having been a Tanesco College for a while.

Well, I am not against the idea of having so many private universities in the country but rather worried about one basic fact.

This fact is none but was time ripe enough for the country to have so many private universities?

The eruption of so many private universities in the country leaves much to be desired as to whose benefits really are all these mushrooming private universities.

Before 2005 all these private universities were colleges offering certificates or diplomas courses. Almost all these private public universities came into being after the inauguration of the Higher Education Student Loans Board (HESLB) in 2005.

Facts tell it that the now Mwenge University College was formerly a Teachers College offering certificates and diplomas in Education to the would be teachers later to teach in secondary schools owned and run by the Catholic Church in the country.

In the same vein, the following universities and their former colleges/schools in brackets are St John University (Mazengo Sec School), Stephano Memorial University (Masoka College), St Augustine University (Nyegezi Institute), Makumira University (Makumira Theological College- meant to produce priests to preach in Lutheran churches across the country) while Bishop Kolowa University came into being after converting a High School.

Looking at Tumaini University campuses like KCM College, no one can deny the fact that this university came into being after converting part of the KCMC referral hospital into a university.

Space provided for me today does not give me much room to describe origins of the remaining university in the country but facts stand that most private universities were not initially planned to be universities. They rather came into being after converting a former college, institute or high school, abruptly.

A real university ought to have been planned right from the beginning to be a university like what the government is now doing with the University of Dodoma.

There are some special features required before a certain place is called a university, and not like the way it has been with our private universities where anyone within a day can decide to have a university and the second day that university is there.

These among other things include enough and adequate number of lecturers, senior lecturers, associate and full professors and not like the way it is being done in our private universities whereby tutors are turned within a day to be university lecturers.

Halls of residence for the students, well furnished library, lecture theaters, laboratories of the required universal standards and cafeterias are perquisite to any university.

Ask the mushrooming private universities' administrations as to whether they are complying with the above perquisites, and the answer will be 'no' or 'give us time' and making things worse, you may be told 'plans are underway to comply.' How can one start to operate a university while having plans to comply with having enough lecturers? This is a huge failing.

To all these private universities what matters is registration and approval with the recent authority with its offices at Sukari House in Dar es Salaam and nothing more than that.

From this viewpoint it is obvious that most of the mushrooming universities across the country have been established after the birth of HESLB in 2005, and solely established for the purposes of getting money paid to them as tuition and accommodation fees by HESLB and not otherwise.

These private universities normally charge skyrocketing tuition and accommodation fees not to be affordable at all by students from poor families if not HESLB. The tuition fees charged by private universities is more than double the one charged by public universities.

To illustrate this here is an example. While the tuition fee for a student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree at Tumaini University at Iringa campus is Tshs 3 million the same is around Tshs 1.2 million at UDSM.

With this in mind it is then obvious that most of the mushrooming private universities in the country have been started or are just there to siphon the government-obtained tax payers' money issued to them as students tuition fees through HESLB.

At one time, I had a chat with a student pursuing a degree course at a private university, a finalist, third year student. Among the questions I asked him was in his class how many students started first year and how many where now in third year.

Well, I had a reason to ask this question. In his reply, he said all students who started first year where now in third year meaning no supplementary exams, no referral to a year and no one was discontinued from studies.

I started to wonder, as to how comes with the toughness of studies at university all students are excelling that much well.

Cases of supplementary exams, student discontinuations and repeating years are part and parcel of any university across the globe. Eyebrows should be raised where such things do not exist.

After doing some brain storming I came to learn why most private universities in the country do not have cases where the students are subjected to supplementary exams, discontinuation or repeating academic years.

Most of them are doing business and as such to them students failures will lead to discouraging future students from joining their universities, meaning less more money from HESLB.

I am not sure about a certain hypothesis going around but, hear say tells it that employers have a tendency of rejecting graduates from private universities in favor of those from public universities.

The hear say tells that a Doctor of Medicine graduate from Muhimbili University College of Health Science will stand a better chance in the labour market than the same graduate from KCM College.

When attending an interview a Law graduate from UDSM or Mzumbe University will stand as better chances of getting a job as a state attorney or a magistrate when compared to the same graduate from Makumira or Iringa universities. I am not sure of these hypothesis but hear say tells it that way.

If this is true, it is obvious that employers across the country have smelt a rat on the grooming of respective graduates from private universities. With all this in mind, it is worthy noting that the now mushrooming universities in the country have a business-hidden agenda practiced under the umbrella of offering higher education. For sure, something ought to be done to rescue this situation.

ENDS

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