During Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye’s visit to London in late September he met students and answered questions, many of which had been sent by e-mail from students all over the world. After a few general questions a lady student stood up. She was so young and so good looking, not the sort from who you would expect a harsh or embarrassing question. Then she took the mike, paid due respect to the Chair (High Commissioner Dr Shareef) and the PM. She mentioned her name as we had all been asked to do. Then she said “Mimi ni mwanafunzi wa MBA Scotland, niliyeletwa na serikali ya Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania (I am an MBA student in Scotland and I was brought here by the government of the United Republic of Tanzania).
And that was it. She stopped talking and started crying. Sobbing heavily and tears trickling down her cheeks. We all went dead silent and looked at her as she was in the very front row. The episode ended when one voice from the floor simultaneously with the High Commissioner sad ‘basi, kaa, tumekusikia na kukuelewa’ (“OK sit down. We’ve heard and understood”) a sentence which was spontaneously and instantly repeated by those in attendance, starting with the front seats and repeated by row after row from the front to the back of the hall almost mantra. The lady’s point had touched all of us in attendance.
Later, our High Commissioner, who I must say was on top of the proceedings, announced that there was a question which was going to be read out. It was in Swahili and went into some detail about the plight of various groups of students, of how they had had to resort to kazi za suluba (hard labour) or had gone into debt or had not been able to obtain their certificates on completion of courses because there were no funds to pay for the fees.
The PM faced over 50 questions and he did well. But this was the only question in which he did not try to defend the government’s policy or practice. He simply said that mistakes had been made by sending abroad more students than the government could afford and that some of them (undergraduates) should never have been sent abroad in the first place. However, some funds had already been sent to relieve student problems and more would follow. He reminded us that he was also a parent and asked us to believe in his word. The questioner had now come back into the hall, sobbing again.
(It is understood that no more undergraduates will he sent abroad at government expense and there has also been a freeze on sending even postgraduates abroad save in exceptional cases – Editor)