I was saddened to read of the death of Bibi Titi Mohamed (Tanzanian Affairs No 68). I recall a visit she made to Mbeya in 1958 or ’59. Several thousand Wasafwa/Wanyakusa greeted her ecstatically with the ritual roar : “Bibi Titi, Mwenye Kiti; Bibi Titi Mwenye Kiti … ” while she hoisted her imposing figure on to the platform. Dressed in what seemed to be a large, black tent, she acknowledged the acclamation. Then she went into her act, her vocal chords big as her stomach, she had no need of loud hailers. “The white Queenie over the seas” she proclaimed, “robs us through her underlings here, arse-lickers who send our money back to the Queenie. Who are these mobsters ?” she asked; then answered her question by pointing a podgy finger straight at me, the solitary Mzungu standing on the edge of the crowd “He’s one of them”. Several thousand black heads turned to focus on me. Whereupon Bibi Titi’s indictment seemed so absurd that the great throng, Bibi Titi and myself as well, fell about laughing and dancing. A formidable lady indeed.
I much enjoyed the recent issue of Tanzanian Affairs, one of the best I remember. It was good to get your first -hand comments on the elections, specially relevant in the light of the recent unrest. Could I please be sent an extra copy of this issue for my son in Zanzibar? I was also heartened to read the pages about the ‘economic miracle’ – initially at least, until continuing contacts with Tanzanians made me ask again the question I asked on my visit last summer: ‘What is there for ordinary Tanzanians in this economic revival?’
One of those ordinary Tanzanians, an old friend of ours now living in Morogoro, tells me her son has just gained entry to Secondary School in Mbeya. The first term fees are Shs. 120,000 plus uniform and various other items amounting to a further Shs 50,000. She tells me she is going back to her home area (Ugogo) to grow groundnuts and sell them at the roadside. She knows how crucial her son’s education is for the family’s future. So we were glad to help – but it is still not enough. He needs a further Shs 53,500 for textbooks plus Shs 110,400 for more clothing, a mattress and bus fares. The total is about £300 for just the first term. My friend can manage it through us, but there are thousands that can’t. How relevant in the context of real life are the ‘internet cafes … surfers learning about the outside world, chatting with relatives in Europe or hawking curios to Hong Kong’ (Economist)? Frankly, I’d rather have the Economist’s old criticisms than its new praises for amenities which make sense only in terms of Western lifestyles. It has still never recognised the enormous achievements of literacy, Universal Primary Education and free education at secondary and tertiary level. To assess Tanzania by Western criteria always was a futile exercise. There are a number of questions that come to mind:
– We know Jubilee 2000’s magnificent campaign has reduced Tanzania’s debt burden somewhat, but these funds are supposed to be spent on health and education for the poor. Can we expect IMF and World Bank to demand free education, as Mwalimu did on principle, for those who are too poor to take advantage of their academic success? I fear that at worst they will just want to foster trade and at best will just pay school teachers more (fully deserved but of little help to poor families).
– What long-term future can Tanzania have if the creation of educational opportunities for all is not a top priority? The present level of school fees is suicidal for the nation, not just for poor families. What are the prospects of reverting to Mwalimu’s vision for education?
– Building up hopes for those who work hard and then frustrating them is a sure recipe for future unrest (hitherto absent from Tanzania) and will open the door to graft and corruption. I am told by other Tanzanians that my friend’s plight is normal today. Could you please give some publicity to this reality and to the facts of education in your next issue, so that readers realise that these glowing international assessments (which initially make us Tanzaniophiles so proud) relate more to cloud cuckoo land than to the lives of typical Tanzanians?
SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION
Thank you for the latest issue of Tanzanian Affairs …. I have a distant Tanzania connection. I was two years at the Kongwa School; my sisters were at Mbeya and Iringa schools while I was at school in England. My parents worked in Tanganyika/Tanzania from 1951 to 1960. I would be interested in appealing to your readers for accounts of work in soil or water conservation in the country focusing on techniques used, successes, failures and reasons.
Fiona Armstrong (please send responses to the Editor)
Dr Andrew Burton, Assistant Director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa has written to say that he has noted with horror that in his review of the book on Peri-Urban Development in Dar es Salaam (TA No. 67) he had referred to the authors of the book as Davis and Mwamfupe (instead of Biggs and Mwamjupe). Apologies – Editor.
In response to the letter from Catherine Lee (TA No 67) Peter White has sent us a list he has compiled of some 120 organisations (with addresses in the UK or Ireland) which are involved in Tanzania. He says that he would welcome information about omissions or correction. Copies are available (please enclose a 50p stamp) from him – Editor.