TANZANIA IN THE INTERNATIONAL MEDIA

Uganda’s THE MONITOR published an article in June under the heading ‘The Grave of Kiswahili’. Extracts: ‘One of the jokes that Tanzanian army officers told after they overran Uganda and threw out dictator Idi Amin in 1979 was that they had also discovered the ‘grave of Kiswahili’…..After the beautiful language was born in Zanzibar and grew up in Tanzania, it had been killed in Kenya and buried in Uganda…. But the Kenyans are not the only guilty ones in practicing ‘lingocide’, and nor are Ugandans the only lingual undertakers in the region. The Tanzanians themselves are guilty of a similar offence. What Uganda and Kenya did to Kiswahili, the Tanzanians did to English. Suppose you met this smart young lady dressed in a business suit on Parliament Avenue in Kampala and, on asking her for directions, she smiles apologetically and says in her language that she does not know English! It would be odd, wouldn’t it? In Dar es Salaam it would not be. They killed English decades ago. It was the language of colonialists, exploiters and all those things. They reasoned that English is not the same as knowledge and went ahead to promote Kiswahili as the official language in which everything is transacted. Coupled with massive primary education, they soon achieved 100% literacy, probably the highest in the world ever. All citizens could read and write Kiswahili and everybody was happy, for a while.
People in their late-twenties now tell you with regret how they used to escape learning English in primary school. If a teacher insisted on making them speak English, they just had to report the matter to the local party chairman and the teacher would be sorted out. You can still hear the advocates of Kiswahili advance arguments like ‘Chinese and French scientists do not know English yet they manage to invent things.’ However non-English speaking Tanzanian scientists are taking their time inventing anything, and the free market forces are not waiting for them. In the not-so-new post-cold war world of unipolar politics, everyone is rushing to learn the language of the Americans. It is called English. And the free market forces are bringing back the language to Tanzania.
But these are days of willing-buyer-willing-seller. If you want to learn English, you have to pay for it. Gone are the days when adult literacy classes were popular. Today if you are too old to learn US President George W. Bush’s language (in our days it was the Queen’s language) at least your child is not. That way, your child has a better chance of one day getting a job in the growing private sector.

THE EAST AFRICAN (31st October) had an eight page supplement on Mkukuta – the Poverty Eradication Strategy Extracts: There have been many successes in macro-economic performance and in reform of the financial sector, the public service and in local government…. However, more effort is still needed in virtually all areas… poverty remains high. In 2002 18.7% were below the food poverty level. With the population growth the number of poor has actually grown. Unemployment still stands at 12.9% of the labour force…. The strategy has enhanced Tanzania’s macro economic performance….By 2010, 90% of schools will have skilled teachers.
Kenya’s SUNDAY NATION (August 30) reported that the owners of the two giant passenger boats being transported to the Tanzanian port of Mwanza through Kisumu breathed a sigh of relief when the vessels were finally offloaded into Lake Victoria after 18-days ordeal on the Kenyan roads. The boats, each with a capacity of 90 passengers, are owned by the Dar-es-Salaam based Lake Fast Ferries Ltd and were imported from Asia. They are now cruising between Mwanza and Bukoba.
A fascinating 10-page article in VANITY FAIR (May issue) described how, deep in the Tanzanian bush, David Robinson, the 53-year old son of American baseball legend and civil rights hero Jackie Robinson, had exchanged his ‘uneasy compromise with US culture’ for a tribal adoption, an arranged marriage, and an economic crusade. Extracts: ‘As one of the founders of a farmers’ co-operative with 330 small farms, he is using the world’s second most valuable natural resource – coffee – to spur social change. Robinson is organising a 280-acre patch of land called ‘Sweet Unity Farms’ in Mbozi in the Southern Highlands which grows some one million pounds of coffee annually and sells to cafes in New York and to several major league baseball parks. He routinely travels between the farm, where there is only enough solar electricity to power a few light bulbs and a radio, and an office in a midtown Manhattan skyscraper where the nearby ‘Union Square Cafe’ sells the same coffee. Robinson has 10 children – three from his first marriage in America; a daughter born to a Namibian girlfriend; and six children with his Tanzanian-born wife. (Thank you Elsbeth Court for sending this – Editor)

WANDERLUST described in its December issue a three-day event recently held in Pangani. It was said to have had the air of an English country fair. The aim was to face down the HIV epidemic with creative drive and energy. The event used films, plays and songs relevant to Tanzanian culture. The play revolved around an argument between the parents of a girl just coming of age. The mother gives her daughter condoms hoping she’ll protect herself; the father, dressed in a long, white Muslim kanzu, is furious, claiming his wife has turned his daughter into a whore. The catch is that the father has been cheating on his wife all along, putting the whole family at risk from HIV. “This is ground breaking stuff for this traditional Muslim enclave” said the organiser Dr Pieroth.

The London EVENING STANDARD published article on 16th September headed: ‘As world leaders meet yet again to discuss Africa’s plight, why are they still not waking up to the real solution?’ Extracts: ‘The day before, at the UN in New York, the wives of world leaders, delivered by limousines…. sat down to the finest food tended by the highest security. But there was one orphan female in the room who was not a first lady…..her life had been nothing but insecurity. 24-year old Lydia Wilbard, who came to New York from a remote village in Tanzania, suggested a way forward. With the $1.50 she had left from the $2.50 she had been given at her father’s funeral, she bought postcards which she then sold on. Within a year she had enough money to meet her expenses at school. Now she is at a medical college…. She made it clear that the answer to the problem was simple. The longer you keep a girl in school, the smaller her eventual family will be….. female education was the most reliable form of contraception and was the only thing to have any proven effect in halting the spread of Aids……..’ (Thank you Liz Fennell for this – Editor).

The DAILY TELEGRAPH (9th November) published a satirical/cynical article advising investors on where not to invest. Tanzania got a brief mention, because it is ‘Aids rampant’ but primarily because it has the letter Z in its name. Others with a Z were such investment disaster areas as Zimbabwe, The Congo (pillaged by Mobuto), Kyrgyzstan (lack of law and order), and Azerbaijan (bent elections). New Zealand was described as the exception. (Thank you John Sankey – Editor).

According to the Kenyan THE NATION (7th November ) the Catholic Church’s grapevine is abuzz with news that Tanzania’s Catholic bishops plan to push Rome for the canonisation of the late Mwalimu Nyerere who, they state, served his people selflessly for 24 years and was a daily communicant……. ‘Interestingly, of the many things that Mwalimu is well known for, parading his Christianity was not one of them. Even when the cornered Iddi Amin appealed to the Pope to intervene and dissuade the Catholic Mwalimu from overrunning Kampala, few associated Mwalimu with the religious world. His Christian Gospel came to life in his ideals, humility, inspiration, fortitude, courage, vision, selflessness, discipline and desire to teach and help others…. Hate him or like him, the fact remains that Nyerere towers over the African scene as a Kilimanjaro of intellect and an unwavering proponent of social justice.’ (Thank you Christine Lawrence for this – Editor).

An estimated 80% of Tanzanians – from the rice farmers of Shinyanga to the fishing communities on Lake Tanganyika – now have access to a mobile phone according to the December issue of the magazine DEVELOPMENTS. New technology was also said to be making a big difference in its application to education and training. The University of Dar es Salaam had been investing heavily in ICT resources so that it’s library holdings were now available on the Web, making them accessible from every office and laboratory within and outside the university. (Thank you John Sankey for this – Editor).

South Africa’s AFRICAN DECISIONS in its latest issue has an article on the wet lands of southern Africa. The Ramsar Convention, signed in Iran in 1971, defines wetlands as areas of marsh, fen, or peatland with water that is static or flowing. They can reduce floods, recharge groundwater or augment low water flows. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature is supporting SADC in promoting the wise use and integrated management of wetlands. In Tanzania it identifies the Kilombero Valley Floodplain, Lake Natron Basin, the Malagarasi-Muyovozi-Wetlands and the Rufiji-Mafia-Kilwa marine sites as wetlands of international importance.

Scientists who trained rats in Tanzania to sniff out landmines are to branch out into diagnosing tuberculosis in HIV patients and catching smugglers bringing drugs or guns across the borders according to the DAILY TELEGRAPH (4th October). Early tests in a Belgian research programme at Sokoine University indicate that the rats are more accurate and much faster than humans – they can respond to 150 samples in 30 minutes – something which would take three lab technicians a day or more. (Thank you Pru Watts-Russell for this – Editor).

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