Friday, January 23, 2009

Expose on salient issues in students politic


The whistle marking the beginning of elections processes at the University of Dar es salaam (UDSM) has recently been blown. With the position the UDSM students famously known as intellectuals at the Hill had, have, or at least ought to occupy in the society these processes should not pass without raising the eyebrows of many. Consequently the hub of this commentary is the UDSM students’ organization believed to be the spring of national leadership. The writer exposes salient issues on students politic and attempts to fill the ideological vacuum in the UDSM student community
Concerned Students Should reform UDSM politic

Past decade experienced notable students’ struggles in the country. The use of the coercive instruments of the state like the police and the unanimous closure of the University continues to characterize the reaction of the Government towards students’ struggles. University of Dar es salaam normally referred to as the Hill, experiences students’ struggles since its inception in early 1960s. The well-documented incidences like the 1966 National Service Demonstration and the 1978 Struggle against the salaries hike of the MPs are well known to the activists of the past and present.

It may be recalled that one of the first actions of the independent government was the establishment of the University College of Dar es salaam as part of the University of East Africa.
As could have been expected, no sooner had the new college been opened than the students formed their organs of representation. One such student organization, which was formed in order to take care of students’ affairs, interests and problems, was the University College of Dar es salaam Student Union (USUD).

USUD, which was an elitist and a petty bourgeois student organization was established in October 1961 and changed its name to DUSO in 1970 following the establishment of the University of Dar es salaam. During USUD tenure, there established in 1964 the National Union of Tanzania Students (NAUTS), which organized the demonstration against the conditions for compulsory National Service Programme by the Government. The service was to include the students completing their high school or institutions of higher learning. It was proposed that the duration of the service to be two years and the salaries of the students to be cut by 40% in eighteen months of service.

During DUSO’s time there were also massive student struggles which involved the militant student organization USARF that was established by Yoweri Museveni (Current President of Uganda) and other activists like Walter Rodney, Issa Shivji and Horace Campbell. DUSO was banned in 1978 following the demonstration by students against the move by the members of parliament to hike their salaries while the country was in a deep economic crisis. Students were not only badly beaten by the Police but also sent home by Lorries. This is the major incident for which students stood for the issue that was not affecting them directly.

Following the 1978 student struggles the government placed all the activities of the students under the party youth wing. Therefore, Muungano wa Wanafunzi Tanzania (MUWATA) was established and operated under Umoja wa Vijana wa Chama cha Mapinduzi (UVCCM). The following years were largely silent of any students’ struggles besides the fact that students struggled to get rid of MUWATA.They were successful in early 1990 when MUWATA was abandoned following the wave of multipartism. Hence, The Dar Es Salaam University’s Student Organization (DARUSO-Mlimani) was established as a sole students’ organization at the University of Dar es salaam as recognized by the University of Dar es salaam Act No. 12 of 1970.

The establishment of DARUSO revived the students’ activism at the hill. Although the struggles were rampant, they followed the social-economic changes that were taking place in the country. Most of the struggles were characterized by bread- and-butter politics. Students were largely struggling for students’ welfare issues like the allowances and the likes. Majority of the students have turned into petty bourgeoisies hence progressive ideas are very limited.

The DARUSO constitution recalls that diligent students’ organization had improved to great extent a cordial relationship based on mutual understanding between the students of the University of Dar es salaam and other stakeholders/beneficiaries. DARUSO was meant to enhance academic prosperity, good governance, democracy and human rights observance. However, for the past few years this organization has been betraying its just course. DARUSO is plagued with corruption and misuse of funds; lack of transparency and accountability; conflicts among its leaders; increasing gap between its leaders and the common students; tribalism and other forms of discrimination, puppetism and individualism. The root causes of all these menace are known to be poor management and poor leadership. As a result the students have lost trust and interest over DARUSO and its processes.
This calls for a movement of concerned students to make progressive change in the students’ community through a holistic reform process. This reform process will enhance academic prosperity, good governance, democracy and human rights observance through promoting good leadership and social responsibility.

Trust, confidence, partnership, tripartite and mutually between the government, DARUSO and UDSM administration should be restored. Dialogue should be promoted at all levels in collaboration with other actors such as The Tanzania Students Networking Programme (TSNP). Every problem should be solved through negotiations, protest should not be entertained. This may be used if all the means of solving matters amicably have been exhausted.

Democratization is needed to address the academic problems of students. For instance, students should be involved in academic planning fully and encouraged to make useful inputs in the development of academic curricula. In 1984, for the first time since independence, the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania was amended to include a Bill of Rights. The Constitution provided for the right to education and the right to opinion and expression which include academic freedom. But rights are not simply given; they are won. And even when won, they cannot endure unless protected, nurtured and continuously defended against encroachment and curtailment.

Concerning the students’ welfare the era of the government to cover all the costs and other amenities has gone. The forerunners of student activism have struggled to resist cost sharing but they failed. A new approach is needed to ensure that in the implementation of these programs does not affect the welfare of the poor students. This should include massive sensitization of the student community and ensure that safety nets such as the education fund are operating. The stringent conditions of the international Shylocks have begun to put a squeeze on education in a dramatic fashion. Tanzania, like the rest of the African continent, finds itself entangled in a web of socio-economic crises. As budgetary allocations for education become minuscule, education is threatening to become the preserve of a minority of the wealthy and influential in our society.

This new outlook is to involve promoting self-realization among students and enabling the students to understand their responsibility in the community. As People's free and independent existence is in question, they are beginning to question the existence of unfree and right-less policies. Students, as academicians, intellectuals and purveyors of knowledge, have a human obligation and a social responsibility towards the People's Struggle for Rights, Freedom, Social Transformation and Human Emancipation. The participation of students in the struggle of the people is inseparably linked with the struggle for the autonomy of institutions of higher education and the freedom to pursue knowledge without let, hindrance and interference from persons in authority.

Society needs to see a well-coordinated, networked, knowledgeable and committed students’ community in which students freely and actively participate in issues pertaining to their welfare and that of the whole society. The concerned students should come up and reform the UDSM student politic.

The author of this article-Mnyika, J.J. is a youth activist.

This article was written early 2005(by then the author was non partisan) but it can be circulated and serve as food for thought early 2009 and beyond. A series of events have happened since then in student body politic, with both positive and negative trends. Of recent the university was closed and DARUSO top leadership are not part of the students who have been so far re-admitted.( DARUSO has been technically disbanded due to leadership vacuum- unlikely DUSO which was legally disbanded). The demonstration organized by TSNP against cost sharing policy and solidarity call for unconditionally readmission of all students has been technically banned by the police. (By mere reason that TSNP has said its an organization while it is a company limited by guarantee!. So according to Commander Kova, TSNP that submitted permit application letter is legally inexistent. Although he recognizes that there is a company registered in BRELA No.42386 called Tanzania Students Networking Programme).

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