Saturday, January 25, 2020

#KaribuSamatta: Tanzanian Football Goes Global


Muhidin Shangwe

For years, Tanzanian football was so bad that the country’s former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi likened the national team to a madman’s head. The legend has it that before they became proven professionals, amateur barbers would take their turns on a ‘madman’s head’ to learn the trade! National and club teams across the continent would use Tanzania, for instance, to practice their new formations, perfect their passing skills and still hammer the football-loving nation by ridiculous margins. 
But things are changing. Fast.

Last year, Tanzania qualified for the African Cup of Nations in Egypt for the first time since 1980. They were thrown out of the competition in the group stage but for many fans a mere appearance in the competition was enough. In the same year, Tanzania’s Simba Sports Club reached the quarter finals of the CAF Champions League. It was a year of football ecstasy for the country.
As 2019 came to an end, 2020 looked promising and it has already delivered. Mbwana Samatta, the national team’s skipper, became the first Tanzanian player ever to join the lucrative English Premier League when he signed for Aston Villa on 20 January 2020. The announcement was done in style too. A photo of Samatta beaming with a smile, holding an Aston Villa shirt was accompanied with a hashtag #KaribuSamatta.
The Aston Villa hierarchy and club fans will probably never understand what this move means to Tanzania, a country known for its natural beauty. Indeed it will be difficult to make them understand, at least for now. 

Before penning down a four-and-a-half-year deal with the English side, the 27-year old had spent three years with the Belgian side KRC Genk. He helped them win the league in the 2018-2019 season where he was the league’s top scorer.
His arrival in the world’s best league marks a new era of Tanzanian football. Gone are the days of Tanzanian pessimism. The kids playing football in the streets of Dar es Salaam or Sumbawanga can dream of making it to elite football. Samatta had already inspired lots of young talents in his country when he won the CAF Champions League in 2015 with TP Mazembe, the first to do so in his country. In the same year, he won Africa’s Best Player Award for players plying their trade in the continent. 

When he signed for Genk in 2016, it seemed to some that was the final twist in the Mbagala-born striker’s beautiful career. But nothing would stand in his way. He had much bigger dreams. He kept his head down, did not get carried away, and gave everything to the game. That professionalism and dedication is now coming to fruition.
The English Premier League is revered for its unpredictability, fierce competition, and, of course, money. Its worldwide attraction is unmatched. Samatta left the Belgian champions who played in this season’s prestigious UEFA Champions League for a club in a relegation battle fighting to stay in the Premier League. He knows very well he will never feature in the competition with Villa. His only chance of returning to Europe’s elite competition is if a big club comes knocking and buy him. Despite all this, his move to the English side has been celebrated and is widely seen as a feat in itself. Such is the charm of the Premier League. Infectious. 

Many Tanzania would have liked to see Samatta play for the league’s big clubs such as Arsenal and Manchester United, the two with most followers in the country. But they have enthusiastically embraced Aston Villa for signing their captain. I have not been keeping tabs on social media but the Birmingham club must have seen growing numbers of new followers in its social media accounts this week. There is no award in guessing where they come from.
The English Premier League is also famous for its cosmopolitanism and Samatta’s arrival is the latest addition to that. Take an example of Arsenal. The London club played city rivals Chelsea on Tuesday night this week and fielded only one English player in their starting XI. Ivory Coast, Brazil, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Uruguay were all represented. Needless to say the North London club’s majority shareholder is an American, whereas Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote has expressed intention to buy the club. Such is the allure of modern football. 

Tanzanians are now waiting to see their very own Samatta feature for the Villa side sooner than later. It will be a momentous appearance that will put Villa in a special place in the hearts of the football-mad land of Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and Serengeti.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Woman-to-Woman: Love Letter to Ph.D Aspirants

Woman-to-Woman: Love Letter to Ph.D Aspirants/Candidates

Dr. Victoria Lihiru
Hey Girl Child!
Thank you for the congratulatory texts, calls, cakes, parties, flowers, coffees, luncheons, and dinners. With swag, most of your texts would read, ‘Congratulations Dr. Vee, but how did you make it at 31 years old with kids and work responsibilities’? Well, before I go into that, you will be happy to learn that I dedicated my Ph.D thesis to you! Yes, the thesis is dedicated to all girls and women from all walks of life. It is also accompanied by a note we may all be familiar with, 'Dreams are valid.'
My friend, if one of your year 2020 or new decade’s resolutions is start or finish your Ph.D, I am here to answer the ‘how did I make it’ question. Getting a Ph.D at 31 is a great achievement, but you can get yours even earlier, between 25-30 years old. Yes, it is possible. Many people have pulled it through before. You can also get it in your 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, or 70’s.The fact is it can be done. Be cautioned that, I am not a motivational speaker - but a glimpse of my Ph.D journey may help you with a point or two as you kick-start or strive to finish you Ph.D.
Girl Child, you will have to know what pushes you to get a Ph.D. I had a strong desire to explore my research problem further with the level of detail that my LL.B or LL.M could not offer. As a young girl, I wanted to attain the highest degree the world could offer before it was too late. I was reviewing my 2008 diary, I had then resolved to do a Ph.D even if I was not going to land in academia. Inspired by a friend - Dr. Natujwa Mvungi who got her Ph.D at 28 years old, I wanted to break her record - although I was unsuccessful in that mission. I started applying for Ph.D programs when I was 23 years old, immediately after completion of my LL.M in 2013. 
You may be delayed to start. In both 2013 and 2014, I was unsuccessful with scholarship applications, refuting the presumption that those with high GPAs attract scholarships easily. With my 4.2 and 5.0 LL.B and LL.M GPAs, respectively, all of my scholarship applications failed. Even the program that funded my Master's degree, which I was heavily dependent on, couldn’t afford to grant me scholarship for Ph.D.
Darling, you may need to refuse to wait. As I couldn't wait for a scholarship any longer, I made a decision to fund my studies on my own by any legal means. Settling with the fact that I couldn’t afford private sponsorship in Ivy League universities, I asked myself, if I will be paying fees from my hard-earned money, why shouldn’t it be in exchange for a Ph.D from the best university in Africa? With that view in mind, in 2015 I went against the principle of 'not putting all eggs in one basket,' by only applying for a self-sponsored Ph.D program at the University of Cape Town (UCT), in South Africa.
Hang on there, things will get a little easy. After getting admitted at UCT in 2016, things started falling into place. Fastjet was flying to South Africa with affordable ticket prices.  Registering for first year of studies I paid annual fees of approximately Tanzanian Shilling 2.5 million.This was an amount I considered fair mainly due to i) The spirit of regional integration-students from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region pay local fees in South African universities and ii) The high rate of inflation of the South African Rand in early 2016. Soon after I was fully registered as a Ph.D student, some good news arrived. I got a bursary from UCT’s Faculty of Law, which kept on financing a great deal of my studies onwards. At this moment, I cherished my previous decision for not waiting for scholarship. 
Sister, you will have to choose a topic you are most familiar with. I had worked closely on the 2012-2014 Tanzania’s constitutional reform processes. I had also researched and worked on legal aspects of women political participation since the start of my career. I am a keen follower of new developments in the area of constitution-making processes and women political participation in East Africa and beyond. While waiting for possible scholarship opportunities, I spent three years pondering and reshaping the focus of my thesis. When I started writing, although my original thoughts kept on evolving, I had a clear roadmap for what I wanted to achieve with the thesis.
            Bestie! Getting my Ph.D Proposal approved was the first hard part of a Ph.D journey, I had to change my research proposal to a statement of interest, then change it again to a proposal. I had to redo the literature review twice, attend to three rounds of my supervisor's comments. The proposal had to go for English grammar check, then back to me, to the supervisor, back to me again, to the supervisor and then to the Doctoral Degree Board for their approval. This process took 6 months!
Girl Child, it is better to know the road to market early. I found it necessary to have an early understanding of the key steps towards completion of my thesis. The idea was to avoid wasting time for something that, if known earlier, would be taken care of in a timely manner or parallel with other processes. I was able to write applications for ethical clearance, obtain research permits and prepare research tools while writing my research proposal. I submitted the applications to the authorities the following day after my proposal was approved. If I had not done that, It would mean spending another month putting such applications together.
Yes, I never stopped writing, I kept writing and reworking other chapters as the supervisor was reviewing other chapters. At the beginning of my studies, my supervisor and I developed a flow of chapters, sections, and subsections that although kept changing. This helped me to always keep writing. Being an academician myself, after submission of first draft thesis for supervisor’s review, I could as well review it on my own to capture errors and streamline my thoughts and the flow. It helped the thesis to benefit, not only from the supervisor, but also from my sense of flow and complementarity of information. 
Dear, your family will have to agree to miss you for sometime. With the intention to break Dr. Natujwa’s record and avoiding the pitfalls of running out of appetite to keep writing, it was difficult for me to practice a ' Ph.D student-wife-mother-work-life balance.' During the three years, I was more of a student than I was a mother, daughter, sister, employee or wife. Most of the time I went to bed at 8pm and woke up at 3am, working on the thesis until 6am. I would carry my Ph.D thesis anywhere I go. My handbag was full of printed articles so I could catch up with new developments whenever I have free time. Our closet became a huge mess with papers everywhere. 
Precious, your other hobbies can still co-exist with your Ph.D journey, be alert for your Ph.D not to be swallowed. In 2016, I signed up and climbed Mt Kilimanjaro all the way to Uhuru peak. In 2017, I got my second child. In 2018, I ventured to read the whole 1000 plus pages of John Maxwell Leadership Bible. I also attended a five-week professional fellowship on inclusive employment and, later in 2019, founded Her Ability Foundation (HAF) , an NGO for university girls with disabilities. But, I would do all these things after I had sufficiently worked on my thesis at each particular time. 
Beloved, you will have to change how you spend time with your friends. I made use of my friends - my husband would review every chapter to check grammatical errors before the chapters goes to the supervisor. When I got tired to look at the laptop, I would call a friend ask them to type for me as I was talking through my thoughts. I asked my senior colleagues in academia and in civil society organizations for insight on comments I was getting from my supervisor.
Darling, sometimes you will need to throw your hard work in the recycle bin, based on supervisor’s comments. I had to discard big sections of the chapters, sometimes the whole chapter. Pitying my energy and time spent, I tried to use the data from the discarded sections and chapters to beef up arguments in other parts of the thesis, however, in some incidences, throwing them in the recycle bin was the only option.
Girl Child, progress is not only in writing, there is more! Sometimes my supervisor would write in the comments section, 'I don't hear your voice in this chapter' or 'this chapter is purely descriptive, there is no analysis here.' I learnt to set time to reflect on other authors' publications, my own thoughts and realities on the ground to shape my conclusions. I had to set time to learn and perfect other skills. Having footnotes starting at one in every page, the front page unnumbered, preliminary pages in roman numbers while other pages in normal numbers was hard, but I had to master it. 
Woman, you will have to close down negativities. In any conversation, when a subject of being a ‘PhD student’ comes up, questions such as what your writing on, methodology, and key findings will come up. You will find positive people and they will give you critical feedback. You will also meet negative people purporting to know your area of study or the employed methodology more. Listen to both of them, but don’t be discouraged or get derailed by negative comments. One day I met one professor who has a number of publications in the area of my P.hD and I really thought her views would help shape my thesis, but she watered down every bit and piece of my arguments without justifying her point of view. But I chose to move forward anyway.
Girl Child, you will have to celebrate key milestones during the P.hD journey. I celebrated key milestones, such as when I was admitted, got a bursary, proposal approved, chapter by chapter finalisation and finally when a full draft was produced. I also celebrated when I was able write my abstract, rework footnotes and references, submitted a second draft to my supervisor, then submitted the thesis for external examination. I had fullness of joy when my thesis got back from external examiners, all suggesting that I should graduate after attending to minor changes. The happiest day was on 13th September 2019 when I was told, it’s done, and you will be graduating on 12th December 2019.
Ph.D Aspirants and Candidates, back up your data on Cloud to avoid starting the work all over again, make use of technological systems to ease your writing and referencing, and find a reason as simple as ‘I want to break Dr. Natujwa’s record’ to keep you motivated. The role of a supervisor cannot be underestimated, pray you get a good one, and be careful with tradeoffs you will be making in balancing between yours and supervisors’ expectations on the thesis. Some days will be difficult, allow those tears to flow, other days will be rewarding - these celebrate hard. Don't forget your daily support system, for me prayers, daily affirmations and good coffee made the difference. 
My Ph.D journey ended on a bright day on 12th December 2019. In my lavender dress, red graduation gown and black hood with gold, full citation loudly read, I was capped and conferred my Ph.D by the great Mama Graça Machel. The presence of my mother (Ruth), and my long time friend (Keritha) made the day even more immaculate. Family photos taken, phone images shared to family and friends, photo with the Vice Chancellor, coffee with my supervisor, and a sunset boat cruise plus champaige marked the end of the day I had worked for three good years. And now I have my life back, trying to compensate for what I missed.
Precious Friends, let me end here. Do keep me posted on your journey as it progresses, and know I am here if any assistance is needed!
Bye for now-Dr. Vee.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020



By Muhanyi Nkoroko

From deep down my heart where feelings about you are made, truly you are my one only one who I can treasure, cherish and remember as we are heartily rooted; for sure, I miss you, I miss you dearly.

Dear, don’t cry anymore, be strong and have courage; our love is like a tree with deep roots where it cannot be shaken by drought.

Well, I am okay, both my mind and soul, just have patience, the time will come when we will be joined together heart to heart; there will be no more tears, no more cries, no more sorrows, our love will be rejuvenated. 

Surely, I won’t forget you, as you cross my mind every time, every minute of my life and, frankly, I put you on my prayers and when I return back, we will become everything you have dreamed of; however, until I come, keep pursuing your dreams and stay connected to God.

Here, behind bars, I am fully okay, I keep smiling, happy as I know your love is still there regardless of this tragedy; everything may be too slow on me or everything may be too fast on me, but, honestly, I will be holding on until my time comes.

Please don’t be impatient, the time will come, we will talk, make calls, laugh and even walk and eat our dinner together; Life is full of surprises and you never know what the next moment has in store for you - for us.

 It’s me, your love.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Employability: A ‘subliminal role’ of Education?

Employability:A ‘Subliminal Role’ of our Education System?

By Ronald B. Ndesanjo

It all started with my late-night tweet “It is sad that our education system has been degraded to a subliminal role: employability”. A couple of responses poured in hours later, one of them particularly interesting to me. One gentleman commented that “Without trying, in the least bit, to sound ironic but: that’s really not what ‘subliminal’ means”

My first reaction was this gentleman could be right and I could be wrong. I am saying this because before tweeting I quickly looked for some words on an online dictionary and subliminal sounded like the right one. Some of you do that as well, don’t you? Another reason could be my poor command of English vocabulary in particular and the language in general. 

I took up the challenge and looked the word up in my dictionary, this time a real one, not those on the internet. I started with ‘sublime’, assuming that this must be a root word. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (7th Edition) provides two meanings of the word: (1) “of a very high quality and causing great admiration”. This is not what I intended to say in the tweet! I read on, meaning (2) “(formal, often disapproving) (of a person’s behaviour or attitudes) extreme, especially in a way that shows they are not aware of what they are doing or are not concerned about what happens because of it”. I was relieved, at least this relates to what I meant to say in the tweet. 

My worry was maybe I went overboard and used a human trait to describe a non-human aspect, ‘education’. So, subliminal, an adjective, is “affecting your mind even though you are not aware of it”. For most of us, education is directly proportional to employment (employability). I attempt to explain what I meant to say in that tweet here. 
Over the years I have noted with concern that the quality of education in Tanzania is deteriorating. This is based on how ‘some’ people (including myself) perceive what high-quality education is. During my primary school days between the late 1980s and early to mid-1990s, the educational journey ending at standard seven was deemed fine, at least in the community I grew up. Yes, parents and pupils would like one to proceed with secondary school, but it wasn’t the end of the world if they didn’t. 

In my opinion, standard seven leavers then could just do fine after school. You could tell that a person had learnt ’substantially’ just by looking at the transformations they brought with them from school. If it were farming, theirs was exemplary. If it were collective ‘development’ activities, these standard seven leavers were a beacon. 
So, I always tend to think that we had a superior education curriculum then, one that ‘nurtured’ pupils’ natural abilities to master their environment. Then came the mid to late 1990s (the turning point) when things began going awry in our education system. Standard seven education was nothing now. Parents strived for their children to go at least up to form four (Ordinary Level Secondary Education/O-Level). At that time going to high school (Advanced Level Secondary Education/A-Level) was still a big deal. Form Six leavers were rare gems in our neighbourhoods. I am not sure whether it was due to my limitation(s) in terms of how I looked at the world then (and reflecting now) or that a Form Six leaver of 1995 was far better than that of 2019. 

To cut a long story short, now you are nothing, unless you have a Ph.D.! Yes, a Ph.D. A good number of people are obsessed with this thing and I have no slightest clue why. Worse enough, many don’t even have a career in academia and/or research that would necessitate a Ph.D. 
Come to think of it, I only see one possible explanation: ‘employability’ or at least remaining relevant in the ‘labour market’. It is common to encounter a person who did their Bachelor’s degree in education, taught for a while before embarking onto a Master’s degree in ‘Monitoring and Evaluation (M & E)‘ before realizing a Ph.D. in ‘Climate Change‘ is what matters now and decide to enroll for one. 

We have reached a point, as a country, where the ultimate purpose of education is for one to get employment or employ themselves. I think this (being employed) should rather be the primary goal, maybe second to basic literacy. ‘Educating’ people for ‘employment’ is not an evil thing, not at all. 
Of course, we need people to be ‘educated’ for ‘our development’ and nation-building. My problem is when education is just that, and nothing more. So, when you encounter people wishing to ‘burn’ their certificates because they don’t have a job you know what I am trying to say. The worst thing is we don’t seem to realize that this is happening. We seem to accept it as the norm. This was my reflection when I tweeted. 
Then there was another response to the tweet, “what do you think should be done as a solution?” I don’t think I know or can propose one. Maybe some raw thoughts on how to improve our education system. I will use accountancy, accountants, and technological innovations (advances) as hypothetical examples in my illustration.

Think of accountancy as a practice of keeping or checking financial accounts. For a long time, this has been regarded as one of the most lucrative professions, praise to its proximity to where the money is. We should not be surprised to learn one day (and very soon) that accountancy is an obsolete profession as we have traditionally known it. Human accountants (we may have machine accountants) will cease to exist one day. 
If I am to start a start-up, an accountant will be the least of my worries. Technology can do most of the financial accounting stuff nowadays. I guess there are plenty of applications on Google Play or App Store let alone custom-made accounting packages that any computer literate person can learn and execute. Guess who I might hire first: a graphic designer (or a creative artist), maybe an IT person if it happens I need a lot of that serious computing stuff, and a sales psychologist (as a consultant, to start with). 

So, what will my accountant friend do? Enroll for a Ph.D. because his/her Certified Public Accountant (CPA) expertise can no longer match up with tech innovations in Information Communication Technologies (ICT) or Artificial Intelligence (AI)? The challenge (in this case to our educationists) is how do we come up with educational curricula that tap on and nurture human imagination and creativity (we are all born with these) to conquer the world and not just accountancy that can go extinct with a single brilliant innovation by a 25-year-old in Silicon Dar or one of these tech hubs in the region. 
I am one of those people who ‘think’ that humans are perfectly designed to conquer their environment. Education systems were just created to ‘organise’ this ability mainly for utility purposes. Are we comfortable with the fact that our education system remains a mere factory of producing salespersons to merchandise Coca Cola from Atlanta, Georgia or Heineken Beer from Amsterdam and get frustrated one day when AI takes over from our young women and men (unemployment of ‘the educated’)? Or do we choose to have an education system that will nurture our young people’s natural abilities so they are ever dynamic, adaptive and resilient?

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Dunia Uwanja wa Fujo, Buriani Profesa Kezilahabi

Karibu kwenye ulingo wa kutafakari kuhusu tunapotoka,tulipo,tuendako na namna ambavyo tutafika huko tuendako/Welcome to a platform for reflecting on where we are coming from, where we are, where we are going and how we will get there

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