A major vocational education program that was intended as a key tool in the building of socialism in Tanzania's rural areas has instead encouraged trained youth to migrate to the overcrowded cities, according to a three-year study recently released here.
Sweeping changes are expected in Tanzania's vocational education system as a result of the highly critical study, made by the Christian Council of Tanzania.
The study found that 85 per cent of the 10,000 youth who enter the program each year are taught trades and skills applicable to city life while fewer than 5 percent learn agricultural skills.
"It is clear that Tanzania's rural vocational education does not further the building of socialism," Rogothe Mahana, a member of the study's research team said in an interview.
The system, according to Mshana, helps to perpetuate technoligical dependency, divisions between manual and mental labor and rifts between the sexes in the labor force. Taken together, he said, all these effects mean that "our vocational education is hindering the building of an egalitarian and self-reliant society in Tanzania."
Nearly all African countries face the twin problems of how to stop the flow of people from the country into urban areas and how to provide employment for persons with limited, often only primary education.
But the Tanzanian study indicates that even an aggressively socialist nation like Tanzania that has spent considerable time, energy and resources on uplifting rural life is not solving these problems either.
The report has been widely acclaimed for pinpointing the problems and documenting them thoroughly.
A National Workshop on Rural Vocational Education, made up of church and government officiaals, villagers, vocational teachers and students from throughout the country has endorsed it with only minor objections and a Christian Council conference of bishops and other church leaders has formed a task force to study it.
Unlike many Third World countries, Tanzania has put many of its limited resourfes into the countryside rather than the cities. Funds have gone toward schools, medical dispensaries, water, electricity, improved agricultural techniques and establishement of communal villates in an attempt to raise crop production and improve the standard of living for the 95 percent of the population who are peasant farmers. But the pace of improvement has been slow and town life continues to attract many young people.
President Julius Nyerere, outlining Tanzania's campaign of "Education for Self-Reliance," said one aim of education must be "to prepare young people for work in the rural areas where improvements will depend largely upon the efforts of the people in agriculture and in village development."
The report contends, however, that Tanzania's rural vocational education programs are failing miserably in this task.
According to the report, the vocational schools, which are run by both church and government, received about 10,000 pupils annually, of 7.7 percent of those who leave primary school.They train students in 22 skills, but 85 percent of the students learn one of three trades: 31 percent carpentary, 29 percent domestic science and 25 percent masonary.
By contrast, crucial skills such as agriculture are underrepresented and others like irrigation, grain storage and soil conservation are not even offered.
"This means we are training in rural schools for urban industries" or worse, for "non-existent jobs," the report charges.
According to the report, the selection of students is based on terms of education and economic level, region, sex and religion.
Research team member Mshana said, "We found that the sons and daughters of socially and economically privileged parents are overrepresented while poor peasant's and workers' children are underrepresented."
Mshana noted that women make up only 32 percent of the vocational student population and "are conditioned to traditional homemaker roles by attending domestic science and sewing courses." He said there are, for example, "hardly any" women studying mechanics or carpentary.
The report also says many of the schools are poorly situated, do not work closely with the areas where they are located and rely too heavily on technology, teachers and teaching material imported from developed countries.
A series of meetings and conferences among church, educational and government leaders to discuss the report makes it likely, Mshana said, that "they won't just shelve the study but will undertake significant reforms."