RENOWNED Ambassador and Academician, Professor Costa Mahalu believes intensive investment on scholars’ researches and publications, will improve the contribution of education to the country’s sustainable development.
Prof Mahalu says intensive publications and research by the country’s academicians will earn them national and international recognitions.
Speaking to Tanzania Standard (Newspapers) Limited’s (TSN) editorial team at his home in Masaki, Dar es Salaam recently, Prof Mahalu echoed the significance of research in the country as a blueprint for sustainable development in all aspects of life.
He says it is through research and publications that the country can discover relevant solutions to problems confronting society, including low agro production and poverty.
Prof Mahalu says youths who are the country’s workforce, must possess relevant knowledge which is relevant to African values and way of life. For him, such knowledge comes from scientific research, especially on the kind of education offered.
He says the education system should indeed focus on practical knowledge, to prepare students and impart them with technical know-how. This will enable them to innovate and discover relevant technologies and solutions to socio-economic and political problems and in the end play a desirable and brilliant role in transforming the country.
Prof Mahalu says looking at students’ academic scores alone in many ways alienates them from reality, as they miss the practical side which is essential in making them cherish African values and utilise the resources available to bring economic transformation.
He suggests for establishment of various think tanks that can act as basis for knowledge and concrete solutions to problems facing society and the country at large.
“I think, there is a need of having think tank in our country, we have about 40 plus universities across the country, which we can be used to mobilise scholars to get useful ideas,” Prof Mahalu says.
How to fix the education gap
Pro Mahalu says the education gap between the developed nations and developing nations including Tanzania, pose challenges to the latter, since the developed nations take the gap as an advantage for their own development.
Prof Mahalu notes such an education imbalance leads to an economic gap that makes many academicians in the country to rely on developed countries’ financing, when it comes to research, a situation that hampers the country to have independent thinkers and academicians on carrying out researches.
He says academicians in the country should embrace African values by putting the national interests ahead for true development of the continent, rather than being driven by financial interest.
Prof Mahalu recalls that even in 1983 after graduating his Doctorate in Laws at the University of Hamburg in Germany, where he emerged with the First Class (Magna Cum Laude in Germany) as the first African to obtain such performance in the varsity, a Germany newspaper attempted to misinform about his nationality.
“After making an academic breakthrough in Germany, one newspaper came out with my photo and headline titled Hamburg Man in Tanzania, just to misinform my nationality in undermining African academicians’ ability” he said
Adding “I asked them to correct their news pieces to a Tanzanian man in Hamburg,” he says.
He urges Africans who secure scholarships abroad to conduct detailed research at their ancestral countries rather than depending on theories they learnt overseas as framework for advice when it comes to the country’s planning and development matters.
“How can you develop a theory for small farmers’ well-being in villages across the country, while you are overseas… academics should go to the field to understand the challenges facing people,” he says.
Prof Mahalu says small holder farmers in villages must be engaged enough during researches, in order to develop theories which can help them upgrade their production and living standard.
He says African academicians should desist from being used as puppets to sabotage their countries long built progress, instead, they should be pro-Africa.
Equally, Prof Mahalu says the think tanks should engage citizens who are part and parcel of the country’s development in giving relevant answers on among others curbing poverty.
Once again, he calls upon scholars in Tanzania to share their findings, innovations and discoveries in order to boost education and development in the country.
Education as a tool for youth development
“Education system is an indicator of national development; the good system brings development while the poor system does not,” Prof Mahalu says.
He says graduates’ high academic performance should correlate with skills for their career and life mastery, which will catch up with national and global employment market requirements.
Prof Mahalu says integration of entrepreneurship skills to school learning from primary to high learning level, are key for addressing the unemployment problems by having many citizens who are job creators.
On curbing moral decay, he says academics should carry out research pertaining to African root values and impact them to students and citizens for real life applications.
“Our African values should dominate our way of life, the problem is that today information is spreading at a supersonic speed, including the bad ones that result in molar decay, it is up to researchers to fix the puzzle,” he says.
Adding: “why there are few Africa studies run by Africans. Why many Africa studies are undertaken abroad?” Prof Mahalu asks.
Amb Mahalu who emerged full professor about 33 years ago (since 1990) has published over 50 articles in international journals and wrote a book on shipping laws and policies in East Africa.
He says his publication journey took off since in 1975, when he was a Tutorial Assistant at the University of Dar es Salam (UDSM).
“For the past few years, I have actually not published as I am involved in writing a book on African Constitutions and African Traditions, a study that involves the Pre-Colonial African States” Prof Mahalu says.
Notwithstanding the fact that time back in 1989 when he went to teach at the University of Hamburg, he undertook research titled Public International Laws in an African Perspective on which he is currently working on to publish a textbook.
Prof Mahalu is writing another book with his master’s students on the aspects of International Investment Law and Current African Legislation on the Protection of Foreign Investments to highlight the disadvantages behind the one-sided nature of the concept of legitimate expectations.
He says in order to ignite innovation and creativity in the country, lecturers and teachers should collaborate with their students carrying out research, adding that they should also give them more space to express their ideas so that they can refine them into tangible products useful in the country.
He says foreign funded research poses problems for African countries of not owning the outcome of the findings as they are meant to solve problems for funders.
Prof Mahalu suggested for Tanzania to have a research body that will coordinate and give topics of significance to the national development to all universities so that collectively they can come up with answers in a specific scheduled timeframe.
“Our researchers should not only wait on international development foundation funded research which comes with owners’ agenda and conditions, researches are needed to know our roots” he says.
Alpha and Omega, he attributes his life success to almighty God, good upbringing from parents and Mr Patel who supported his studies and Mr Mkapa who was a good friend and transformative leader.
“I am grateful to the almighty God for standing with me in all life’s ups and downs, I thank the Third President Mr Benjamin Mkapa, who believed in my ability, it is God who brought him to polish my life, he was a good friend,” Prof Mahalu says.
He also extended thanks to the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) for expressing trust in his ability.
Prof Mahalu explains the relationship with TEC began in 1991 and 1992 when the catholic body tasked him to prepare a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which was to be inked by the Churches and the second phase government under by then President, Mr Ali Hassan Mwinyi.
He says TEC requested the government to reprivatise social services which were formerly owned by the church as were nationalised after the Ujamaa Declaration in 1967.
“The MoU intended to return the social services so that they could be developed by the churches which were the owners before nationalisation” he says.
He says parties, the government and the church agreed to sign the MoU and shortly its implementation started.
In that regard, he says the church wanted him to prepare the by-laws of a special institution that could supervise running of all social services which the government returned to the Churches.
“The special institution was known as Christian Social Services Commission (CSSC) which even currently supervises social services including primary and secondary school, hospital among others services offered by the churches” he says.
Prof Mahalu is currently serving as a Vice-Chancellor at the Saint Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT) and a Lecturer of Laws to Masters and Doctor of Philosophy students (PhD).
Prof Mahalu and his wife Ms Vulfrida Grace Mahalu have been blessed with two sons, Costa Ricky Emanuel Mahalu and Deogratius Isaack Ruwaichi Mahalu, both of his two sons and his wife are advocates.