RETIRED President Benjamin Mkapa has challenged the government to periodically review the Higher Learning Education Policy in order to make sure private universities remain effective producers and training grounds for the leadership of the country.
The retired president also appealed to the government, through the Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU), to let private University Senates play their roles independently as supreme organs of the academic matters at their respective Universities.
He was speaking here on Tuesday as he graced the 20th anniversary of Saint Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT)and launch of the 25th Silver Jubilee celebrations of the institution which was establishment in 1999.
Mr Mkapa told the delegates that by virtue of his position as Chancellor of the Dodoma University (UDOM), he interacted with some private university authorities who shared a concern on how they were treated by TCU.
He spoke of a concern that TCU was usurping the role of the university senates, especially of private universities; that, it had subjected the supremacy of university senates to its guidelines.
“This has a tendency of creating fear and discomfort in a number of private universities instead of nurturing private universities, the TCU is threatening closure. This is not the way to foster cooperation,” he lamented.
The retired 3rd Head of State who led the country from 1995 to 2005, said private universities were partners and co-promoters of higher learning education in the country and warned they should not be seen as competitors of public universities as it is sometimes perceived.
Since a lot of capital and efforts had been put into their establishment, the government through its relevant authorities had the duty to protect and nurture them and not to clamp down on them, he stressed.
Analyzing humble and difficult beginning most of the private universities experienced, especially when they struggled to train their own academic and administrative staff to the higher levels required, Mr Mkapa said they largely depended on senior educationists from public universities to survive.
“However, these retired professors and, or senior academics are currently not allowed to offer their expertise in private universities. Denying such opportunity to the experienced and international recognized senior academics is wrong!” he remarked.
The Chairman of SAUT Governing Council, who is also Catholic Bishop for Geita Diocese Dr Flavian Kassala, thanked the government for supporting SAUT from its inception stage to date and asked for its guidance in its commitment to provide quality education to the needy community members.
He said SAUT was proud of marking 20 years as an academic centre of excellence promising it will keep on producing top crèmes of academicians and experts in different fields of studies as it supports the government’s top development agenda, citing industrialization as an example.
The support from the government and other different stakeholders had enabled SAUT to train over 30,000 graduates to-date, and the number will keep on rising as it receives students from within and outside the country.
The SAUT Vice Chancellor, Prof Costa Mahalu, mentioned a long list of alumnae who were currently holding different higher positions in the society, commending the retired President for his government’s policy action that led to the establishment of the university.