Ms Demere, a woman with passion to read, believes that reading more literary works is the only way to fight illiteracy. She says that providing better education is more than investing in buildings.
She says that in order to build up education system in the country more investment in reading materials was indispensable, books, libraries and laboratories in all schools are vital in ensuring that education becomes more practical.
Ms Demere who describes her age as 50 plus, holds Masters Degree in Philosophy in Publishing from the University of Stirling Scotland. She also holds a BA Linguistic and Literature from University of Dar es Salaam.
Being an education activists, she is vexed with how education system is ran in the country saying that a society need to change, as it has been brainwashed to believe that passing examination was the only way to judge one’s literacy.
“Most formal learning in this country teaches us to view books and reading as a terminal thing that ends up with a certificate and a grade in school. I want to teach the people of Tanzania that reading is an ongoing cultivation of mind and spirit,” she says, adding that education must aim at broadening scope of knowledge and experience.
Ms Demere says reading is learning intended to broaden the scope of knowledge and experience of other people, other societies, and other periods in history and it gives one aesthetic pleasure to read.
With mission to spread her fascination with stories to Tanzanians, Ms Demere together with a friend started Soma Publishing. In 2008 Soma Book Cafe came to life, the institution was opened with the objective to stimulate a stronger reading culture in Tanzania.
As Tanzania just celebrated 50 years of independence, Ms Demere says, the education system is still operating in the old ways, of all, she says that readership culture was a thing of the past.
She states that the country was lacking creatively written materials despite the fact that these materials were part and parcel of the education system not only in Tanzania but also in other places.
Ms Demere says that Tanzanian education system, for a long time, has just helped Tanzanians to be good implementers of ideas and initiatives embarked by other people instead of being creative.
“Education must enable a person to be independent, creative and innovative, instead of these, we have turned to be reliant of everything from others,” she says.
Due to poor reading culture among Tanzanians, Ms Demere says that even authors and publishing companies are undergoing natural death because there are no consumers of their products.She, however, challenges the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training for failure to have enduring school curricula as most of the time they keep on changing.
“When the ministry changes curricula many people suffer - authors, booksellers and publishing companies. This, in fact, shrinks the efforts to promote learning in the country,” she notes.Ms Demere says that it has been hard for Tanzanians to win a war declared by the Father of Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere against three enemies-ignorance, disease and poverty saying that Tanzanians have been fighting without well-defined strategies.
She says that broad-shouldered fighting against ignorance through advocating various literacy initiatives was enough to win the battle against all other enemies but neglecting to take more initiatives to eliminate illiteracy would as well fortify other adversaries. She says that the gap between institutions providing education and both environments in which students come from and where they go to be integrated after studies need to be bridged so as to make Tanzanian education more relevant and practical.
Ms Demere also points fingers at education policy makers saying that policy makers were not thinking on how to actually stimulate the availability of reading materials closest to the community. She says that there is need to have community and public library everywhere in the country because books were very expensive hence many Tanzanians cannot afford.
On why large numbers of girls fail to perform well in their studies compared to boys, Ms Demere says that parents, among others, are to blame for poor performance of their girl children.She says that patriarchy system which eliminates boys from executing domestic works while engulfing girls with a lot of tasks at home highly contributed to girls’ poor performance in schools.
Ms Demere says that when boys are given more time to read and do their assignments at homes, their sisters were busy fetching water, cooking and doing other related domestic works.She calls for the general public to do away with this practice as it was not friendly to girls’ academic performance, she wonders that no one was even questioning why girls were performing poorly compared to boys.
She also noted that poor infrastructure for girls in most of the Tanzanian schools including inadequate latrines were also a setback to girls’ performance in the country. She said that girls who had reached adolescent stage were sometimes forced to remain at homes because of lack of latrines especially when they were in menstruation periods, saying, more improvements were needed to rectify the situation.