Why improving African education opportunities vital

ABOUT 100 representatives from 10 African countries met early this month in Dar es Salaam to discuss contemporary issues of international cooperation in the field of education, medicine, science and technology.

The delegates who attended the forum were postgraduates of Soviet and Russian universities representing the educational and healthcare systems of African countries.

Tanzania being the host, welcomed delegates from Angola, Rwanda, Uganda, the Republic of Congo, Tunisia, Zambia, South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia. The forum was organised by the Russian Federation institutions: Rossotrudnichestvo, the International Institute of Education and Development and the Humanitarian Education and Testing Institute together with the Russian Embassy.

The event was graced with the appearance of Minister for Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Ambassador Pindi Chana, the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Tanzania, Andrey Avetisyan, the Deputy Head of Rossotrudnichestvo, Pavel Shevtsov, Deputy Minister of Health of the Russian Federation, Semenova Vladimirovna and Minister of Emergency Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugee Affairs of Uganda, Hilary Onek.

At the event, the ‘Daily News’ had the honor to speak with a few of the delegates who highlighted a number of issues that need to be addressed to improve education opportunities for African students who wish to study in Russian Federation universities.

Among the delegates who participated was Zakayo Mhodi, the Senior Officer, Deputy Inspector with the Personnel and Vocational Development Department at Rufiji, Coast Regional Police Department.

“This year we gathered people from African countries who studied in the Soviet Union and in the Russian Federation. For two days we discussed current problems of education and science, and also addressed the field of medical technology.

“Representatives of the Russian Federation and graduates of Russian universities actively exchanged experiences and discussed how our relations could be developed,” he said.

He also noted that during the forum he raised issues of improving the level of education in Tanzania, given that technology has fast been growing, hence demand nations to adapt to the technological changes.

“The times are changing, the technologies are changing, and therefore a lot needs to be done to make sure education meets the challenges of economic development. I would like to develop cooperation with Russia, which such forums will undoubtedly contribute to.”

Among other pressing issues that were highlighted during the forum was the importance of language proficiency and competency especially for students who go to study in Russia. Language proficiency People from different nations come together through language to share ideas, opinions, views, and understanding within the community.

Language is one of the most important values that brings people together. In the absence of language, people cannot communicate, exchange ideas, or connect with each other.

One of the values outlined by the delegates as a key to fostering better relationships and knowledge during their stay as students at Soviet and Russian universities was language proficiency. They highlighted during their stay in Russia that they had to learn the Russian language to communicate as they all belonged to different language backgrounds including English, French and Portuguese.

Mr Mhodi pointed out that during his study in Russia he had to master Russian to help him in his studies. So, he had to learn the language.

“I speak Russian because I got a degree in Russia. I first went to Russia in 2008 and lived there for five years. All my studies were conducted in Russian, which is why I learned Russian and mastered speaking, writing and reading skills.” Knowing the Russian Language not only made them understand in classes but also helped them in communicating with each other and the community around them.

A unique feature of the two-day forum was the fact that the delegates also used the Russian language as a means of communication.

Among the options discussed during the discussion of the forum between Soviet and Russian universities was the possibility of helping African students interested in studying at Russian universities learn Russian in their mother countries.

This will ease the transition for them when they arrive in Russia because, despite the fact that they might find people in Russia speaking their mother tongue, they will at some point encounter people with a limited amount of exposure to communicate with.

Salim Kungulilo of Tanzania who is Vice-Rector of El-Imam El-Mahdi University noted: “It is natural that associations do everything possible to maintain interest in Russian education and culture in their countries. They are ready to interact in this direction with Russian universities, which are actively opening Centers for Open Education and Russian Language Teaching on the African continent, and with Russian government authorities.” In light of the balance of friendship between Tanzania and Russia, language has been part of cultural exchange with Kiswahili taught to Russian officials at the Russian Cultural Center in Dar es Salaam as the Russian language taught parallel to Tanzanian colleagues interested in learning the language.

This cultural exchange has allowed the two countries to better understand each other, as well as strengthen their bonds of friendship. It has also enabled both countries to work together on projects of mutual interest. It was observed that at the Russian Cultural Center in Dar es Salaam in the course of interactions with a few Russian delegates during the forum they were fluent in the language.

They were also able to interact comfortably with other participants, demonstrating their ability to communicate effectively. This highlighted the importance of learning the Russian language in order to better communicate with Russian counterparts. Delegates recommend more gatherings and exchange A delegate from the Republic of the Congo, Edouard Ndinga, who is the Director of Epidemic Affairs at the World Health Organization in the Republic of the Congo insisted on the importance of such gatherings as they will help to build a better tomorrow.

“First of all, the Forum has become a unique platform for the exchange of experiences and opinions between graduates. And this is the most important thing for me. We conducted meetings, spoke in Russian, discussed perspective ideas with graduates from other countries.

“This is what I liked the most. I am glad that each of the African countries represented at the forum has created its own association of graduates,” he said.

He added that it is equally important that the leadership of Rossotrudnichestvo remember the associations and organize such events at the state level. He insisted that such associations need support, not only material, but also conceptual and ideological – in this case they will work harmoniously, within a single system. In line with Mr Ndinga’s view, Mr Florian Kulimaya, the Youth Advisor at the Ministry of Youth and Sports of the Republic of Congo also called for more forums for graduates.

“I really hope that the forum will continue – not in the form of some regular meetings, but in the form of real steps, systematic constructive work aimed at strengthening cooperation in the educational, scientific, and medical spheres,” Kulimaya noted.

He added: “Giving us the opportunity to meet representatives of ten countries for the first time in many years, get to know each other, and communicate on topical issues in the development of cooperation between Russia and Africa.

“We need real work. I hope that after some time there will be a new forum for African graduates, and it will be possible to talk about what has been done recently to strengthen interaction and establish close cooperation with associations.” Mr Kungulilo, the ViceRector of El-Imam El-Mahdi University noted he was able to meet many people with whom he was when he lived in Russia, and whom he had not seen for many years.

“Important for me was the opportunity to communicate with the heads and staff of Russian universities, as well as representatives of the central apparatus of Rossotrudnichestvo – people who make government decisions in the field of educational, scientific and cultural policy of Russia abroad.

“Without a doubt. Thanks to the forums, representatives of associations from different countries communicate more closely, ways of their interaction are outlined, work experience and plans for the future are discussed,” he noted.

Ms Elena Otaru, the Secretary of the Soviet and Russian University Graduates Association in Tanzania these
meetings with representatives of Russian educational organizations and learning about their experience in training personnel from African countries became even more significant as it became a step into the future,
towards new horizons of cooperation, towards new tasks and plans.

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