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Could you please explain the identity and philosophy of the Muslim University of Morogoro?
It is one of the youngest and smallest universities here, but it is very vibrant. It started 6 years ago, with 3 programs: Bachelor of Arts with Education, Bachelor of Islamic Studies with Education, and Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication. But now we have 7 programs. We have added law, business studies, science, and languages and interpretation. The idea is to produce scholars and graduates who are competent, well-trained, and who also have high moral values in serving the country.
How can an institution combine both practical skills and spiritual potential of students?
One of the most inspiring speeches is the farewell address of George Washington. I read it several times a year, and it is one of the best speeches I've read, especially for a country like Tanzania, it is really inspiring. Some of his points that he addressed had to do with the moral integrity of a nation. No matter how competent you may be, if you don't have the moral values which give you the desire of serving and standing up in favor of the poor, against corruption, then the nation is likely to sink. You may have leaders who are using those positions to enrich themselves. Now this is a moral question. We emphasize to our graduates that if this country is to make progress, you must be morally upright.
Is the university interested in partnering with institutions abroad?
We take students of all faiths. Our staff are from all religious backgrounds. 80% of the staff are Christians, as a matter of fact. We have non-Muslim students studying there. We certainly have interest in partnering with others.
What do you believe is the way forward with developing rural areas and eradicating poverty in Tanzania?
The underlying philosophy of our university is that it should serve as a driver of development. In the context of Tanzania's situation, that can only be through agriculture. That is the way we can resolve the huge paradox of African countries. We have a continent very rich in minerals, natural resources, everything, yet it is populated with people who are living in poverty. That can only be resolved if we can change the mindset of the intellectuals in the country. So far, our educational system was modeled after the British system. Now the focus of the country has changed, but the educational system hasnt. There are very few jobs now. The potential here with agriculture is huge. What we try to impress upon our students is that they should be agents of change, wherever they are. We cannot always focus on educating our youth to find jobs elsewhere. We want them to see the richness of this country. Instead of seeking jobs, they should be job creators, because the jobs ARE there, if they see the potential.
What is the best way to develop the future leaders of Tanzania?
There are two types of leaders. There are those voted into office. These are not the leaders we are talking about. We are talking about leaders in the sense of those who aren't voted into office, but assume leadership by guiding others. It may just be in the street. You see a problem and you mobilize others to solve that problem. You have helped the community, even if not in office. We need someone who says ¨We can solve this problem, and this is what we should do.¨ In terms of political leadership, we need leaders who are very clear in their minds as to where they want to take the nation. This is the first condition. If you are leading, you should know where you are leading your people to, if not, there will be problems.
If you were in charge of creating the curriculum of Tanzania's education system, what changes would you make?
Like all other universities, we encourage our students to think. This may appear to be something very banal, but it's a real problem. In the world today, with the kind of information shared through the media, it's very easy for people to stop thinking for themselves. They can start thinking of words instead of thinking of ideas. That's the whole idea of being independent and self-determined. As a curriculum, the most important point we insist in any program is the notion of problem-solving. Even in our exam questions, we encourage this. By doing this, we invite the students to solve that particular problem, using critical thinking. If you read the newspapers these days, everyone is just complaining, no one is proposing solutions. They just say ¨To solve this problem the government must do something!¨ That is not proposing a solution. That is the problem of not thinking for oneself.
Are you excited about the way increased access to the internet will change education in the country?
Yes, definitely. One of the advantages of the internet is that the internet can help us solve some of these problems. There may be someone who would like to do something which you'd also like to do, but somehow there is no contact between these two people. Now, the internet provides those types of links so-long as you know how to make good use of it. Technology has the quality that once it has set in, there is no way to go back or ignore it, The best thing is to take advantage of it and use it to solve problems, to contact people. Things will definitely be better in the future, and it all depends on the spirit people have about achieving things. The surest way to fail is if you've already lost hope. Once you have shown the way and others have seen what is possible, they will follow.
What makes you proud to be a Tanzanian?
I'm very proud and what makes me proud is that so far, we have managed to live in peace and tranquility in Tanzania. It is not something we can take for granted, and we have seen that from many other African countries. We have many challenges facing us, of course, but we have managed to live in harmony, even with the different religious groups and tribes.