Inside Tanzania’s university with no students for 13 years

Tanzania’s Mwalimu Nyerere University of Agriculture and Technology in Butiama District, Mara Region has been receiving millions of shillings in government funds for over a decade yet it has not enrolled any student since it was established.

Though it requires a budget of more than TSh1 billion ($428 million) per year, it barely receives a fraction of that amount, and it has never educated a single student.

According to information acquired at the university during a weekend visit by the Tanzania Parliament’s Social Services and Community Development Committee, the institution requires more than TSh1 billion per year to operate properly. However, it currently gets TSh400 million ($171 million) per year.

The university employs 80 people, including more than 60 academic staff, over 40 of whom are currently studying at different levels including PhD.

What is most intriguing is that the university has been without students for 13 years, despite the presence of a chancellor and lecturers.

Members of the parliamentary committee were surprised, with some expressing anger about the state of the institution.

“The chancellor of the college and your staff, you have been tortured for a very long time by being placed in Butiama for all those years without students. This is a great torture,” said Ms Husna Sekiboko (CCM Special Seats).

Special seats lawmaker Salome Makamba said the situation has brought about huge losses, revealing that a professor who was sent to the college as vice chancellor retired after eight years without a single lecture being delivered in his tenure.

“People are given a budget for expenses and salaries every month and yet the college has never provided services,” she said.

Deputy Minister for Education, Science and Technology Omary Kipanga said that one of the factors that led to the college not offering lectures was the absence of qualified staff.

“The first issue that slowed the provision of services was a lack of professional human resources,” he said, adding that lack of certified lecturers to teach at the degree level hampered the start of learning at the university.

And while speaking to The Citizen, the ministry’s Permanent Secretary Francis Michael clarified that the institution has been operating under a provisional license.

“The institution was granted a provisional license, which would prevent it from admitting students until more than 50 of its professors had advanced to the PhD level,” he explained.

However, he noted that many of the professors have already completed their studies and that the college may start admitting students in the next academic year.

According to the Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU), for any institution to be accredited, the Commission must be satisfied that it has adequate physical, human and financial resources, a viable academic program and sound structure of governance.

TCU says that a provisional license is just a preparatory stage for the issuance of Certificate of Accreditation.

“At this stage the institution is required to develop physical infrastructure, prepare administrative and academic policies, develop curriculum, establish a governance structure and employ academic staff,” TCU notes on its website.

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