When you might think that you have seen them all, trust me you haven’t. In simple words, wonders shall never cease to exist in this world. On May 26, 2022, just one day past commemorating the African Liberation Day, I came to the knowledge of an “intellectual” wonder, borne in the University of Dar es Salaam.
Whereas Tanzania was the headquarter of the liberation movement, Dar es Salaam was the epicentre of the liberation, as it hosted a number of revolutionary comrades, the University of Dar es Salaam was thus the hotspot, the geyser of the revolutionary thoughts.
The latter was the hub of liberation theories, ideas and discussion. It was the “hill” of transformative ideas. But this once upon a time “hill” has proven again to have the niche of advancing itself to the now “hill-arious” status.
To the dean and the dons therein, don’t get twisted with my lack of manners. I am not the first one to “disrespect” your “reputable” institution. I have learnt from the best, remember “my” legal Professor Pala-something, Prof. “Know-all,” who cited you as the Dump Site (Jalala).
Looh… that was a serious uppercut blow punch, you must have felt that definitely. Well, since he is a big shot then no consequence could have been directed towards him, I guess that would be the case too in my regard, I hope you’d not prove me otherwise.
Well, on May 26, 2022, the College of Social Science at the University of Dar es Salaam, convened a meeting to reflect on and debate the Biography of Julius Nyerere: Development as Rebellion.
The discussions were intense and very informative, at least to some of us who are “fanatics” of Mwalimu. There were some intellectual punches thrown here and there and well, the authors of the biography came prepared, they blocked all of the punches and threw some punches back too.
Just as the 12th round of the intellectual battle about Mwalimu was to come to an end, it all seemed that the fight would end as a tie, but then this young and energetic panelist, just like his name, threw a “Mkuki” punch, which knocked out the University of Dar es Salaam to the floor of shame.
Mkuki, the publisher of the biography, in response to the question from the floor, if my memory serves me right it was from Prof. Christine, the Principal of the College of Social Science, addressed the limping status of publishing, whereas he accounted for such to be contributed by the precarious status of our libraries.
He stressed that the public libraries which ought to be the crucial market for books, particularly such kinds of critical, detailed and informative books, have abandoned that course and purpose.
Expounding on the subject, Mkuki cited a “perfect” example to show how futile our libraries are. He shared the most ridiculous secret that the University of Dar es Salaam, as an institution itself, has not ordered nor purchased the book.
This is not anyhow hearsay evidence, as the revealer of the secret himself is the main chef at the kitchen of books – he is the director of Mkuki na Nyota, the publisher of the book. He surely thus knows what he is talking about.
The revelation shocked the entire audience. Prof. Christine could not hide her shame; it was all visible on her face. Some of us, who have “the excuse” of not having the 100k+ bucks to buy the book, somehow wanted to sympathize with the University; probably the university too is as broke as we are, that it too is waiting for a “Census Gig” to actually find some budget to purchase the said books. Lol!
Jokes and some teasers aside, as Prof. Fred Kaijage summed up the testimony, this constitutes a highly intellectual scandal of the modern-day and I personally applaud Mkuki for sharing that insight. Actually, that was a perfect opportunity for him to very eloquently and majestically market the book, by shaming his prospective client – the institution.
This surely shows the status of our higher learning education. This piece of information hits the nail in the coffin as to what holds to the future of our education, particularly our higher learning education. And if this is happening at the “national” university, you can surely imagine what is continuing at the “ward” universities.
On another serious note, this particular information was surely disgusting. The University, on their own website, proudly acknowledges that the book is authored by “three University of Dar es Salaam dons”; and yet they do not find that pride in their budget to actually order and purchase the book, in chunks and chunks and be placed in the library, so as its students, teachers, workers and the general public could actually have access and be blessed by the scent of the knowledge therein.
In contrast to Mkuki’s jab and assertion, one may probably try to argue that, the University might have purchased the book(s) from other book stores and not from the publisher themselves.
Probably that would have been the case, but I did some digging, I cornered two friends who study at the university and asked them to look for the book and they both mentioned, that it is not available at the library portal – yes the portal, things are digital these days. I went further and asked one to do some leg work and go look for it physically and again, surprise… the book is not available.
Probably we should not be that critical of the institution, let us give them a benefit of the doubt that it would have ordered the book from an “elite” and privatized bookstore. But my little financial ghetto knowledge finds this hard to believe, as it does not make some sound financial sense.
How can you order the book from a secondary party while the factory is right there and accessible? How? Oops… my bad, these are not the days and times for some fiscal sanity. Things might actually be running in the background, with some ten per cent of things arrangement being engineered. Who knows?
On the other hand, probably the institution did not order and purchase the book because, even though the book was launched covidly (meaning online) last year, 2021, the book was however actually yet to be formally and officially launched.
The institution had to wait for Her Excellency Madam President to do the needful and thereafter they would order the book, as all the protocols would then have been observed. And between April 9, the date of the official launch of the book, to May 26, it is a short period of time to convene the senate meeting to approve the order. There might be some procurement bureaucracy to be observed; we surely need some checks and balances in our institutions, isn’t it?
Probably it might be that, the University is tirelessly and proactively working behind the scene, writing some proposals and concept notes, seeking some grants to actually order and purchase the books, just like they so successfully did to get the generous donation of chairs and so forth from the donors, with adverts and tags – donated by so and so embassy.
Or probably they are even innovatively sketching a Nyerere Tour, though not so royal, with some Peter somewhere to fundraise for the purchase of library book(s).
Unknown future of budding writers
I surely cannot stop but wonder if this happens to a book so popular like this, written by three of the most celebrated alumni at the hill, then what is the status of other book titles? What is the future of our academia and our publishing houses – both the private and the dying and deceased public publishing houses? What holds the future for some of us, the unknown and budding writers?
As some may be preparing themselves for some rebuttals that comprehensive and so-termed “delicate” books such as these are not worthwhile financially to be bought; or that Tanzanians generally do not read and so forth; we surely ought to ask ourselves how accessible are the books to our society? What are we doing to plant, nurture and sustain the culture of reading, analysis and critical thinking within our society?
It is in this regard that I find it extremely important that we, as a country, surely need to treasure one of the greatest heritages Mwalimu Nyerere left us with and which we are so proud of, that being: the astonishing and outstanding state of literacy.
On May 26, as I left the Council Chamber, I left with one question, how low can the University of Dar es Salaam further go in tarnishing Mwalimu’s reputable image, particularly on literacy?
Jasper “Kido” Sabuni is the author of a poetry book titled Love Chronicles. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His is also on Instagram as Kido_Afrika and on Twitter as JasperKido. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of The Chanzo Initiative. Want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at email@example.com for further inquiries.