Dar es Salaam. Speaker of Parliament Tulia Ackson on Thursday took issue with the growing tendency among some Tanzanians to buy honorary degrees from foreign institutions, saying the behaviour taints the image of Tanzania and demoralizes students.
The matter was raised in the ongoing parliamentary sessions in the capital Dodoma on Thursday by some Members of Parliament who sought the government’s clarification on whether the honorary degrees that have been granted to some Tanzanians recently were authentic or not.
Minister for Education, Science, and Technology Prof Adolf Mkenda responded by noting that the government examines people’s degrees only upon being requested to do so, pointing out that as far as the honorary degrees by some people, including MPs, are concerned, no one has requested the government to investigate their authenticity.
But Speaker Tulia said that although the government is not showing interest to investigate the honorary degrees granted to some Tanzanians, the behaviour does not send a good message to followers of Tanzania’s affairs as well as the country’s students.
“We are lowering our respect as a nation, especially in the area of education,” Tulia, herself a PhD holder, told lawmakers in Dodoma. “We are also disrespecting our people who are being awarded those honorary degrees deservedly.”
Recently, a number of Tanzanians, especially politicians, have been awarded honorary degrees by foreign institutions with obscure identities, raising questions about their authenticity and the implications they may have in the country’s education system.
The most recent person to receive such a degree is the Morogoro South-East MP (Chama cha Mapinduzi – CCM) Shaban Hamisi Taletale alias Babu Tale who received it from the USA-based University of America.
In an Instagram post, Babu Tale said he was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Philosophy as a recognition of his “contribution to leadership and nation-building.”
On Thursday, Speaker Tulia, who doubles as Mbeya Urban MP (CCM), said the procedure for honorary degrees is clear and well-known, noting that honorary degrees are not “bought with money like candies.”
“We will reach a stage where people who have been awarded honorary degrees deservedly will be of no difference with people who paid money for the degrees,” Dr Ackson, who obtained her Doctorate in Philosophy in 2007 from the University of Dar es Salaam, said.
“As a nation, we have to make a conscious decision about which direction we would like to take because if we will not do so we will let down ourselves,” Speaker Tulia said.
“You have sent your child to school so that they can learn and put on hard work on their studies so that they can perform but you as a parent pay money to be awarded an honorary degree. What example do you set for the child at school studying?”
Speaker Tulia, however, said what others have been warning for quite some time now against the negative implications of the tendency, urging Tanzania’s education authorities, particularly the Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU), to find ways to control the tendency.
Charles Makakala, a commentator on Tanzania’s affairs, published an article in The Citizen newspaper on February 2, 2023, calling for the “arrest of the situation immediately.”
“For a starter, since the honorary doctorate craze is all about titles, TCU should demand that no one be called a ‘doctor’ on the basis of honorary doctorates,” Mr Makakala argued in his article.
“To safeguard academic integrity, TCU should advise its affiliated universities to refrain from awarding honorary degrees to politicians while they hold office,” he added.