I can probably stop writing about the Tanzanian elections now, after breathing a sigh of relief that deadly violence hasn’t broken out. Although President Jakaya Kikwete has kept his office, whether his victory also means victory for the nation will depend on his success over the next five years in sustaining six percent annual economic growth and solving a host of problems. Tanzania’s problems include widespread corruption, rising crime, and steady loss of enthusiasm by international investors.
Karimu, which began as a school-building project, will pay special attention to what Kikwete does to improve the quality of education. Tanzanian education drew a stinging assessment in the report called “Are Our Children Learning?” which Twaweza, an initiative of the East African nonprofit Hivos, released in September. According to Twaweza,
- Twenty percent of children who have finished seven years of primary school cannot read their own language of Kiswahili at the Grade 2 level;
- Half of these primary school graduates cannot read English, the language of instruction in secondary school;
- Thirty percent cannot complete a simple Grade 2 multiplication problem.
At Karimu we can do next to nothing to affect the course of Tanzania as a whole. Yet we know what happens nationally will bring irresistible forces to bear on little Dareda Kati Village and we therefore hope for the best from Kikwete.
But Tanzanians skeptical of Kikwete will look elsewhere for their winners—perhaps to the Bongo Flava performer Jobiso’s song on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQevWZqk6Fs, which celebrates the newly elected Member of Parliament for the mountainous Bumbuli constituency, January Makamba. Many in the ruling CCM tout this American-educated former speechwriter for Kikwete as his party’s future. Makamba proposes borrowing ten million dollars from Wall Street philanthropists to invest in East African stocks and government bonds, and then pouring the seven hundred thousand dollars of annual earnings into development. He also urges acceptance of a plan by Turkish investors to buy a scenic patch of Bumbuli, on which they would build a university housing five thousand students. We’ll keep our eyes on January Makamba.—Don Stoll