The Hill: Death of Revolution Square and Birth of Divided Nation

Nkurumah HallIn the recent two dialogues at the University of Dar es Salaam, Mwalimu Nyerere Professorial Chair on Pan-Africanism and the other organized by the University of Dar es Salaam Staff Association on Education and the Future of Tanzania, two things came out. One, when you were once at the Hill it was obvious that you were first viewed as a revolutionist. You were first associated with the thoughts of Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Mao Tse Tung, Karl Marx, Samora Machel, Nelson Mandela and mostly with Mwalimu Nyerere.

The eloquence exhibited by the Kenya’s Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutunga, Prof Thandika Mkandawire and other international dons was at its best unearthing the role Cheche Magazine of 1970s and 1980s played by shaping thinking and building intellectualism. This is open secret which was evident with Pan-African dialogue with its precepts well based on the African socialism under the banner of  Ujamaa, where it was and it is believed that ‘All human beings are equal and Africans are all my brethren’, (Binadamu wote ni sawa na Waafrika wote ni ndugu zangu).

It was this time when Tanzania’s Freedom Torch (Mwenge) shone for people who were in need of, political freedom like  South African ANC’s and Mozambique’s FRELIMO freedom fighters, intellectual freedom like the late Walter Rodney and most important breeding ground for African leaders of today, whom we either cherish or condemn for one or two reasons, from lecture rooms like Prof Issa Shivji, bar associations of East Africa like the Kenya’s late Mutula Kilonzo, PLO Lumumba, Prof Palamagamba Kabudi and political landscape of the region like President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, were all shaped by and from the Hill.

Two, with the education crisis in the country it was expected that the first group of people to either question the government and relevant authorities were young, energetic and free thinking Tanzanians at the Hill. This has not been the case, instead we cherish their dying intellects by saying that they are more civilized than they were some years back when they were vibrant, questioning the government policies, at least they were able to keep the government at its toes.

It can be easily said that The Hill is behaving itself nowadays. That is a different story if you look at the way things look from inside. I mean giving it a long and forward observation that captures and tells you what generation is being born out of this ‘yes boss class.

Behaving itself means, keeping quiet when all is not well. Save for the University of Dar es Salaam Staff Association (UDASSA) which maybe because of being intellectual body and also it is affected by the aftermath of examination fiasco, prepared a national dialogue on that.

Students are nowadays known not to rise above their lecturers’ conventional thoughts; rather, they need to be a replicate of them. Behaving as free and new breed of intellectuals is a crime which is no longer tolerated at least if you are a student at the Hill.

Today Tanzania is proud of some of the students who were stubborn at the Hill in 1960s through 1980s but we don’t want any more people who are stubborn because of their thoughts we only need those who make us go into deep sleep and start dreaming how we can swim or at least heckle at those who dare do things we don’t like in our lecture rooms.

Some of the actions that have created such clique of followers are; Creating rules that change the titles of students’ union leaders in 2009 starting from the Tanzania’s cradle of tertiary Education, the University of Dar es Salaam. The then minister responsible for Education circulated a guide on what Students’ governance should be like, stating the titling, and roles. The motive behind was first, to reduce the powers and influence of the students leaders and second was to trim the power of these organizations by making them more of rubber stamping decisions of the University management at the expenses of the students interests and needs. The students’ leaders and organizations need to reclaim their space once more.

ChecheRight to association and assembly, in 1970s magazine at the Hill, ‘Cheche’ did with most of the liberation and competing thoughts at the Hill. Its main contributors were mainly students and lecturers. Today even assembling at the Hill is illegal and you may face the full force of university by-laws. Do we have such forums ones again at the Hill? Do we have Revolution Square? Do we have students who can stand up for their rights? Do we have such ideological and intellectual discussions that can shape the country’s future?

Changing the rules of the game in the students’ politics, building active civil society is something which cannot be done overnight or at the age of voting. Civic engagement is by doing not by theorizing, memorizing and maintaining the status quo just to be seen as disciplined student which does not result to award as it was in secondary education. Thanks for scrapping well behaved awards at the universities and at least it is not a requirement for success!

When the intellectuals, the degree holders keep quiet in the face of oppression what will the villager do? In a village with a professor who is always dead in his classroom and books and not seen as engaging people in serious discussions what will someone from Namtumbo who has nothing to lose but his poverty talk about?

HESLB Syndrome which classifies and grades students on how much they should be loaned based on where they studied, who were their parents, or sometimes based on what studies they are pursuing is another elephant in the house. .

This has not only killed the spirit of unitary struggle among students but has also created the ‘THEY’ the rich and ‘WE’ the poor. The foundations of the nations are threatened from colleges to mosques and churches. So even if they have common interests, what comes into their minds is the betrayal of one class against the other, their differences not their similarities as first the citizens of this nation and second as students. Looking at their differences wipes the possibility of learning from their diversity to create common identity.

Naming and hanging, it happens that if a group of students plot to protest either decision made by their chancellors, lecturers or authorities outside the university like HELSB, they are named politicians, they are accused to cause mayhem and disrupt studies, and they are suspended for studies, charged and sometimes convicted and expelled. This has become a monster killing the active society starting from its brains, the intellectuals.

For those who attended the dialogues might attest what I have just said that we are doomed if we think we are safe with sleeping minds at the Hill and other colleges in the country.

By Joseph Ogana

Ogana is a sociopolitical analyst and blogger based in Dar es Salaam