SARUA’s aim is thus to strengthen the leadership and institutions of higher education in the southern African region
At Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania some of the oldest human settlements and pre-human remains, as well as the longest continuous stone-tool record, have been unearthed. The Olduvai finds go back more than two million years. On the coast, by the end of the first century AD, trading contacts existed with Arabia and possibly India as well. Well before that time, the indigenous population of scattered Khoisan communities were joined by Caucasoid peoples migrating southwards from Ethiopia, while the Bantu immigrants from West Africa began to arrive about 500 to 1 000 years later. They brought the iron-smelting technology with them and slowly absorbed the Khoisan and Caucasoid strains, while at the same time intermingling with Arab traders along the coast and, of course, on the island of Zanzibar. A result of these complex and extended interactions was the development of Swahili, essentially a Bantu language and now the lingua franca of Tanzania. The extent of its use is one of the reasons for Tanzania’s relative post-independence social stability.
The first Europeans to arrive, early in the 16th century, were the Portuguese. They competed violently with the Arab traders, and by 1525 had subdued the entire coast. They stayed in control for 200 years, and then were gradually pushed out by Arabs from Oman.
Germany became the first colonial power to control the region. Its presence was short-lived, however, and after World War 1 the British took over what had become known as Tanganyika. Throughout this colonial period indigenous resistance had persisted, and by 1954 Julius Nyerere (a school teacher and one of only two Tanganyikans who had been educated to university level) launched the country’s first political party. Britain was sympathetic to the urge for self-rule, and within seven years Nyerere had become president of an independent United Republic of Tanganyika.
Meanwhile, a revolution had taken place in Zanzibar against the newly installed constitutional monarchy under a Sultan. Thousands died, and the monarchy was overturned. In April 1964 Tanganyika united with Zanzibar to form what ultimately became the United Republic of Tanzania.
Post-uhuru Tanzania became the home of Nyerere’s great experiment with African socialism. The experiment did not succeed, largely due to inefficiency, unsatisfactory economic management and resistance from the rural peasantry who generally resented being moved into closer settlements known as ujamaa villages. By 1985 the country was on its knees, in debt, and facing huge urbanisation problems as people streamed out of the rural settlements that no longer offered any hope of a reasonable livelihood. At this time, it was not unusual for the wives of university professors to sell vegetables on the streets in an effort to keep body and soul together.
Tanzania’s socialist government reluctantly agreed to accept loans from the International Monetary Fund – which were tied to ‘structural adjustment’ programmes. These included the deregulation of the financial and agricultural markets; and the country’s essential social services were mauled. Education and health, however modest these systems may have been under the previous socialist model, were severely reduced by the cuts in spending demanded by the IMF.
Through the late 1980s and early 1990s, Tanzania’s economy grew modestly, although at the same time poverty indicators increased. Today, although the nominal per capita GDP remains at $428, the prospects for development look more promising, not least because the primary and secondary school systems have been improved: and so the country’s higher education system is expanding accordingly.