A Publication for the faculty, staff, administrators and friends of California State University, Chico
December 9, 2004 Volume 35, Number 4

Page One Stories

Campus bridge at the University of Dar Es-Salaam

School Segregation: Bringing it Home in Tanzania

By Tony Waters, Sociology


Last year, as a Fulbright scholar in Tanzania, I attended U.S. Embassy programs focused on the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education. These programs are part of the Fulbright commitment to education and international exchange and understanding. In the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, the evidence supporting the U.S. Supreme Court decision was reviewed: white schools had more textbooks than black schools, classes were smaller, the buildings were better, and teacher salaries were higher. The Supreme Court ruling stated that the most insidious consequences of discrimination are the clear “psychological” messages that black students receive. Using sociological data, the court concluded that separation itself had negative consequences for how black students viewed their future as citizens.

Tony WatersMy experience in Tanzania, the second poorest country in the world, brought home, literally, the truth of the Brown decision. Although the segregation is based on class and economic differences, and not strictly race, it is imbedded in the Tanzanian educational system. I taught in the public system, and my children attended the international school that serves the wealthier parts of Tanzania (my grant included tuition for my children at the International School of Tanganyika).

IST serves Tanzania’s small Indian community, the diplomatic community, and a very few Tanzanians of African descent. Tuition ranges from about $6,000 per year for kindergarten to $13,000 annually for the upper grades. Classes are small, typically less than 20 per teacher. Teachers are paid Western salaries and trained in the latest techniques of the International Baccalaureate program. There are excellent programs in music, art, social work, and sports. There are also numerous computer stations. The buildings are comfortable and air-conditioned. Graduates go to elite universities throughout the world.

My Fulbright was not at IST, but at the University of Dar Es Salaam (UDSM), which is where 8,000 of Tanzania’s best students study. My students were the hardest working I have ever had; I have a fantasy that 10 of them would magically appear in my classes at Chico, where they would be role models. The UDSM library is full on weekends, holidays, and evenings. Students do not cut classes around Labor Day, Halloween, or St. Patrick’s Day, and they attend class between Christmas and New Years. Papers are handed in on time. If you were on campus late at night, you could see students studying under mangrove trees.

University of Dar Es SalaamBut while UDSM students were hardworking, and the faculty excellent, of the 800 students I had, none were from the wealthy Asian/Indian community that sent their children to IST. UDSM’s library collection is old, and few purchases are made of current literature. The library is so well used because it is the only place there are textbooks.

UDSM students have little computer access, and classes are enormous; I taught a 420-student statistics class without using a spreadsheet program like Excel. I did not assign problem sets because even though I graded more student work than ever, I could not keep up. Much class time at UDSM is spent communicating material via a piece of chalk and blackboard, rather than on handouts, overheads, or online. At night, in the dormitories, study groups are conducted in which the few texts available are read outloud so that as many students as possible benefit. As for salaries, a full professor at UDSM is paid about a third of what a teacher at IST is paid and about a fifthof what a beginning assistant professor in the United States receives.

UDSM graduates have employment problems after graduation. The few middle management jobs in Tanzania’s small private sector are taken by students returning to Tanzania with a foreign education. It will be pointed out correctly that the foreign educated are better qualified because they have computer skills, writing skills, English facility, and a familiarity with current literature. No matter how many times I reassured UDSM students that they have better study habits than my American students (including the two IST students I had at home), the conditions sent a different message. They said that wealthy IST students are better and more skilled, and the implication is that the foreign educated are given preference in hiring.

But there is another side of discrimination that I saw as a parent of two privileged IST students, which the Brown decision perhaps missed. At IST parent meetings, I was occasionally asked about the quality of education at UDSM. In part, this was simple curiosity about a place few IST parents even visited. But it was also a loaded question; the presumption was that UDSM is not very good—certainly not a place I would send my own children. After all, IST regularly has recruiters from elite foreign universities.

And I wonder, would I encourage my own son or daughter to attend UDSM, knowing that the degree is devalued, classes too large, books scarce, and too much lecture time spent drawing graphs? This brings up the point of this essay, at least for me as a parent of privileged children. If the Supreme Court is correct about segregation being psychologically damaging to subordinated children, what effects does privilege have for recipients of favored treatment, including my own children?

 

 

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