Saturday, January 4, 2014

You Say SEKOMU, I Say SEKUCO, Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

Check out this article I just peeped from a recent issue of The Guardian.  Methinks SEKOMU (formerly SEKUCO) might be an excellent place to recruit Tanzanian teachers for Toa Nafasi.  God knows, with the second rollout of the Project right around the corner, I'm gonna need the help....

Fortunately, this lil' chickie is hooked up!!  Both Angi and Mary Gale have extensive contacts at SEKUCO and other institutions dealing with intellectual impairment and special needs in Lushoto, and even I made a visit up there in 2009.  Hopefully, the powers-that-be will look kindly upon TTNP!!


Tanga offers rare 'Bachelor in Special Needs'

December 7, 2013, was an historical day in the community living on mountain hillside of the Usambaras in Lushoto district, Tanga region. 

It was a special occasion in the sense that the Sebastian Kolowa Memorial University (SEKOMU), in the area was marking the first graduation for its undergraduate students since it became a fully fledged university in October, last year.

Prior to achieving its present status, SEKOMU, was a constituent college of Tumaini University, which is based in Arusha, in the northern part of Tanzania.

SEKOMU is the first university in the country to establish a Bachelor of Special Needs under the Faculty of Science.  It is also the pioneer of another equally important department: Bachelor of Science in Mental Health and Rehabilitation, which took off last year.

Presently SEKOMU operates three faculties which are law, education, and science, but the university has future plans to establish faculties of medicine, theology, and business administration, both at the Diploma and Certificate levels.

The great occasion of the first graduating class was hosted at the university's newly built modern conference complex where the chief guest, SEKOMU Chancellor, Rt. Rev. Dr. Stephen Munga presented certificates to a total of 349 undergraduates.

Describing the uniqueness of the university, Dr. Munga told the crowd that, initially, SEKOMU was a diaconic institution in that its mission was based on the provision of services morally, spiritually, mentally, and bodily.

"The North Eastern Diocese (NED) has vast knowledge and experience in the  provision of diaconic services for over 125 years," said Dr. Munga in a detailed speech which covered the history of diaconia, this spiritual undertaking pioneered by early German missionaries from 1898.

"What we are doing now has roots from many years ago having been done in collaboration with our sisters in centers in Bethel, Germany," he said.

After Tanzania's independence, professionals from several sectors gradually left the country creating a large academic vacuum in the provision of social services.  Dr. Munga said that, noticing the scenario, NED, one of the key service providers even before independence, found out that of the areas it aimed to provide services within, special needs, had a severe shortage of professionals.

"It was during this time that we of NED sat down and deliberated on how best we could save the situation, for most of the centers seriously lacked professionals."

He said eventually the decision was made to open a university which was officially launched in 2007, operating as a constituent college of Tumaini University.

"We have high expectations from you undergraduates. Remember, we did not establish SEKUCO, and now SEKOMU, as an act of imitation, but we did so for more powerful reasons," said the academic, sternly.

"We strongly believe that the education you obtain here will steer you towards change not only in Tanzanian society but also globally, through the skills you learned at SEKOMU."

"The aim of embarking on such higher education is to enable graduates to develop the capacity to think critically, to reach the top of one's learning ability.  In my view, there is a necessity for this country to invest more on quality education, education which would be available to beneficiaries and the community."

"We are aware of the government's efforts to improve the standard of education in various ways, but certainly, a lot more needs to be done, considering that several recommendations delivered to the education sector have yet to be worked on," he said.

In the words of Dr. Munga, the time has come for the Tanzanian government to initiate an overall rehabilitation of the entire education system in the country.

The rehabilitation should include the opportunity to look into the possibility of extending student loans to all Tanzanian students pursuing higher education.

Earlier, Rev. Dr. Anneth Munga, SEKOMU Vice Chancellor, congratulated the undergraduates for their diligence and hard work which enabled them to make this breakthrough in their careers. 

"What you have done is not enough, though.  You need to be ready for walking an extra mile, to work with compassion wherever you will be," said the university's chief executive.

She said, "Compassion breeds diligence in work performance as well as forbearance – an act of lowliness.  The wisdom to put yourself in other people's places in the performance of your various tasks is a quality that you should develop when you leave here."

Speaking to the undergraduates, she said that today's world has been dominated by barbarism, the exact opposite of compassion, and that in certain sections of the community in Tanzania and beyond, people have been branded as disadvantaged, and not supported.

"Today, people with disabilities in many communities are not regarded as humans.  In fact, where any services whatsoever are extended to them, it is often only regarded as favor."

Mama Munga said sustainable development can only be meaningful where the underprivileged in the community are given priority and allowed to be actors in various sectors. 

"It is the obligation of all of us to strive to ensure that people living with disabilities of various kinds do not continue to be recipients of charity.  The disabled should not be left to be dependent on their neighbors, instead they should be enabled to take their respective places as other people, given that they have the right to participate in whatever their fellow countrymen were doing."

"If you work with compassion in whatever you will do and whatever you will put your hands on, people will ask where you came from and you will say, without hesitation, that you came from the rocky hillside - SEKOMU - a magnificent area in Lushoto."

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