The prohibition of political activities in schools and universities has been identified as a barrier to the youth’s engagement in democratic processes, experts warned.
They said that the country required citizens who had been educated in civics and democracy and were capable of arguing and finding answers, but that there was no place to train them democratically at the grassroots level, including schools.
The discussion also highlighted challenges, opportunities, and Possibilities to advance youth participation in leadership and democratic processes. However, they expressed frustration with the state of democratisation in the country.
Dr Wilberforce Meena from HakiElimu said that teachers had a very important role in enabling young people to develop civic and democratic skills in schools, which provided the best avenues for preparing democrats.
“But in our school system, teachers do not have freedom to build students’ democratic abilities and skills due to the great emphasis on exam performance,” he said.
He went on to advise that teachers should have another role outside the classroom as democratic professionals to equip the young generation with knowledge in the democratic arena as well.
They were debating on a topic: Civic Education and Democratic Processes among Youth in Tanzania: Gaps, Perceptions and Prospects yesterday during the 14th Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Intellectual Festival held at the University of Dar es Salaam.
Karagwe Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s Bishop Benson Bagonza said that there were still many obstacles that denied young people in schools and colleges the opportunity to participate in democratic life.
He said schools were a small part of the larger society, “so if there is no democracy in the school, you should know that democracy in the larger society has decreased or is on the verge of dying.”
He expressed surprise at the banning of politics in educational institutions at a time when society needed democratically equipped youths as well.
“We want young people to be raised democratically, but we prohibit political activity at colleges. Where will they learn?” The democratic process requires learning,” he said. “Our government needs to abandon the fear it has about allowing political debates in colleges.
All the universities globally participate in politics; why do we want to be the odd one out? Have our young people become eggs that, if they are mixed with politics, will be ruined? No,” he pointed out.
Mr Lugete Lugete, a teacher of History, general studies and civics at Alpha Secondary School, revealed it was true teachers spent too much time preparing for better exam results. This, he noted, has denied them time to make students knowledgeable and experts in democracy from the grassroots.
Since the turn of the new Millennium, experts say scholars and politicians have been concerned about the apparent withdrawal of citizens from democratic participation across a range of established democracies.
In particular, attention has often centred on young people, whose levels of electoral and party engagement tend to be lower than those of the population in general and indeed of previous youth generations.
“School can be an important facilitator in directing the participation of young people in politics, as it can help young people get involved in micro-processes that mimic policy-making processes,” said Dr Richard Mbunda, a lecturer.