Scholarships go beggingProf Jumanne MaghembeBy Flora Nzema, Tumaini University Hundreds of foreign education scholarships meant for Tanzanian students expire every year without being granted to deserving cases, The Citizen can reveal today. In a revelation that is bound to raise eyebrows in donor circles and spark a public outcry, the ministry of Public Service Management in the Office of the President is reportedly sitting on free scholarships offered by a number of countries, which have long traditions of co-operation with Tanzania, under bilateral arrangements. Our inquiries have revealed that about 80 scholarships offered this year by the Indian Government have not been filled, with barely five months before they expire. Another 17 - two to five-year scholarships � are also on offer but only 11 students have taken up those lucrative education opportunities. The head of the Education Department at the Indian High Commission in Dar es Salaam, Ms Gloria Paul, confirmed this week, when contacted for comment, that out of 120 fully-sponsored scholarships offered by India, only 42 had been filled. The scholarships for various professional courses were granted under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC) this year. The recipient countries� success in taking advantage of the opportunities offered determines allocations for subsequent years. Asked to comment on why the scholarships had not been taken up, Ms Paul said she was not in a position to tell, as the offers had been forwarded through the Public Service Management ministry. "I am surprised that Tanzanians do not apply for such opportunities, which are offered free of charge. The embassy provides free airtickets to and from India, accommodation and other living expenses, but many Tanzanians don�t want to take them up," said Ms Paul. She said there were about 200 study fields for which Tanzanians could apply. They include IT and telecommunication, management, and rural development. There are also technical, environment and renewable energy courses. "People with different education levels can apply for these courses. Last year, we had participants from rural areas that could not neither read nor write, but they graduated in the on-the-job learning,"she said. She was referring to some rural women who were trained on solar electrification and rainwater harvesting. Other than India, China and Belgium are the other countries offering scholarships through the ministry. Many other European and the former Soviet states also prefer to offer scholarships through the public system. China has 78 opportunities up for grabs, while Belgium has already awarded 140 scholarships for 2009/2010 for students to pursue master's degrees. We could not immediately confirm why such a big number of scholarships, especially from the Indian Government, would be left to lapse, yet there are many deserving students who would have qualified to take them up. Some critics accused government officials in charge of awarding the foreign scholarships of frustrating applicants and awarding them to their relatives or friends. The short and long-term courses are aimed at both employed or self-employed people within government and non-governmental organisations. Indian embassy official Paul said that lack of awareness and qualifications may be a factor in the low applications for scholarships. But she also said she could not rule out bureaucracy as frustrating those seeking such scholarships. About claims that many Tanzanian students did not favour Indian universities, Ms Paul said: "I don't think they are worried about the quality of colleges in India. I can assure you that the Indian education system is valued highly, especially for their technical know-how." The embassy�s First Secretary, Mr Tarunvir Chaudhary, said The Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC) started in 1964, has an annual budget of $10 million. Since its inception, it has trained more than 1,500 Tanzanians. Officials at the ministry's headquarters in Dar es Salaam responsible for the placement of students wishing to study overseas, declined to speak to The Citizen. A scheduled meeting for an interview was also abruptly cancelled on Wednesday. However, a source who asked not to be named said the ministry had advertised the scholarships in newspapers and on its website. The source said Tanzanians could be losing out because of the poor culture of reading newspapers and using the Internet. "Sometimes people in the ministry are not cooperative enough to support those requiring information on scholarships from foreign countries, including India," the source said. Previously the courses were made available through the embassies responsible but the Tanzanian Government directed that all offers be channelled through the ministry. A former beneficiary of a foreign scholarship called for the restoration of the old system in which foreign embassies directly recruited students to award those opportunities. This would help curb corruption and favouritism, he said. "It is easier that way since people do not have to go through long procedures as now happens at the ministry,"said the Indian university graduate. "First, many Tanzanians do not have the culture of visiting government offices as they believe that one must know somebody to be able to get such an opportunity."