Open borders: Tanzanian youth in Russia
Despite the pandemic, Russia continues to hold educational exhibitions abroad, attracting foreign students to its universities. What are the consequences for the future if we stop addressing this issue today?
Rossotrudnichestvo is responsible for organizing the education of expats at universities within the quotas set by the Russian Government. In June 2020, Evgeny Primakov became the head of the agency and immediately started to reform the structure. On November 17, he gave a press-conference, where he told about why it is necessary to popularize domestic education in the world.
According to Primakov, earlier the main priority of the department was demonstration of our humanitarian presence abroad; however, "we now cannot be satisfied only with the fact that we demonstrate our flag and great culture." Of course, there should be a place for Maslenitsa and stacking dolls, but in toda’s conditions, the formation of public opinion comes to the foreground
«If we want this or that country to treat us more complimentarily, that companies there were provided better working conditions, we must be certain that public opinion is positive towards us," said the head of the agency.
In this vein, the development of Russian schools and language in other countries, as well as the training of foreign youth in Russian universities remain among the priorities of Rossotrudnichestvo. It is known that the plan is to increase the quota for them from 15 to 30 thousand people by 2024.
"We do not know how the economic situation will be due to the coronavirus, but we are interested in more students coming. There is a huge difference between how the same British Council or USAID works, and us. Europeans and Americans rely on "brain pumping", take the most talented guys, train and keep them. We have another task - to give quality education to students and bring them back home so that they could be goodwill ambassadors and strengthen the friendliness of their country towards Russia," Primakov emphasized.
International educational exhibitions serve as an instrument for attracting promising young men and women to higher education. Representatives of universities in the course of presentations give detailed information about the areas of training available on the quota basis, the preferential conditions, and on the fee basis, admission criteria, conditions of relocation and residence.
Of course, at the moment most such meetings with applicants are held online, but in countries with open borders for Russians and the calmest epidemiological situation they are still organized in person. For example, over the past month, universities have presented their programs in Turkey, Serbia and Tanzania.
If our cooperation with the first two countries is widely known: more than 3 thousand citizens of this country have graduated from Soviet and Russian universities. Today, the prestige of Russian universities is growing again, which is reflected in the volume of quotas. Only in the last three years their number has doubled - from 13 to 26. Next year, the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Vocational Training of the Republic requested 50 places. Medical and technical specialities are considered the most popular. And engineers are in demand in all fields: mining, energy, mechanics, construction. The interest of young people is stimulated by joint economic projects in Russia and Africa. Even if in the future a graduate does not work within one of them, the diploma will become an advantage in the local labor market.
"I started learning Russian back at school in Dar es Salaam. I have always wanted to become an architect - I am fascinated by the art of designing and building a variety of buildings, the way they form a single harmonious space that takes into account aesthetics, technology and geography. After high school I entered the Mbeya University of Science & Technology College of Architecture. It is like a technical college in Russia. After graduating from it and having obtained recommendations from teachers, I found a job with the largest architectural bureau in the country - Epitome Architects. On the one hand, it was a "lucky ticket"; on the other hand, my degree, even in the most distant future, would not allow me to achieve serious career advancement and claim a high income. The architect’s salary after college with any work experience - vast or small - was at least twice lower than that of a fresh university graduated. The level of qualification can be either an overwhelming constraint or a good springboard. A quality higher education was required," Robert Magory, a student of the Architecture Faculty of St. Petersburg Mining University.
Today there are two leading universities in the country - the University of Dar es Salaam, which has been working since the 1960s, and a relatively new University of Dodoma.
According to experts, the others, though they attribute themselves as universities, cannot really be seriously considered as higher education institutions, and the education that students receive at these two universities also leaves much to be desired. The problem is the targeted policy of the country's leadership. Teachers from Europe and America, as well as from other African countries, are being forced out of education here, and the qualifications of local teachers are often very low.
According to Robert, another feature of the higher school of his homeland is the fact that it is focused exclusively on the study of theory, so the young man decided to look for a suitable option abroad. African youth are offered scholarships from the U.S. and China, as well as a number of European countries. But most require seed money, not accessible to the average family.
"To enroll at a U.S. college, you must collect a huge set of documents, make a visa and bank statement, and take a number of tests and exams. This takes from 12 to 18 months. All services are paid for. Costs vary somewhere between $3,000 and $4,000, depending on the agency's rates for processing. In this case, you need money for tickets and accommodation. I methodically went around the embassies and was interested in their humanitarian programs, until at one of them, the Russian Embassy, they told me about the quotas that allow me to study for free. Only 19 people from all over the country were selected, and my brother and I were able to get into their ranks thanks to high school scores. Besides, at that point did I realize that I regularly heard about racial problems in the USA, France or Great Britain, but I have never heard anything like that about Russia. In the end I went to St. Petersburg. What was the reason for my choice? That’s where Mining University is located, one of the leading universities in Russia, with a high position in world rankings, as well as an educational program in architecture that interests me. It was Nazir Karamagi who graduated from it and then became the Minister of Industry, Trade and Marketing of Tanzania,” says the young man.
Currently, the Government is considering the possibility for some international students, the most talented guys, to study for free, as well as receive scholarships and grants. Now, a future architect has to work as an English tutor, and the promised extra fee will help him not distract from his studies.
"This is not a waste of budget money, not charity. It is a thing that will definitely pay off at a long distance,” explained Evgeny Primakov at the press conference.
Talking about the difference in the education system between Russia and Tanzania, the young man gives the following example: in college he presented an educational project. Glass facades were held on a light and strong aluminum frame - so today most skyscrapers in the world are built. The lecturer confirmed that the idea was good, but stressed that in Tanzania it was not feasible due to the lack of suitable technology. They say that the country does not produce aluminum, and because of the hot climate, the owner will go bankrupt on air conditioning of the building. The fact that it is possible to import metal, to use double-glazed windows with reflective coating, and the building is correctly positioned relative to the movement of the sun was not even spoken about.
"A university is a space for research. If we talk to students about borders, they can never overcome them. How can one teach something if one initially suggests narrow thinking? In Russia, the approach is fundamentally different: here they study all classic styles and advanced trends in architecture, learn to mix them. I want to understand them in order to develop new, optimal methods of designing buildings, suitable for the local climatic and cultural conditions of my homeland. A significant part of the classes is devoted to practical training. While Tanzanians are mousing over their textbooks, we go to real objects, to the leading architectural studios and specialized organizations in Russia, where we get acquainted with design methods and technologies of building construction. Already in their first year students in Gornyi laboratories study progressive building materials. The arsenal of acquired knowledge and skills will allow me to defend my position in my homeland," Robert believes.
According to him, in Tanzania, even a computer is not in every house. Before coming to St. Petersburg, he could hardly cope with the search for information on the Internet. The same in China or Dubai have already "printed" low-rise houses with the help of special 3d printers - cast individual elements and entire buildings.
After returning home, the young man plans to return to work in the office Epitome Architects, which he worked before training but already in a fundamentally new capacity.
About 1 million graduates of Russian and Soviet educational institutions work in 173 countries. Among them are doctors and engineers, geologists, oil workers and agronomists, university professors and scientists. Many of them have become heads of large enterprises, companies and scientific laboratories, as well as ministers, well-known politicians and government officials.