Jana Frey | 10/12/2018 | 599 Views | Interviews

Hezron Kangalawe | "Plantation forestry in Tanzania: A history of the Sao Hill Forest in Mufindi district, 1939-1990"

Lisa Maskell Fellowships at Stellenbosch University, South Africa

In 2014, the Gerda Henkel Foundation initiated a scholarship programme supporting young humanities scholars from Africa and Southeast Asia in honour of the foundation's founder, Lisa Maskell. It is the largest international support programme for PhD students in the history of the Foundation. The Lisa Maskell Fellowships aim to strengthen universities in the partner countries, to counter the outflow of qualified young scholars and to ensure the doctoral students enjoy excellent academic training.

In the following months, L.I.S.A. will publish interviews with the Lisa Maskell Fellows from Stellenbosch University in South Africa, in which they will talk about their research projects as well as their experiences during their academic career and the Lisa Maskell fellowship.

This week, we welcome Hezron Kangalawe from Tanzania. After graduating from Dar es Salaam University, he started his PhD in History with the thesis Plantation forestry in Tanzania: A history of the Sao Hill Forest in Mufindi district, 1939-1990 at Stellenbosch University in 2015 and he successfully graduated from the program in March 2018.

Hezron Kangalawe

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"The humanities are strong especially in public universities"

L.I.S.A.: What is the status of the humanities in Tanzania, your home country?

Hezron Kangalawe: The status of the humanities in Tanzania is very limited to higher learning institutions. It is not vibrant anywhere beyond the learning environment. However, in these learning institutions the humanities are strong especially in public universities. In Tanzania, specifically, it comprises history, communication skills, archaeology, foreign language studies, literature, philosophy and creative arts. This scenario is better established at the University of Dar es Salaam than it is at other universities. The status becomes narrower as you approach private higher learning institutions, which are by and large, profit making institutions.

"Saving from my own salary"

L.I.S.A.: Have you ever encountered problems in the realization of your academic career?

Hezron Kangalawe: Yes of course. I encountered problems in the realization of my academic career which were related with financing my studies. For example, I pursued my master’s degree in history (University of Dar es Salaam) by saving from my own salary which was very meagre. I applied to sponsorship programmes from the Tanzania Higher Education Loan Board in vain. I thank God that I graduated on time in 2012. Secondly, when I wanted to enroll for my PhD studies, at the same university, there was no funding opportunity hence the Lisa Maskel Foundation was a sustainable solution.

"Historians had not written the history of the forest"

L.I.S.A.: What is your PhD project about and what got you interested in the chosen topic to begin with?

Hezron Kangalawe: My PhD project is about the history of plantation forests in Tanzania between 1939 and 2015 focussing on the Sao Hill forests, the biggest plantation forests in Tanzania. The forests are found in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania in the Iringa Province. I got interested with the topic as I was born in the villages surrounding the forests and it happened that scholars especially historians had not written the history of the forest. I wanted to explore the response of the surrounding communities during the establishment of the forests and indeed, the surviving strategies deployed by the state amidst the population boom and hunger for land by the surrounding subsistence farmers.

"At Stellenbosch University the supervisors are not bosses of the supervisee"

L.I.S.A.: What has your experience at Stellenbosch been like? Have there been any differences to the University of Dar es Salaam and possibly other institutions you have previously worked?

Hezron Kangalawe: My experience at Stellenbosch University has been wonderful. I must admit that I found scholars and indeed supervisors who were hardworking and time conscious! My supervisor, Prof. Sandra Swart, was ready to assist me on almost every aspect of academic. She printed and sometimes bought reading materials for me. Stellenbosch University remains one of the best universities in Africa as it has adhered to technological changes in all levels of learning spheres. For example, the library is almost full of all books you would require (old and new ones). These books are supplemented with the hardworking librarians and, indeed, the computerized system of fetching those books and journals. Another unique element at Stellenbosch University is that the supervisors are not bosses of the supervisee but rather they work as guardians to their supervisee. There is a big difference between University of Dar es Salaam and Stellenbosch specifically the fact that Dar es Salaam University depends on public funds to run its programmes and this is a barrier as the government priorities do change at the expense of the university plans. This leads me to admit that the university does not pay the supervisors well and this makes supervision of masters and PhD candidates fall under business as usual. However, now at the University of Dar es Salaam there are measures to establish an advanced library and computerize many of its administrative structures.

L.I.S.A.: What are the opportunities in Tanzania to pursue different degree options (BA/MA/PhD)?

Hezron Kangalawe: The opportunities to pursue BA/MA/PhD is very limited, especially the PhD. The enrollment for BA and MA is good as candidates are targeting new employment opportunities in the emerging economies in urban centers while the PhD is limited to working in higher learning institutions. In rare cases, PhD graduates are emerging in some outstanding government parastatals. These are mainly directors plucked from higher learning institutions.

L.I.S.A.: What are your plans concerning your future career once you have obtained your PhD?

Hezron Kangalawe: My plan had been to proceed with my post-doctoral studies in one of the best universities in Africa, Europe or America but this has been hindered by a lack of funding. My second option has been to convert my PhD thesis into a book. I am still struggling to secure funds for these two options.

Hezron Kangalawe has answered the questions in written form.

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