- DR. MAMA BARBRO JOHANSSON
Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka
Born 25th September, 1912 in Malmö, Sweden to a tea ching couple. Her father was the Headmaster of a primary school and her mother a teacher at the same school. Barbro is the second born among 4 children, 2 girls and 2 boys.
Primary Education at Johanneskolan in Malmö, Sweden .
Middle and high school education at Bunths Private Girls’ School. There were no public girls’ schools in Sweden then.
University of Lund, Bachelor of Arts, in Education, pedagogy, languages and philosophy.
Teaching diploma at Södraseminariet Teachers’ Colle ge in Stockholm.
Teacher at Limhamn primary school in Malmö, Sweden.
Joined the Church of Swedish Mission, trained as a missionary in Uppsala.
Theological studies at the University of Uppsala and the University of Lund, Sweden.
The information is base on Anna Wieslander’s book about Barbro “Hem Till Tanzania” RABÉN & SJÖGREN, 19 89, and a personal interview with Mama Barbro in Uppsala, Sweden on 17th April, 1996.
Arrived in Bukoba on 9th July, 1946 and became a teacher at Kigarama Teachers’ College which was run by the Evangelical Church of Tanganyika (later called the Lutheran Church)2.
Given the challenging task of establishing a girls’ middle school at Kashasha, in Kiziba division of Bukoba District, in the West Lake (now Kagera) region of Tanzania. It was not easy to get students qualifying to the school.
The first class had 42 girls with the average age of 16 years. However, after a few years, the school became a great success. The first graduates from Kashasha came out in 1951.
Until independence Kashasha Girls’ School topped the list of all girls’ middle schools in the national examinations.
Met Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, leader of the newly formed and rapidly spreading independence political party called the Tanganyika African National Union – TANU. Nyerere was in the area and Barbro invited him to visit Kashasha Girls’ School. Nyerere was highly impressed by the standards at Kashasha particularly the girls’ awareness of the independence struggle.
Elected to the First Legislative Council of Tanganyika. Although not yet a member, she was requested to stand as the TANU candidate for the West Lake Region’s white seat3.
Following the breakout of World War II, in 1939 German missionaries in Tanganyika were arrested and sent to camps in Rhodesia. Exceptions were the Catholic German missionaries who, as subjects of the Holy See, were regarded as neutral. In order to prevent the collapse of health and education centres operated by German missionaries, American Lutherans were invited to take them over. The late Bishop Bengt Sundkler was recruited in South Africa by American missionaries and posted to fill the vacuum in West Lake Region of Tanganyika, and thereby saved centres such as Kigarama teachers’ College and Ndolage Hospital (in Muleba district) from collapse. Upon his return to Uppsala in 1945 Bengt Sundkler convinced Barbro to continue with his work in Kigarama instead of going to India where she had originally been posted.
There were 30 constituencies for the Legislative Council, with each contesting party required to put up 10 whites, 10 Asians and 10 Africans. Each voter had to cast 3 votes.
After several years as an active supporter of TANU Barbro was finally allowed to join the Party following its decision to admit non-Africans.
Elected to represent Mwanza region in Parliament for 5 years. West Lake Region did not qualify for a white seat, so TANU asked Barbro to run for the Mwanza constituency. To qualify as a candidate she needed the support of at least
25 Whites resident in the region. Cardinal Laurean Rugambwa of the Catholic Church in Bukoba assisted her nomination by asking nuns in the area to sign her nomination papers. This signifies the good cooperation between Catholic and Lutheran missionaries in Tanzania which continues until today.
After the 1960 elections, in order to facilitate her frequent travels to her constituency in Mwanza, she moved from Kashasha Girls’ School to Kahororo Boys’ Secondary School in Bukoba. (Kahororo school was then run by the Lutheran church).
Moved from Bukoba to live in Mwanza and started Adult Education activities.
Granted Tanzanian citizenship. She had applied in December 1961 and Mwalimu Nyerere himself, then Prime Minister, was sponsor of her application.
In January, 1965, President Nyerere asked Mama Barbro to become the Headmistress of Tabora Girls’ Secondary School. Mwalimu was trying to rescue the then only girls’ school with grades 13 and 14 in the country from closure following a cabinet decision to shut it down because of a breakdown of discipline. In accepting this appointment,
Mama Barbro is known to have said “If someone must be disliked, why not me”4.
After 4 years she managed to turn around both discipline and performance at the school. In 1967 Tanzania won the first UNESCO prize in Adult Education because of a report prepared by the students at Tabora Girls. A school representative, Rose Omari (presently Mrs. Rose Mwapachu) went to Paris to collect the prize. Most of Barbro’s students describe her as “the most devoted teacher they ever knew”. Mwalimu Nyerere describes her thus “Even as a politician, she was a teacher”.
Granted honorary doctorate in Philosophy by the University of Gothernburg in Sweden in recognition of her “contribution in the collection of social anthropology and archeology material and in promoting international cooperation.
July, 1969-September, 1970:
Moved back to Bukoba and worked as the regional coordinator for Adult Education for West Lake Region. The foundation she laid enabled Tanzania to win the second UNESCO prize in Adult Education in 1976 following a report by her successor, Mr. Felix Kataraiya.
Diplomacy and Tanzania Nordic Cooperation
Posted as Counsellor at the Tanzanian Embassy in the Nordic countries which was opened in Stockholm in 1964 right after Nyerere’s state visit in 1963. Her mission was to assist the late Ambassador Chief Michael Lukumbuzya to cement the increasing cooperation between Tanzania and the Nordic countries. She travelled extensively not only in Sweden but also in Norway, Denmark and Finland where she was invited to brief Members of Parliament on Tanzania. By Mama Barbro’s own account, she was well received but was above all inspired by Norwegian women whom she felt had good organization and showed enduring interest and support.
Some government officials and influential people were exploiting the girls for pleasure and any Headmistress wishing to prevent this would not be popular in such circles.
The background is that after the United Nations Secretary General (the late Dag Hammarskjöld who was a Swedish national) had vi sited Tanganyika in 1959 and 1960, all the Nordic countries very closely followed the developments leading to the independence of that Trustee Territory from Britain. In July, 1961, a week after Nyerere had become Prime Minister, Barbro arranged a meeting between the then youngest serving Prime Minister (i.e. Nyerere) and the longest serving Prime Minister, Mr. Tag Erlander of Sweden. Nyerere was thus invited to Harpsund, the official residence of Swedish Prime Ministers, for 3 days. The Late Olof Palme, then Tag Erlander’s Private Secretary facilitated the discussion not only as a participant but also as a translator.
Mama Barbro recalls that Olof Palme suggested that there should be established a cooperation not only between Tanzania and Sweden but all the Nordic countries, an idea which was strongly supported by Nyerere. A joint Nordic appraisal mission with 8 experts (2 from each of the 4 Nordic countries) was sent to Tanzania in February, 1962. Barbro joined the Mission as the Tanzania Government’s representative.
The outcome was the construction of the Kibaha Education Centre. Concerned that the facility might become a white elephant, the Nordics insisted on locating the Education Centre strategically near Dar es Salaam where the buildings could be easily converted into a University in case the idea of such a centre did not work out. In 1968, Swedish Prime Minister Tag Erlander made his historic visit to Tanzania, accompanied among others by Ingvar Carlsson, then head of the Social Democratic Youth Movement. Mr. Carlsson had spent 2 years raising funds for the construction of the TANU Youth League Centre in Dar es Salaam. In February of 1968 Prime Minister Erlander and Mr. Carlsson stood side by side to inaugurate the opening ceremony of the said Nyumba ya Vijana along Morogoro Road.
Mama Barbro was instrumental either in arranging or facilitating subsequent state visits between Tanzania and her Nordic partners:
The late Swedish Prime Minister, Olof Palme made two visits to Tanzania, first in 1972 and second in 1984 when he also attended the Summit of the Group of 77 held in Arusha. King Carl Gustaf XVI and Queen Silvia visited Tanzania in February, 1981.
The Norwegian Prime Minister Kare Willock had visited Tanzania in 1970 as a parliamentarian and Prime Minister Bratelli visited Tanzania in February, 1975.
The Finnish Prime Minister Kalevi Sorsa visited Tanzania in April, 1978 while the King and Queen of Denmark visited Tanzania in 1969.
And the tradition continues. In April, 1998, Norway’s King Harald and Queen Sofia paid a two week’s visit in Tanzania where they were received by Tanzania’s third President Benjamin William Mkapa. King Harald had visited Tanzania in 1982 while still Crown Prince.
Before his retirement in 1985, Mwalimu Nyerere made 5 state visits to the Nordic countries, in 1961,1963,1969,1976, and 1985. Tanzania’s second President Ali Hassan Mwinyi visited the region in April, 1990.
At the time of updating this profile (August, 1998) President Mkapa has recently returned from a tour of the Nordic countries. Surely the seeds of cooperation sown by Mama Barbro continue to bear fruit. She can rightly be called the bridge if not “Mother of Tanzania Nordic Cooperation”.
Adult and Higher Education
As head of the Adult Education Section in the Ministry of Education in Dar es Salaam, she was instrumental in the organization of the successful literacy campaign for which Tanzania won two international UNESCO prizes in 1967 and 1976. Barbro has occupied many education related positions including being appointed:
Board Member: National library services, 1979-1989
Member of Council: University of Dar es Salaam, July, 1970 – June,
1989, as President’s appointee and advisor. Before independence (1959/60) she had served as a member of the Parliamentary Committee for Establishing the University.
African Liberation and International Cooperation
In her carrier as a politician and legislator Mama Barbro represented Tanzania in many official visits and international conferences. In Dar es Salaam she was active and came in close contact with the leaders of liberation movements in Southern Africa including Eduardo Mondlane of Mozambique and Sam Nujoma of Namibia. Notable was her role in the Commonwealth Meeting held in Kingston Jamaica in October and November, 1964. The African delegates decided unanimously to walk out of the Conference if Rhodesia (then under Ian Smith’s illegal rule) was admitted. Barbro was heading the Tanzania delegation and African delegates wanted her, the only white African in all their delegations, to inform the Conference of their decision. She walked into the Conference room and delivered the message. Despite initial resistance by some countries, the African position prevailed.
Rhodesia was barred from the Commonwealth until after that country (Zimbabwe) got true independence in 1980!