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50 years of independence: Is education for self reliance relevant for Tanzania today?

26th September 2011
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Our educational system has to encourage, foster and prepare our young people to play a dynamic and constructive part in the development of a society in which all members share fairly in the good or bad fortune of the group, and in which progress is measured in terms of human well-being, not prestige in the form of buildings, cars, or other such things, whether privately or publicly owned.

Our education must therefore inculcate a sense of commitment to the total community, and help the pupils to accept the values appropriate to our kind of future, not those appropriate to our colonial past.

Last year, I was involved in the Education Sector Review, which is done annually by the Ministry of Education and Vocation Training in collaboration with various education stakeholders such as Civil Societies Organisations, Development Partners and others. The aim of the Review was to find out the implementation status of policies in relation to quality, management and governance and cross cutting issues; and to track the sources of funds and its expenditure.

During the review I met government officials, teachers, students and members of school committees and boards. One of the questions which we were discussing with respondents was the relevance of the current education curricula at different levels of education.

Many respondents, including students, replied that the content in the curriculum was relevant and aimed at providing required skills and knowledge which would help primary and secondary schools graduates to support themselves and their families after graduation.

However, they observed that those aims had not and might not be met because of various challenges including lack of qualified teachers, teaching and learning materials, lack of in-service training; lack of teacher incentives including teachers’ houses and many others.

In one instance some parents who are the members of the school committee in one primary school, commented that the current education given to their children was not relevant as they did not see its effect at household and community levels.

They asserted that most of the primary or secondary school leavers could not read properly, do simple arithmetic or utilize skills and knowledge obtained in schools to support their family day to day production activities. They observed that the major aim of most of teachers and student was to pass examination at any cost, not to gain skills and knowledge to support in their life after graduation.

They complained that even some of the university graduates with First Class were only very good at providing theoretical perspective of issues, but when employed could not perform some practical duties. Could this be a result of poor curriculum content or how it was delivered?

The parents said that during colonialism and even during the era of Education for Self Reliance, primary school graduates were able to utilize their skills and knowledge (on domestic science, agriculture, animal husbandry, masonry, and so on) to perform various duties that supported them to obtain income for themselves, their households and community development at large.

The same above statement was given by legislator Zitto Kabwe on September 15, this year during the inauguration of Uwezo Annual Learning Assessment Report. He asserted that when he was in Standard Five, he was elected chairperson of “Elimu ya Kujitegemea (EK)” in his school.

EK managed school projects like the school garden and as the chairperson he was a signatory to the EK school bank account. Without his signature, the headmaster would not withdraw money from this account, so he learnt about banking and basic financial management at a very young age. This was during the times when our education system was guided by a philosophy, “Education for Self-reliance”.

Zitto further commented that: “Yes, I was learning, and I am sure my colleagues were learning as well. There was no Uwezo then to assess us, but even if there had been, the assessment wouldn’t have found three out 10 Standard Three pupils who couldn’t read a Standard Two basic story, wouldn’t have found three out of 10 pupils who couldn’t do very basic mathematics as we used to sing tables in classes, wouldn’t have found 20 per cent of teachers being absent as discipline was high amongst teachers and inspectors were very effective”

These comments kept me thinking on relevance of our current education curriculum and its implementation, and contrast it with the Education for Self Reliance curriculum and its implementation.

It is a fact that currently there is high emphasis on the theoretical part of the academics than practical side, which is why most graduates even from universities are only very conversant with theories than actual implementation of the theories. The current curriculum implementation is geared towards passing examination and obtaining certificates and this tune is being danced by parents, teachers and policy makers.

The philosophy of Education for Self Reliance (ESR) was a sequel of the Arusha Declaration and it underscored the weakness of the education system then. This philosophy emphasized the need for curriculum reform in order to integrate theory with the acquisition of practical life skills. It also urged linkage of education plans and practices with national socio-economic development and the world of work.

Between 1967 and 1978, the government took several steps and enacted several laws in order to legalise actions taken as a result of the Arusha Declaration and ESR. Specifically, some of the changes that were effected in the education and school system include reforms in school curricula in order to meet national needs; post primary technical centres including Folk Development Colleges (FDCs) were introduced; work was made an integral part of the education; and diversification of secondary education, where there was secondary schools which were known as “mchepuo” aimed at producing secondary school graduates who had learned some vocational skills and knowledge, and could directly utilize them to sustain their lives.

All these changes aimed at improving the quality of education and strengthening the link between education provided at all levels and social and economic development of Tanzania. ESR emphasised that primary schooling was a cycle of learning rather than a selection mechanism for advancement to secondary education.

It was considered that the school curriculum needed changing to make the content of individual subjects more relevant to Tanzanian children. This would involve productive work on farms and in workshops, an amalgam of theory and practice. Parents, agricultural workers and artisans were encouraged to become involved in the learning process.

This by implication would serve to reinforce the work ethic and maintain the respect for the work in agriculture development rather than encourage pupils to aspire only to well-paid employment in the formal sector.

These beliefs formed the basis of educational policies for nearly two decades and emphasized rural development at a time when ever increasing numbers of young people were migrating to the towns in search of jobs in the relatively well paid formal sector.

In the booklet named “Education for Self Reliance” published in 1967, Nyerere said that “It would thus be a gross misinterpretation of our needs to suggest that the educational system should be designed to produce robots, who work hard but never question what the leaders in Government or TANU are doing and saying.

The education provided must therefore encourage the development in each citizen of three things: an enquiring mind; an ability to learn from what others do, and reject or adapt it to his own needs; and a basic confidence in his own position as a free and equal member of the society, who values others and is valued by them for what he does and not for what he obtains”.

Has our current education system and curriculum implementation regarded this? The curriculum implementation does not encourage inquiry mind as it is geared toward passing examinations at any cost.

Our educational system has to encourage, foster and prepare our young people to play a dynamic and constructive part in the development of a society in which all members share fairly in the good or bad fortune of the group, and in which progress is measured in terms of human well-being, not prestige buildings, cars, or other such things, whether privately or publicly owned.

Our education must therefore inculcate a sense of commitment to the total community, and help the pupils to accept the values appropriate to our kind of future, not those appropriate to our colonial past.

It must stress concepts of equality and the responsibility to give service which goes with any special ability, whether it be in carpentry, in animal husbandry, or in academic pursuits.

And, in particular, our education must counteract the temptation to intellectual arrogance; for this leads to the well-educated despising those abilities are non-academic or who have no special abilities but are just human beings. Such arrogance has no place in a society of equal citizens.

I agree with many people that our country has lost its education philosophy, and therefore currently need a clear philosophy which will be translated into education policy and practice. I strongly believe that Education for Self Reliance is still relevant and highly needed now than before especially when we are going deep into the market economy where labor market terms are going to be very tight.

However, it requires clear interpretation, explicit delineation of roles for each concerned party, mobilization and use of requisite resources, and transformation of the social fabric before it can successfully be adopted and institutionalized in the current socio-economic situation.

The writer is a specialist in education management, planning, economics of education and policy studies, and can be reached at: 0754304181 or albertsozzy@yahoo.com

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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