Julius Nyerere departed from us 13 years today. But our memories are so fresh that one will say it is only yesterday that Mwalimu passed away. His were great ideas and philosophical viewpoints that I cannot leave this event pass without a comment!
My travel to Arusha and Handeni this week reminded me lots of things about Mwalimu Nyerere. First, I met with Prof Patrice Lumumba (pictured), famously known by the acronym ‘PLO’. I met this genious don for the first time at the University of Dar es Salaam in 1995 when a reflection conference on Pan Africanism had brought a lot of us togther to discuss, among other things Nyerere’s ideas on development in Africa.
He himself was there in attendance and Prof PLO Lumumba had a paper to present, which he so did extra competently and in a very rare situation, Mwalimu commended Lumumba calling him a superb African youngman. I wish to admit that I have always held Mwalimu’s view on PLO.
But how many of the Lumumbas do we remain with? Perhaps a handful of them in Africa. Tanzania today has a lot of educated professionals. However, most of them are average on the scales. PLO is an exemplary orator. Trained in law, Lumumba is competent in nearly every subject matter from comparative international law to constitutionalism and political economy.
This is a brain just below Mwalimu Nyerere. Education today has changed its meaning, objects and direction. In Mwalimu’s view, formal education without deliberate effort to Africanize it was basically elitist in nature, catering to the needs and interests of the very small proportion of those who manage to enter the hierarchical pyramid of advanced formal education.
Accordingly, Mwalimu held that it was sad that Africans were beginning to take western education without any questioning. Today, matters are even worse as we have lost the culture of questioning and only think of education in terms of obtaining teachers, engineers, administrators, etc. I will go with Mwalimu’s view that as individuals and collectively, we have in practice thought of education as a training for the skills required to earn high salaries in the modern sector of our economy.
It is sad how the ‘modern’ education system divorces its participants from the society for which they are supposed to be trained. I know of colleagues who have not been back to their villages of birth since they left primary school and they soon are going to be grand parents.
I myself have always wondered how I missed the job I like most, that of a rural mobilizer and educator. But with the sort of training I received in Tanzania, England and Holland, I only try to visit the countryside regularly! I hear that I am over-qualified for the ‘job’ of rural mobilizer cum educator.
Yet, in Mwalimu’s philosophy, the education system must not breed the notion that education is synonymous with formal schooling, and that people must be judged and employed on the basis of their ability to pass examinations and acquire paper qualifications.
Today, even at University level, you are retained as a tutorial assistant or assistant lecturer when you have the best GPA from your written exams. This, in my view is very very wrong. One obvious thing to note is that a GPA is one thing, being a teacher at any level but more importantly at university demands more than just a good GPA.
At lower levels of schooling, the worst performers are selected to teacher training colleges countrywide, as those with better performance go for other skills and training. And with globalization, six or fewer months is good enough to earn a teaching qualification as in the case of ‘vodafaster’ teachers’ courses today!
Talking of the relevance of education, the sort of education offered today does not involve students in productive work and is less relevant to a school leaver and the surrounding community.
Such a situation deprives society of their much-needed contribution to increase national economic output andit also breeds among students contempt for manual work. How many of us with Masters or doctoral degrees are best at brick making or ‘vinyungu’ farming today? How many of us from Sokoine University can lead in tractor farming and animal ploughing?
I find it so sad that we have kept using trillions of shillings each decade giving wrong and irrelevant training to our national graduands. As a result, all college leavers are in Dar es Salaam, Mwanza and Arusha without but in search for a white collar job! Nyerere’s education philosophy or blueprint sought to address the realities of life in Tanzania, not otherwise!
Even the notion of ‘Education for Self Reliance’, which is today scarcely recognized, was actually a noble idea. In this direction, education had to work for the common good, foster co-operation and promote equality.
In his view, education was too important to become a private good. Can a nation affort to be taken hostage due to an uneducated citizenry? Mwalimu thought that in regard to public goods such as education, health, security and many more, the Tanzania must agree to procure them collectively as a nation and afford the service to everyone.
This view is a very progressive view of education, coupled with his philosophy of ‘lifelong learning,’ which means that your not having received formal education up to any level was not the end of the road.I wish to declare Mwalimu was a very good champion of civic and adult education, which is key for sustainable development!
Furthermore, Mwalimu believed that societies become better places through the development of people rather than the gearing up of production. This was a matter that Nyerere took to be important both in political and private terms. Unlike many other politicians, he did not amass a large fortune through exploiting his position. Only 13 years from his death, and 27 years from his leaving office, on, his successors are among our leading billionnaires from the fortunes of their offices. What a lost legacy !
In short, Mwalimu’s absence is hugely felt today. People have tagged a price to themselves and are rushing for the highest educational qualification certificates from anywhere in the global village. We know of colleagues who have attempted to attach PhDs to their names but in vain. We also know of properly trained dons who are not teaching but have become entrepreneurs in their own right! Mwalimu was aganst all of this !
As for the youths, on this Mwalimu had too many relevant ideas he left that I would need separate space to reflect upon. I will seek a public forum today to share the main ideas with the youth, who actually constitute more than 60 per cent of Tanzania’s population today and is therefore the biggest single group in our country. Welcome to the University of Dar es Salaam where this reflection forum on Youths issues in light of Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere will take place today at the Nkrumah Hall!
I conclude with a call. Let us envy Mwalimu by following and not betraying his good ideas on education. Education has no end, he remarked, and that is my conclusion today!
Deus M Kibamba, a lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, is also executive director of the Tanzania Citizens’ Information Bureau (TCIB) and chairman of Jukwaa la Katiba Tanzania. His contacts are: firstname.lastname@example.org and telephone : +255 788 758 581.