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How Nyerere linked education with development

14th October 2013
Mwalimu Julius Nyerere

Today, Monday 14th October as we commemorating Nyerere’s Day in various ways, I decided to share some highlights on Mwalimu Nyerere’s vision on relevance of education in support development of our nation. Some of these excerpts of this article are taken from various writings on Mwalimu Nyerere.

Mwalimu Nyerere viewed education as a means to liberate Tanzanians mentally, socially and economically. In his speech to a seminar on education and training and alternatives in education in African countries, organized by the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and held in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) in May 1974, he emphasised that education has to liberate both the mind and the body of man.

It has to make him more of a human being because he is aware of his potential as a human being and is in a positive, life-enhancing relationship with himself, his neighbour and his environment.

Education has therefore to enable a man to throw off the impediments to freedom which restrict his full physical and mental development. It is thus a matter of attitudes and skills - both of them.

Education is incomplete if it only enables man to work out elaborate schemes for universal peace but does not teach him how to provide good food for himself and his family. It is equally incomplete and counterproductive if it merely teaches man how to be an efficient tool user and tool maker, but neglect his personality and his relationship with his fellow human beings.

In order to have a meaningful definition of ‘education’ in 1967, Nyerere defined the purpose of education as to transmit from one generation to the next the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of the society, and to prepare the young people for their future membership of the society and their active participation in its maintenance or development.

As a process of liberating individuals through education, Nyerere aimed at making individual self reliant, therefore, ‘Education for Self Reliance’ philosophy was embedded into education policies and curriculum.

As Yusuf Kassam in his book ‘Julius Nyerere’ published in 1995 has noted, Nyerere’s educational philosophy can be approached under two main headings: education for self-reliance; and adult education, lifelong learning and education for liberation.

His interest in self-reliance shares a great deal with Gandhi’s approach. There was a strong concern to counteract the colonialist assumptions and practices of the dominant, formal means of education. He saw it as enslaving and oriented to ‘western’ interests and norms.

Kassam (1995) sums up his critique of the Tanzanian (and other former colonies) education system as follows:

1. Formal education is 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 formal schooling: ‘We have not until now questioned the basic system of education which we took over at the time of Independence. We have never done that because we have never thought about education except in terms of obtaining teachers, engineers, administrators, etc. Individually 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’ (Nyerere, 1968 267).
2. The education system divorces its participants from the society for which they are supposed to be trained.
3. The system breeds the notion that education is synonymous with formal schooling, and people are judged and employed on the basis of their ability to pass examinations and acquire paper qualifications.
4. The system does not involve its students in productive work. Such a situation deprives society of their much-needed contribution to the increase in national economic output and also breeds among the students a contempt for manual work. (Kassam 1995)
Nyerere set out his vision in ‘Education for Self Reliance’ (reprinted in Nyerere 1968). Education had to work for the common good, foster co-operation and promote equality. Further, it had to address the realities of life in Tanzania. The following changes were proposed:
1. It should be oriented to rural life.
2. Teachers and students should engage together in productive activities and students should participate in the planning and decision-making process of organizing these activities.
3. Productive work should become an integral part of the school curriculum and provide meaningful learning experience through the integration of theory and practice.
4. The importance of examinations should be downgraded.
5. Children should begin school at age 7 so that they would be old enough and sufficiently mature to engage in self-reliant and productive work when they leave school.
6. Primary education should be complete in itself rather than merely serving as a means to higher education.
7. Students should become self-confident and co-operative, and develop critical and inquiring minds. (summarized in Kassam 1995)

Samoff in his book ‘"Modernizing" a socialist vision: education in Tanzania’ published in 1990, comment that judged today, the educational reforms met with some success and some failure. The policies were never fully implemented and had to operate against a background of severe resource shortage and a world orientation to more individualistic and capitalist understandings of the relation of education to production.

However, primary education became virtually universal; curriculum materials gained distinctively Tanzanian flavours; and schooling used local language forms.

In his book '"Development is for Man, by Man, and of Man": The Declaration of Dar es Salaam', Nyerere, mentions two functions of adult education, which are to:

(a) Inspire both a desire for change, and an understanding that change is possible.

(b) Help people to make their own decisions, and to implement those decisions for themselves.
Nyerere's view of adult education stretched far beyond the classroom. It is 'anything which enlarges men's understanding, activates them, helps them to make their own decisions, and to implement those decisions for themselves' (Nyerere 1978: 30). It includes 'agitation' and 'organization and mobilization'. There are two types of educator involved:

(a) generalists like community development workers, political activists and religious teachers. Such people are not politically neutral, they will affect how people look at the society in which they live, and how they seek to use it or change it. (ibid.: 31)

(b) specialists like those concerned with health, agriculture, child care, management and literacy.
Adult education, for Nyerere, doesn't have a beginning or an end. It should not be pressed into self-contained compartments. Rather we need to think of lifelong learning. Living is learning and learning is about trying to live better. 'We must accept that education and working are both parts of living and should continue from birth until we die’ (1973).
In terms of method, two aspects stand out:

(a) Educators do not give to another something they possess. Rather, they help learners to develop their own potential and capacity.

(b) Those that educators work with have experience and knowledge about the subjects they are interested in - although they may not realize it.

By drawing out the things the learner already knows, and showing their relevance to the new thing which has to be learnt, the teacher has done three things. He has built up the self-confidence of the man who wants to learn, by showing him that he is capable of contributing.

He has demonstrated the relevance of experience and observation as a method of learning when combined with thought and analysis. And he ha shown what I might call the "mutuality" of learning, that is, that by sharing our knowledge we extend the totality of our understanding and our control over our lives.

Mwalimu Nyerere’s 1999 call for ‘Education for Service and Not for Selfishness’ was an attempt to couch his 1967s policy of ‘Education for Self-Reliance’ and 1974’s motto of ‘Education for Liberation’ in “the parlance of today”. As The Open University of Tanzania (1999) reminds us, it was ‘His Last Words on Education’.
Therefore we have to pay particular attention to it as it sums up his overall stance on this theme.

His insistence on this attribute is too powerful and still very relevant today therefore it deserves to be quoted in full: “Primary education in particular should be excellent; for this is the only formal education that most Tanzanians are likely to receive.

At present the quality of our primary school education is appalling. We must do something about it, as a matter of National urgency. Apart from the fact that it is the education of the vast majority of the citizens of Tanzania, it is also the foundation of the whole of our Education System. Ndiyo Elimu ya Msingi. If it is poor the rest of our Education System is bound to suffer (Nyerere 1999: 4)”.

Mwalimu also notes that our education should be relevant to our needs. We cannot compete if the majority of our people and their posterity live in village and yet “we refuse to give those children an education that could help them to improve their own lives in the villages” (Nyerere 1999: 6).

It is in this regard that Mwalimu Nyerere advocated for a policy of Education for Self-Reliance which aimed at providing a complete education by the time students completed their primary education. It is also in this regard that Mwalimu Nyerere thus conceptualized Education for Liberation, as quoted here:

“I emphasize this point because of my profound belief in the power of education. For a poor people like us Education should be an instrument of liberation; it should never be so irrelevant or otherworldly as to become an instrument of alienation.

Alienation from yourself, because it makes you despise yourself; an alienation from the community in which you live because it purports to make you different without making you useful to anybody, including yourself (Nyerere 1999: 6)”.

In his conclusion (as quoted below) Mwalimu thus add another important ingredient that we relatively lack today:
“Finally, our education, especially our higher education, should be socially responsible. Education for Self-Reliance is not Education for Selfishness. Yes, it is for Self-Reliance of the individual, but it is also for the Self-Reliance of our country. I believe that the community has a responsibility to educate its members.

“The need for individuals to contribute directly to their own education and the education of their children cannot absolve the community as a whole, represented by local and central government, from its duty to assist every Tanzanian to receive a good education. But a poor country like Tanzania cannot afford to educate the selfish. It invests in education in the belief that such investment is good for both the individual concerned and for the community as a whole. In the language of yesterday: Education for Self-Reliance, especially at this higher level, should also be Education for Service. Not all of us will have the same concept of community, but all of us have a need to belong.

“However socially insensitive we may be, we have a need to belong to a community of fellow human beings. No human can make it alone. Nobody is asking us to love others more than we love ourselves; but those of us who have been lucky enough to receive a good education have a duty also to help to improve the well-being of the community to which we belong: it is part of loving ourselves! (Nyerere 1999: 9-10)”

Masozi Nyirenda is a Specialist in Education Management, Planning, Economics of Education and Policy Studies; he can be reached through +255754304181 or [email protected]



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