Julius Nyerere Ideas On Education Essay

One of the most important and respected African leaders to emerge out of the colonial era has passed away. Julius Nyerere, the former president of Tanzania, died of leukemia at age 77 on Oct. 14.

By Clarence Lusane <clusane@american.edu>, 19 October 1999

It is easy to be loved when one has an endless record of successes. Nyerere did it the hard way. He led Tanzania as its first president from 1962 until 1985 and he is as much noted for his mistakes as for his achievements.

As a contemporary of Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda, Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah and others from the liberation movement era of the 1950s and early 1960s, Nyerere flowered in a period of transition in Africa that saw black majorities come into power grappling with all the problems of development and democracy that colonialism had left behind. Nyerere's solution was what he called "African socialism." For Nyerere, this meant nationalizing property, banks and large plantations, as well as efforts at collective farming and one-party rule. Although Nyerere's policies did make Tanzanians more literate and healthier than before, they failed to eradicate Tanzania's poverty.

Nyerere sometimes mistakenly supported nationalist-talking African leaders such as the former Ugandan President Idi Amin, who was a butcher of the first order. He atoned for this by sending in Tanzanian troops to overthrow Idi Amin in 1979.

While as president and after his retirement,…

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 Nyerere On Education

2.1  Nyerere’s Understanding of Education

According to Nyerere education whether formal or informal has a purpose,
That purpose is 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[29].
But according to him, education is not something which must be done in the classrooms rather, it is a kind of learning from others and from past experience including our past success or failures. As he said, “Education is learning from books, from radio, from films, from discussions about matters which affect our lives, and especially from doing things”[30].
Other ways of learning are from magazine and newspaper. However, Nyerere was fully convinced that a good way of learning is by doing. Concerning this matter he said “The best way to learn to sew is to sew…”[31]. Also Nyerere was convinced that education is not necessarily to be done in schools but children can learn from parents and brothers and sisters[32]. For him learning is a part of living and it can not be divorced from the community since a child learns from his family before he ever goes to school. “…they have already learnt many things starting from learning to walk, and including good manners, useful jobs around the house or farm, as well as many other things”[33]. This kind of education according to Nyerere is called Basic Education; here also he said, “When a child first comes to school at the age of six or seven it has already developed some character traits and it has absorbed some ideas through life in the family”[34]. Education according to Nyerere must be used for the whole community since knowledge which remains isolated from the people or knowledge used by few for the sake of exploiting others is betrayal; it is a vicious kind of theft by false pretences. Following this idea Nyerere gave an example:
Students eat the bread and butter of the peasants because they have promised a service in the future. If they are unable or unwilling to provide that service when the time comes, then the students have stolen from the peasants as surely as if they had carried off their sacks of wheat in the night[35].

2.1.1  Informal Education in Tanzania
Before the coming of colonists, Tanzania did not have formal educational system. There existed short periods of initiations. In some tribes, children were being sent in the bush far from home under the special guidance of people who had been selected for teaching them. From these special people, children were learning by doing. Moreover, in their homes they were taught the skills of society, and behaviourexpected of its members. Apart from that, they were shown kinds of the grasses and learned which were suitable for some purpose e.g. medicine and feeding animals; and also for their use as vegetables. By listening to stories from their elders children could get to know their tribal history and their relation with other tribes, and even their spirits. By this kind of learning Nyerere said, “every adult was a teacher to greater or lesser degree”[36]. Therefore we can say that we had the same education for all, free for all, not in the formal sense of today, with a hierarchy of school certificate and degrees, only for the few lucky ones.

2.1.2  Colonial Education in Tanzania
On this matter Nyerere said,
The education provided by the Colonial government in the two countries which now form Tanzania had a different purpose. It was not designed to prepare young people for the service of their own country; instead it was motivated by a desire to inculcate the values of the colonial society and to train individuals for the service of the colonial state.[37]
Colonial education was based on the assumptions of a colonialist and capitalist society; it introduced the attitudes of human inequality since it encouraged the individualistic instincts of mankind. Also it led to the tendency of the possession of individual material wealth as a major criterion of social merit. It was also characterised by racial distinction. Generally, this education didn’t transmit the values and knowledge of Tanzanian society to the next generation. On the contrary, as Nyerere points out, “it was a deliberate attempt to change those values and to replace traditional knowledge by the knowledge of different a society”[38].2.2  Education in  TanzaniaThe 1962 education ordinances changed the entire education system so as to eliminate the division of schools, which existed in that time. Up to then, the Directors of Education controlled African schools inTanzania, while Asian, and European schools were run by their respective Boards. The effort was made by the ordinances to set up a single integrated system of education for all children and all schools. Following this effort, all schools became national schools under a single chief education officer, and with local education authorities[39].
In 1967 President Julius Kambarage Nyerere produced a pamphlet entitled Education for self-reliance, which revolutionised the educational program in Tanzania. Education for self- reliance was a result of the Arusha Declaration of 1967 when Tanzania opted for a march towards socialism. This Declaration proposed that all schools should be under the government. Therefore, through the Arusha Declaration the Government assumed the control of schools through the Ministry of Education. The function of the Ministry of education under the Minister of Education as Nyerere said is “to organise its introduction, and supervise the action being taken on it”[40].
Education for self- reliance made big challenges on the Tanzanian State by making the educational system more relevant in facing and solving the problems of Tanzanian society. Education for self-reliance was “a reaction against the colonial contraction of social reality, it was an attempt by the Tanzanians leadership to conceptualise its own educational agenda”[41]. However, education for self- reliance was also proposed in order to change students’ negative attitudes toward agriculture and to erase the elitist tendency to believe that book education was all that mattered[42].
The term self-reliance means “an assertion of being inward looking, looking intentionally for ones basic survival, not to external forces”[43]. The basic principle of education for self-reliance was egalitarianism, while a primary aspect was to make agriculture an integral part of the curriculum since Tanzania depends heavily on agriculture in her economy. In other words after independence Tanzanian education was based on the following principles, which had been agreed in Arusha Declaration:
First, equality and respect for human dignity, second, sharing of the resources which are produced by people’s efforts, and finally, sharing by every one and exploitation by none[44].
Education for self-reliance aimed to solve the crisis that existed in Tanzania by focusing on the preparation of entrepreneurs, consumers and workers to become more active participants in the development of the national economy. It viewed work as an expression of individual freedom. Moreover, there are other aspects, which were being emphasised in this system of education: communication through a national language guided by friendship, truth, generosity, freedom and justice[45].
In the process of learning, the role of teachers together with what they teach was highly considered by Nyerere. As he said,
We have thought of the teachers as imparting knowledge-of arithmetic, reading, writing and so on. And of course they do, and it is vital. But it is not the only thing or the most important thing, which the child learns from the teachers. What the teacher presents to the class is important…[46].
It was emphasised that the subjects to be taught should be practical. They should help to solve the problems of Tanzanians. To support this idea Nyerere said,
…when a tutor is preparing his syllabus, his lecture or seminar, he should first ask himself, ‘What needed understanding, or ‘what new information, am I trying to convey to the students?’ he should then go on to ask, ‘What knowledge of, or from our own society is relevant to this matter?’ And finally, ‘what has mankind’s heritage of knowledge to teach us in this connection?’[47].
In forming students it was also highly emphasised by Nyerere that teachers should be enthusiastic, and encourage the children to help each other. Teachers also must have good behaviour so that student can learn from and imitate them. This behaviour should be inside and outside the classroom. Teacher should treat everyone with respect, and discuss their positions clearly and rationally. Also teachers are needed who exhibit equality and friendship[48].

2.2.1  Education After Independence
When the educational system was inherited from the British, at the time of independence, there were three areas that clearly needed immediate change. These areas are as follows:
(1) The racial separation of students in schools, (2) the European orientated curriculum, and (3) the small number of schools operating, affording an education to only a small minority of the population”[49].
    Therefore, within three years after Independence great strides were made in the expansion of the educational system; these changes were immediate integration of all schools and in changing the curriculum so that subjects could be taught from an African rather than a European point of view[50]. But despite these changes, it became evident that there was much that was wrong with the entire system. Only a tiny minority could be passed into secondary schools which means that the majority of children attending primary schools became school leavers at the end of their primary level. This made them feel a sense of failure, and these school leavers were totally unprepared to use their education, so it was practically wasted. This problem was repeated at secondary school level, where students were prepared for university examination and at the end of their course few of them were passed to enter university level.
Another problem arose at that time: the belief that the educational system could lead students into white-collar jobs, with high salaries rather than work for the needs of a socialist republic. Therefore,Nyerere proposed in his essay drastic changes in order to avoid those problems in the entire educational system. Here Nyerere said,

First, children must begin primary school at the later age, around 7 or 8 rather than 5 or 6 … Another point that the president raised is that formerly students have been accustomed to having others wait on them and have not learnt to do things for themselves. This is to be changed by a system of working while learning and in addition, learning through working. That is, schools are to establish farms to raise vegetables, cash crops and possibly raise cattle, both the use of the student and to establish a system whereby each school may become at least partially self- supporting economically … In urban area schools, other practical schemes will be worked out where farming is not feasible. In this way, the children will learn to respect work as well as education, and will discover that a school education is not the only way of acquiring knowledge. They will also begin to put what they have learned to practical application[51].

A question should be raised: did Nyerere want to change schools into factories or shambas? Here Nyerere said, “schools are the places for learning we do not want to change this”[52]. So, we can realise that for Nyerere living, learning and working can’t be separated; as Nyerere said, “to live is to learn; and to learn is to try to live better”[53].

2.2.2  Systems of Education
The educational system in Tanzania is divided into three stages: primary, secondary and university level.Primary levelThe aim of primary schools in Tanzania as Nyerere said is the “preparation of pupils for secondary school”[54]. Moreover, the purpose of primary school as Nyerere said is “to be geared to the needs and realities of rural, agrarian life in the hope that standard seven leavers would become psychologically and technically prepared to accept that life”[55]. During this preparation, children are being taken from their parents in the age of seven years old. During the day, for seven and half-hours children are being taught certain academic skills. Efforts were made to relate these skills with the life which children see around them. The most important thing to note is that schools are never a part of society, always a place where children are going for learning. Formerly, children were being admitted to primary school in the age of five or six. Following this situation, they were completing their studies still young and they were not old enough to enter society, also they were not prepared enough to use their education in the villages and finally, they felt a sense of failure, as we have already said above. Therefore Nyerere proposed,
First, children must begin primary school at a later age, around 7 or 8 rather than 5 or 6, so that when they complete their studies they will be old enough to enter society as educated young adults ready to work. The primary schools will change their curriculum and examination system, so that children finishing primary school will feel a real sense of accomplishment and be prepared for the vital work they must do in co-operation with others to build the nation[56].
At this stage, Swahili is the medium of instruction. Also Swahili and English are being taught as subjects in the upper standards together with other subjects such as social studies, history, geography and civics have been localised in order to meet local awareness and political needs, while agriculture, crafts, health education and home economics were introduced for proper rural integration and life. Moreover, pupils are being taught religion by their respective Religion instructors in the schools, but no one religion is binding on the pupil in their school life. Physical exercises also are considered in this stage, in the form of paramilitary training (mchakamchaka). Primary schools were day schools attended only by children who live nearby. During the school time once a child had been enrolled, attendance is compulsory. This course is for seven years, i.e. children work up from standard one to standard seven and each standard consists of one academic year; here boys and girls are educated together. Nyerere later stronglyemphasised that, “primary schools must be a complete education in itself. It must not continue to be a simply a preparation for secondary school”[57]. In the end of this course, students are being given the Primary Leaving Certificate.
 Secondary levelStudents intending to go to secondary school were given or were supposed to take selective examination at about fourteen years of age. Those who passed have to start from form one to form four. This selection considers the intelligent and talented students in relation to the school they are going to study. In this stage, English becomes the medium of instruction; together with continued study in Swahili as a compulsory subject. At the end of form four a candidate must get a pass in swahili so that he/she can qualify for a form four certificate. Also Religion is to be learnt in this stage. At the end of this course candidates receive National School certificate for form four.
After form four those who passed were admitted for form five while others remained to take other courses. After form six, pupils receive a Higher School Certificate and then some go to university. Before going to university or other courses, they were supposed to attend one year of military training.
The aim of secondary school according to Nyerere is to prepare students for university and also to prepare students to do useful work upon completion of their studies[58]. Most of the secondary schools formally were boarding schools whereby students were being taken many miles away from their homes, and most of them were owned by the government. Following the increasing number of private schools, many problems arose instead of reducing them. Such problems were, the poor quality of schools, expensive school fees, the shortage of books and the promotion of rote learning because many teachers tend to teach for the examinations. Moreover, in order to make this system more relevant Nyerere proposed, “Secondary schools must not be simply a selection process for the university, teachers’ colleges and so on. They must prepare people for life and service in the village and rural area of this country”[59].
 University levelStudents admitted to university level are those who have passed their form six national examination. At the University of Dar es salaam Nyerere once said, “a university is an institution of higher learning; a place where people’s mind are trained for clear thinking, for independent thinking, for analysis, and for problem solving at the highest level”[60].
Besides the transmission of advanced knowledge, a university provides a centre for the attempt to advance the frontier of knowledge and to prepare intellectual people who will take part in day to day administrative or professional responsibilities. Lastly, it provides for higher-level manpower that will serve the needs of society[61]. However, Nyerere argued,
A university in a developing country must put the emphasis of its work on subjects of immediate concern to the nation in which it exists … In line with his socialistic philosophyNyerere emphasises that Universities must teach students to avoid arrogance and consider themselves as servants in training. He points out further that African universities must remove the hitherto prevalent attitude that they must be understood by Western societies. Instead, he suggests, African Universities must attempt to be understood by African societies[62].

2.2.3  Adult Education
The meaning of adult education as Nyerere explained it is
a learning about any thing at all which can help us to understand environment we live in, and the manner in which we can change and use this environment in order to improve ourselves[63].
Adult education can cover many subjects for those who did not get an opportunity to be at school when they were young. This kind of education can be applied to every one without any exception. This was linked to the policies for rural development and also the bringing together of the people into Ujamaa villages. Adult education doesn’t mean the learning of history or grammar or foreign languages[64]. The main purpose of adult education, as stressed by Nyerere, is that,
we can learn more about growing a particular crop, about the Government, about house building, about whatever interests us about better farming methods, better child care, better feeding[65].
Centres for adult education were in primary schools and offered training in agricultural techniques, craftsmanship, health education, house crafts, simple economics, accounting and political education. Moreover, by using one hour daily, workers were being offered workers’ education in order to improve their standards in rendering a good service to society, and also to increase their intellectual and professional capacities.2.3  The Role of EducationAccording to Nyerere the purpose of any form of education whether formal or informal is
to transmit accumulated wisdom and knowledge and to prepare young people for their role in the maintenance and development of the particular society…education will prepare students for their responsibilities to the community and diplomas will not be tickets to affluence but the badge of just another kind of worker. Education will be judged on the true value of what it can do to help people, rather than the false value of making an educated person feel in some way superior to another without formal education[66].
Education in Tanzania should stress and encourage co-operation and not individual advancement, i.e. it aims at building an egalitarian society by eliminating classes or inequality existing in Tanzania. It should also improve on the quality of services and strengthen responsibility. Education in Tanzania tries, according to Mwalimu Nyerere, to instil a sense of solidarity into the young people:
This is what our education system has to encourage. It has to foster the social goals of living together, and working together, for the common good. It has to 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 public owned. Our education must therefore inculcate a sense of commitment to the total community and help the pupils to accept the value appropriate to our kind of future, not those appropriate to our colonial past[67].
Education should free man from illusions and help people to have a national identity. In support of this idea Nyerere said:
The main burden that the state must carry is to free every citizen from the camp of the illusions resulting from colonial domination. It is the state’s duty to take initiative, because most of the people living in the camp are too weak to free themselves. The mechanism used to accomplish this mission is the national culture of Ujamaa and an educational policy of self- reliance [68].
Education must also enable people to think by themselves, to judge and to decide their own issues, and finally to be able to implement their own decision in their daily lives. Nyerere strongly believed that it is through the right educational system that citizens can be prepared and encouraged to think by themselves, having an enquiring mind together with the ability to learn from others while rejecting or adapting information of one’s needs, basic confidence in his own position as a free and equal member of society, who values others and is valued by them in turn for what he does and not for what he possesses[69].
To be educated, for Nyerere means to have a critical mind, and it doesn’t mean to rule out the contributions made by others. To think critically is to consider how others’ contributions could have a bearing on the situation at hand[70]. 2. 4  Importance of EducationThe first job of adult education will therefore be to make us reject bad houses, bad jembe, and preventable diseases; it will make us recognise that we ourselves have the ability to obtain better houses, better tools and better health[71].
So, we can discover that it is through education that we can improve our lives; especially by knowing things which can be harmful for our health, e.g. dirty water; it can help us to improve our farms, or our factories, and our offices. It helps us to know better food, modern methods of hygiene, making furniture by using our local material[72]. Nyerere wished adult education to be for every one so as to understand our traditional policies of socialism and self-reliance[73]. Nyerere saw also reason to warn:
there is no doubt, of course, that the knowledge which has been acquired at schools and higher educational Institutions can be used almost exclusively for personal gain, with benefit to the society being a mere by product[74].
He also warned of self-complacency
Everything we do stresses book learning…This does not mean that any person can do any job simply because they are old and wise, nor that educational qualifications are not necessary. This is a mistake our people sometimes fall into as a reaction against the arrogance of the book- learned. A man is not necessarily wise because is old; a man cannot necessarily run a factory because he has been working in it as a labourer or storekeeper for 20 years[75].
It increases man’s power over himself and his environment. Education helps to form people who will give service to the community, it encourages and it challenges people in developing their powers of constructive thinking. Moreover, it is through education whereby an individual can change the condition where he/she lives, and also it helps us to form good leadership, as Nyerere said, “our leadership and progress towards self-government depends on higher education…we must have educated leadership”[76].

(This post was last modified: 10-01-2014 11:07 AM by MyElimu.)
10-01-2014 11:03 AM

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