Nyerere Thoughts in Education for Self Reliance

Mwalimu Kambarage Burito Nyerere

Nyerere thoughts (in books such as Education for self reliance and in many other forums, such as with teachers) seemed to portray him more as a ‘moral’ philosopher than anything else. Do you agree with this point of view? Is there any evidence to support your agreement or disagreement with this view?
Moral can be defined by different books as follows, moral is proper ideas and beliefs about how to behave in a way that is considered right and good by most people. (Webster, 1828).
Moral is concerning principles of right and wrong behaviour, ethical example the decline of moral standards a moral questions, problem, judgement and dilemma. (Oxford Advanced Learners Encyclopedic Dictionary, 1989:580).
Another definition from the same book, moral based on peoples sense of what is right and just, not on legal rights and obligations example a moral law, duty, obligation (Oxford Advanced Learners Encyclopedic Dictionary, 1989:580).
Nyerere one of Africans most respected figures, (1922 – 1999) was a politician of principle and intelligence. Known as Mwalimu, he had a vision of education that was rich with possibility. He is not known not only as one of the worlds most respected statesman and an articulate spokesman of African diginity but also as an educator and an original and creative educational thinker. (Rassam, 2000). Nyerere through his philosophical approach seems to be ‘altruism’ that means he always acted for the way that interest others and not himself. He however continoued to participate in regional and global issues until his death on October 14, 1999. Nyerere thought, seemed to portray him more as ‘moral’ philosopher than anything else as explained below.
In education for self reliance (1967), Nyerere comprehensively presents the need for a radical definition of organization and content of education in Tanzania. The need arises from his diagnosis of the major pitfalls of inherited colonial ed. Essentialy colonial education was founded upon the principle of capitalism. As such colonial education intailed several features. It tend to promote a class of elite, thus encouraging the equality and class structure, second, it divorced its participants from society and discouraged them from unconditional service to the community. Third it tended to be formal, stressing book learning and dispensing traditional informal knowledge and wisdom. Finally, it tended to be unproductive, discouraging students and pupils from hard work.
Nyerere thought in books such as Education for Self Reliance he came with the following proposal.
Cooperation and interaction between teachers and students in decision making, Nyerere advocated that, teachers and students should be engaged in productive activities and student should participate in the planning and decision making process of organizing activities. (Kassam, 1995). Active participation of students has been greatly advocates by many philosophers such as Dewery and Freire. Active participation encouraged the idea of self reliance. Self reliance in education calls for a school curriculum that integrates theory and practice. Nyerere wanted education that believed that when students complete their education they should be able to go back and work in the village. Education was geared toward the societal needs as compared to individual needs. Education to him was not supposed to alienate children from their traditions but should make children appreciate themselves as Africans.
Nyerere believed that the purpose of education should liberate a human being. (Mulenga, 2001b). He concured with Paul Freire’s idea that education is a path to a permanent liberation and it should make people self reliant. Nyerere stated that,
          “People can not be developed, they can say develop themselves. For while it is possible for an outsider to build a man’s houses, an outsider can not give man pride of self confidence in him as a human being. Those things man has to create in himself by own action…”
Nyerere’s thought also can be analysed under three philosophical tools: metaphysics, axiology and epistemology. For instance in his metaphysics, Nyerere believed that it is through socialism that African can get the vision of what is life. For example, Nyerere (1980b) stated that after independence Tanzania schools should teach national songs and language. This was to help the young Tanzanians to appreciate their own traditon. It is only genuine education that can help the people to transform and became better citizens. Genuine education, is the type of education that helps the individual to think critically. It help one to apply theory into practice.
Nyerere restored the cooperative spirit that the African people had before the colonizers introduced the idea of individualism. Mulenga (2001a:17) stated, “Nyerere aim was to transform the colonial value system which had alienated Africans from their past into one group of attitudes based on past African value and attitudes of self esteem, cooperation and family. Unity was one of the principles that Nyerere advocated among Africans. He believed that when the society is united, they can help one another. Nyerere believed that people of Tanzania had to live as a family.
Nyerere thought emphasized equality among the society. He believed that social justice could not be achieved if there was no human equality. People were not be judged by skin colour, materila wealth or intelectual ability, but each individual should be assesed by her or his worth as person. (Mulenga, 2001a:15). Each his own decision, by increasing his own knowledge and ability and his full participation as an equal in the life of the community he lived in.
On the other side basing in Nyerere’s forums with teachers, the forums seem to portray him more as moral philosopher basing to the following evidences.
Starting with the forum with teacher in Mbeya on 14, May 1967. In this forum he addressed to the teachers to understand how primary education could be terminal as specified in the education for Self Reliance document. In this forum, Nyerere emphasized teachers to change students attitudes believing that, education facilitates student to work in other areas such as urban areas and not engaged in production activities like agriculture in their villages. Therefore being educated do not measure what to do after graduation at any level of education. Nyerere was quoted saying that,
          “Shabaha ya elimu ya msingi lazima ibadilike, wazee wa Kizanaki wananikabidhi watoto wao, wanasema: nena nao hawa, wamekuwa tatizo. Huyu mtoto kasoma tena arudi nyumbani? Sasa aje kufanya nini? Hawezi kulima. Alime? Kumsomesha kote huku kulikuwa ni kwa kazi gani?” (Ed. Lema et all, 2006: 46).
Therefore teachers have duty to change the attitude of pupils in primary schools with educations (knowledge) teachers provided to pupils can help them to apply knowledge in real situation.
Other forum, Nyerere opening Chang’ombe teachers college Dar es Salaam, 25 July 1965. Nyerere held the view that the local production of teachers for all levels of education in central to the creation of an independet education system in an independent country. But the teachers need to cultivate a sense of proffessionalism and volunteerism. Nyerere said,
          “But it would be absurd for us to continoue to rely on expatriate teachers to man our education system. It is one thing to receive help in overcoming the inheritance of educational neglect. It would be another thing to imagine that this help excuses us from taking steps to fullfill our own teaching needs for the future. We must educate and train our own teachers at all levels as rapidly as possible” (Lema et all, 2006:6).
Good teaching, however is hard work and let those who doubt this try to become effective teacher. But it is also a very honourable proffession and its members rightly deserve their high status in our society. The teachers of Tanzania have to prepare pupils to live in, the rapidly changing world where Tanzania will take its place as part of a developing continent.
Other Nyerere forum with teachers was held in Dar es Salaam in 08 February 1975. On that forum Nyerere seem as moral philosopher because he save the pace for the attainment of universal primary education was seen as slow and thus slowing down the pace for national development. He had to explain why the target date was changed from 1972 – 1989. Nyerere took trouble to painfully explain why and how that how could be achieved. He was quoted saying that,
          “Tukiziendekeza hizo gharama, tutapata tabu sana. Watoto hawatasoma. Itachukua muda mrefu sana kabla watoto hawajasoma.”
Basing on that quotation, Nyerere decided to force all Tanzanias citizens in villages and towns which were lacking school, to build themselves as those school was going to benefit their childern for the development of the nation. This situation was a result of the increase of schools, atleast a large number of children were enrolled to join primary school. This make Nyerere moral as he emphasized the increase of schools and better education for the society.
Nyerere thought also emphasized on the issue of communal owneship of economy; it has the public owneship of all the means of production and distribution. This is also known as collective ownership where all means are owned, controlled and regulated by the state, planned economy, state is responsible to plan all the economic activities like productino, classless society, in a true socialist society everyone is equal as far as economic status is concerned. State is responsible for basis neccesities of life. Mainly there are six basic needs in life and such needs are promised by central authority, those needs are food, shelter, health, education and employment. And will be provided without any discrimination.
Regardless of the weaknesses that Nyerere encountered, his ideas are still influential as the social, economic and political arenas continoue to be shaped by the form and function of the educational environments in Tanzania and Africa. The idea of interdependence and cooperation in greatly valued and educator’s continoue to be encouraged by the idea of Nyerere and others who held a vision of schools guided by Africans value. Nyerere carefully radied the people for what was to be the basis of development. It was the introduction of ‘UJAMAA’, which is a Tanzanian brand of African socialism, bornout of the womb of true African traditions, theorizes and applied via Nyereres political and economic thought. Since introduction of socialism in the Arusha declaration of 1967. Nyerere’s political, philosophy went hand with his economic thought as his political decisions were primary responses to the prevailing economic conditions.
Nyirenda D, & Ishumi M. (2002). Philosophy of Education an Introduction to Concepts, Principles and Practice. Dar es Salaam: Dar es Salaam University Press.
Lema E, Omari I & Rajan R. (2006). Nyerere on Education. Dar es Salaam: E & D Limited.
Ngalula D. (2012). The Evolving World. Dar es Salaam: AG press.
New proposals: Journal of Marxism and Interdisciplinary Inquiry vol3. No 1 (October 2009) Pp. 15 – 22.
Thenjive Major  & Thalia, M. Nyerere J, (1922 - 1999). An African Philosopher, Re – Envisions Teacher Education to Escape Colonialism. Ball State University.
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Encyclopedic Dictionary (1989). Watton Streen: Oxford University Press.


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