A Critique of Julius Nyerere's Education for Self-Reliance Proposal.

AuthorMuideen, Adeyanju Olanshile
PositionCritical essay


Nyerere's aims in "Education for Self-Reliance", a chapter in his classic, Ujamaa: Essays on Socialism, are to interrogate the purpose of education for the mental development of the average Tanzanian, assess the method of education taught by the colonialists, examine the impact of the colonial form of education on the Tanzanian populace and economy and also suggest the form of education that would suit the socialist basis of socio-economic policy upon which Tanzania is to be governed.

Given the increase in the demand for education in Tanzania and the economic reality of the country at the time, Nyerere argues that it is pertinent to examine the form of educational system that would aid both individual and economic growth of Tanzania. He argues that every society has its own peculiar form of education geared towards transmitting "from one generation to the next the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of the society, and prepare the young people for their future membership of the society and their active participation in its maintenance or development". (1) Thus, it is important that the educational system inherited from the colonialist be reviewed into a form that aligns with the socio-economic need of Tanzania.

Characteristics of the Colonial System of Education

Nyerere holds that education in the colonial era was modelled on a system that suits the imperialist agenda of the colonialists. This education system was not designed to prepare young people of Tanganyika and Zanzibar to serve their society but to develop them towards servicing the colonialists' goals. (2) These goals are capitalist in nature and were aimed to replace the traditional value of the Tanzanians with that of the colonialists. Some of the characteristics of the colonialist system of education include class stratification propelled by the attitude of human inequality and the economic division of the society into the dominant and the dominated. It was also racist-oriented.

This form of education inculcated into the Tanzanian people, Nyerere argues, proves inadequate and inappropriate for the economic and social development of the post-colonial state of Tanzania. The colonial education system was at variance with the traditional value of the Tanzania.

In a bid to correct some of the demerits of the inherited colonial system of education, Nyerere states three steps that were taken, namely:

* Abolition of Racial Distinctions: There was the abolition of racial and also religious discrimination in the admission of school-age children into schools. Education was made open to all.

* Expansion in Educational Facilities: Provisions were made for the growing number of school-age children at all levels. This translates to having more schools and educational facilities to cater to the increased number of education-seeking young people.

* Traditional Value Oriented Form of Education: The third step taken to correct the anomalies of the colonial-inherited education, according to Nyerere, was to make the education content more Tanzanian in orientation. This is a departure from the Western value orientation of pre-colonial education system.

Nyerere argues that these steps are modifications of the inherited form of education and have not been yielding results. It takes time to see the effects of the steps taken and modifications made to the inherited Western form of education. This, however, calls for the need to question the purpose for which education in Tanzania is to be pursued thereby warranting the examination of the existing structure and content of education in Tanzania which in turn warrants the consideration of further modification in the education system or a total change in approach.

The Desired Society: A Socialist Society

Since the success of educational pursuits, if correctly and relevantly pursued, have impacts on the progress of the society at large, the structure of education to be built must be relevant to the kind of society a people want to build for themselves. For Nyerere, the Tanzanian state is to be built on the socialist principles of equality and respect for human dignity; communal distribution of the community resources and the attitude of mass work and zero exploitation. These principles are the basic grounds upon which other values of the society are to be built.

To achieve these socialist goals and principles, Nyerere maintains that Tanzanians must accept the socio-economic reality of their society and work within this reality to attain their socialist goals. The reality is that the economy is poor, undeveloped and agriculture-based. It does not have the capacity to maintain large industrial amenities. Thus, the economy is to focus on the available resources which are land and human resources. This points to the fact that more focus must be directed towards the improvement of the rural life. The aforesaid, for Nyerere, is what the educational system of Tanzania has to encourage. In his words, "the educational system of Tanzania must emphasize co-operative endeavour, not individual advancement: it must stress concepts of equality and the responsibility to give service which goes with any special ability..." (3) The educational system of Tanzania must, therefore, be designed to develop people to adhere to the principles of equality, prepare them for the task of developing the society and enable them reason, interpret and implement decision made in the society within...

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