Education for self-reliance: ‘Creating a wholesome citizen’

I HAVE just finished reading a book titled “Towards a New Millennium: Perspectives on Tanzania’s Development Vision 2025”.

A copy of this book was kindly brought to me by two of its editors, Professor M.J. Mwandosya and J.V. Mwapachu; who came to discuss other issues relating to their next book production.

This book is a rich collection of contributions from a small selected group of highly knowledgeable persons, each in his respective area of specialization.

One of them was Jenerali T.K. Ulimwengu, whose presentation therein is titled “Reflections on Development and Governance”.

The words “creating a wholesome citizen” which appear in the heading of this article, are borrowed from his presentation, which he and those others, made at a ‘retreat workshop’; which was held in September 1996.

It is stated in the book’s preface, that “the principal purpose of that workshop was to broaden participation in crafting Tanzania’s Development Vision 2025”; and further that “Initially, this task had been given to a Team of Experts (TOE) under the direction of the Planning Commission which, in the process of carrying out that responsibility, agreed on the need to broaden participation in its work, in order to lay ground for ultimately reaching a national consensus.”

The issue of education was one of the topics discussed by Jenerali Ulimwengu in his wide ranging presentation, which he introduced under the attractive heading: “the creation of a wholesome citizen” in the following words: “I would consider as the top priority in the search for development, the creation of a wholesome citizen who can fend for himself/herself, who knows what is good for him, knows how to get it and where to get it and has the strength to go and get it . . . I am obviously talking of the cardinal importance of education and health, in the creation of this wholesome man or woman.”

It is after reading this presentation and with the proverbial “advantage of hind sight”, that I got the motivation for writing this article. Considering the fact that we are now in the eighteenth year of the twenty-five years’ period of implementing the said Vision 2025; this appeared to me to be a good and appropriate time for taking a good look at the progress made in connection therewith.

And that, precisely, is the purpose of this article, which conveniently provides a continuation of my presentation made in my article of last Thursday, in this same column; wherein I had discussed the ‘role of Universities and other Institutions of higher learning, in providing Education for self-reliance’.

In his presentation mentioned above, Jenerali Ulimwengu offered a brilliant expose of the factors which should be considered by the relevant authorities in the crafting and subsequent implementation, of Tanzania’s Vision 2025.

And in relation to the education sector, he made certain pertinent suggestions which we will now attempt to examine, in respect of the status of their implementation so far.

Jenerali Ulimwengu’s presentation on education, is structured under the following order of the issues discussed in relation thereto: - Loss of enthusiasm and seriousness by the education providers On this issue, Jenerali Ulimwengu said the following: “Our country has lost its initial elan in the provision of education to our people and this is bound to have long lasting consequences on our performance in many fields of national endeavour.

Our primary school enrolment has not been impressive and many school-going age children cannot enroll. And those who manage to get places have to attend classes in antediluvian conditions, without desks and the most basic teaching implements; and sometimes they have to attend class in the open, under a mango tree.

Now, this is scandalous!” Yes, it was indeed scandalous. However, it must be appreciated that very significant progress has been made to eliminate this problem, during the eighteen years of implementing the 2020 – 2025 Development Vision.

This is the product of the commendable, determined and concerted efforts which have been put into this project by the relevant authorities and stakeholders, as a result of which, the previously ‘small primary school enrolments’ has been virtually overcome, thanks to the bold and generous introduction of ‘free’ primary education by the fifth phase Government of President John Pombe Magufuli.

Similarly, the problem of insufficiency or, in some cases, even total lack of desks, has been largely overcome in the majority of the Primary and Secondary Schools. Furthermore, the “antediluvian” conditions which necessitated students to attend class in the open, or under a Mango tree, have also been alleviated through concerted efforts by the relevant communities, who volunteered to participate in the construction of more classroom buildings in their respective localities.

However, because of such new schools continuing to be built in order to cater for the constantly increasing number of new students who get enrolled in these schools, thanks to President Magufuli’s intervention; the problem of insufficiency of school desks and the other basic teaching instruments such as adequate numbers of teachers and text books, will probably continue to re-appear; but, presumably, on a much smaller scale

The plight of teachers, and other related problems Jenerali Ulimwengu also makes reference to some other education related problems, including those concerning teachers, wherein he contends that: “We have heard enough about the unsatisfactory conditions in which our teachers serve, but their problems seem to defy any solution.

It looks like nobody has come up with a lasting solution to their perennial problems.” The other problems on his list include the following: “The exodus of young Tanzanian children from relatively affluent families, who have been sent to seek education outside the country”; wherein he says the following: “ We have witnessed the zeal with which some individual parents pursue the education of their children and the stupendous amounts of money they have to part with when sending their children to Kenya, Uganda and elsewhere” and then asks the associated pertinent questions: Why does that individual zeal not aggregate into a collective effort to provide education for our children locally? . . . Given the fact that public schools will not suffice and that private schools have assumed a novel importance of late, why can we not build our own private schools in Tanzania? In this regard, the Government could look into ways of giving incentives to Tanzanians and even foreigners, who are willing to invest in this domain, such as easy access to land. It is probably unnecessary for me to have to state the obvious, namely that this unsatisfactory situation has, to a very significant extent, been ameliorated. The 2019/20 Budget Speech by the Minister for Education, Science and Technology in the National Assembly, says it all, by giving the relevant information and statistics. Specifically, the annual output of well trained teachers, with special emphasis being placed on science teachers, has greatly increased. And private Schools are mushrooming throughout the country and at all levels of education, including University education as well as professional training, especially for health care providers of all categories. The issues of education for self-reliance and Kiswahili as the medium of instruction Jenerali Ulimwengu concludes his treatise on the urgent requirements for our education, with a discussion of two specific areas which have proved rather difficult to implement. These are (a) the return to the concept of ‘Education for Self-Reliance’; and (b) the use of the national language, Kiswahili, as the medium of instruction in our education system. With regard to the issue of Education for self-reliance, Jenerali Ulimwengu recalls with obvious regret, the practical abandonment of the novel content of education which was introduced as part of the Ujamaa philosophy, in the following terms: “As will be recalled, the Ujamaa era came with its own pedagogical philosophy which emphasized the importance of imparting to our youngsters the kind of knowledge that would situate them properly in society and make them useful citizens, capable of leading themselves and their fellow citizens out of poverty and backwardness. Regrettably, this was taken by some to mean making children spend whole days in the field toiling under the scorching sun, without any proper instruction in crop or animal husbandry. And sometimes, the more unscrupulous teachers used these children as cheap labour (slave labour, in fact) on their own farms. Such abuse, needless to say, alienated children from manual labour, which they came to regard, justifiably, as undeserved punishment. Our reaction has been to abandon the whole concept of education for self-reliance; and we have now gone back to the old thinking, whereby education has the principal aim of creating job seekers and it is this kind of education which has blighted every ‘educated’ youngster to run away from his people. It is therefore high time we revisited the content of our education and tried to make it more relevant to the needs of our society. Our education system must aim at producing Tanzanians who can grapple with their environment in the quest for a better life. For that purpose, simple, readily available, intermediate technology should be popularized, so that the whole country can plug into some kind of technology relevant to the different concerns of the people in their different areas. It must be acknowledged that this has been a difficult area. This is because the concept of ‘education for selfreliance’ was either badly misunderstood, or was deliberately distorted in its practical application. In either case, this gave it a very bad name, mostly due to the abuses described above by Jenerali Ulimwengu, which led to its total abandonment in our education system. That is precisely why, in my article of last Thursday, I responded enthusiastically to Epiphania Kimaro’s suggestions, contained in her own separate presentation elsewhere; in which she endeavoured to persuade our Universities and other institutions of higher learning, “to enrich their curricula with material which will prepare their students to take exams for professional qualifications”. It was my considered opinion that this will, in Jenerali Ulimwengu’s words, amount to “imparting to their students the kind of knowledge which will situate them properly in society and make them more useful, self-reliant citizens”. “To be sure”, Ulimwengu says, “we must continue providing proper quality education and the products from our education system must be able to compete with the best brains in the world. “But would be silly to concentrate all our efforts on the production of world beaters, when the village water pumps cannot be repaired for want of an elementary mechanic.” Finally, Jenerali Ulimwengu discusses the issue of the proper language to be used as a medium of instruction. He says thus: “In discussions of this kind, it is almost impossible to avoid the issue of the proper language to be used as a medium of instruction, about which many words have been expended. I think there can be no argument for denying the national language her rightful place as the language of culture and science. Insisting on the use of an alien tongue as the medium of instruction in our educational system, is tantamount to a denial of proper education to the majority of Tanzanians. In order to expose our people to science and technology, they must be taught in a language they understand most”. Great food for thought, I would venture to say. But, despite the fact that “many words have been expended” in numerous discussions regarding this matter, it is most unlikely that Kiswahili will become the medium of instruction any time soon. piomsekwa@gmail.com 0754767576.

Author: Pius Msekwa

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