Education for self-reliance

Education for self-reliance

The picture speaks volumes. Courtesy of Jamii Forums

A few excerpts from way back I just had to share!

Nyerere, J.K. Education for selfreliance. Dar es Salaam: Oxford University Press, 1968

The educational systems in different kinds of societies in the world have been, and are, very different in organization and in content. They are different because the societies providing the education are different, and because education, whether it be 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…..

And, in particular, our education must counteract the temptation to intellectual-arrogance; for this leads to the well-educated despising those whose abilities are non-academic or who have no special abilities but are just human beings……

Although only about 13 per cent of our primary school children will get a place in a secondary school, the basis of our primary school education is the preparation of pupils for secondary schools. Thus 87 per cent of the children who finished primary school last year—and a similar proportion of those who will finish this year—do so with a sense of failure, of a legitimate aspiration having been denied them. Indeed we all speak in these terms, by referring to them as those who failed to enter secondary schools, instead of simply as those who have finished their primacy education. On the other hand, the other 13 per cent have a feeling of having deserved a prize-and the prize they and their parents now expect is high wages, comfortable employment in towns, and personal status in the society. The same process operates again at the next highest level, when entrance to university is the question at issue…..

[On examinations]

One difficulty in the way of this kind of reorganization is the present examination system; if pupils spend more of their time on learning to do practical work, and on contributing to their own upkeep and the development of the community, they will not be able to take the present kind of examinations—at least within the same time period. It is, however, difficult to see why the present examination system should be regarded as sacrosanct. Other countries are moving away from this method of selection, and either abandoning examinations altogether at the lowest levels, or combining them with other assessments. There is no reason why Tanzania should not combine an examination, which is based on the things we teach, with a teacher and pupil assessment of work done for the school and community. This would be a more appropriate method of selecting entrants for secondary schools and for university, teacher training colleges, and so on, than the present purely academic procedure. Once a more detailed outline of this new approach to education is worked out, the question of selection procedure should be looked at again…….

Rweyemamu, JF. Africa’s Natural Resources and African Economic Development. in Third World Options: Power, Security and the Hope for Another Development. Tanzania Publishing House, 1992

Looking to the future

….. the time has come for Africa to act now; to undertake hard-nosed goal setting. The euphoria phase of independence when leaders could get away with rhetorical, simplistic, vague and inane objectives (of freedom, equality, participation), when they could afford to have contempt for hard facts and when they could keep calm confidence in their “revelation” to create a new humanity, that time is now irretrievable. This has brought African countries to disaster. Goal setting must recognize the universality of certain human attributes, the nature and implications of existing key socio-economic variables and the requirements of an economy producing for surplus. In any case objectives should no longer be set on a course aimed to placate externally generated ideologies, whims of fancies. Nor should objectives be made as if the rest of the world did not exist or matter.

The search for the elusive summum bonum might be an attraction which philosophers can ill afford to ignore; but its utility to men of action is limited, indeed. In my view, there is likely to be very little agreement at any one time, in any society as to what constitutes the summum bonum. There is however likely to be less disagreement on the proposition that human beings everywhere do not want life of suffering or misery – at least not for its own sake. I therefore submit that a commitment to minimizing the social causes of human misery may be a promising start to goal formulation. I may also add in passing that for better or for worse, human beings value what they must work for, not that they work for what they value. And so it is that the grievances of man or woman as a consumer appear to be more important than his or her concerns as a producer.

Secondly, African leaders must pay more than lip service to Adam Smith’s dictum that wealth of nations depends on “the skill, dexterity and judgment with which its labor is generally applied”. This does not mean merely the setting up of more schools, the responsibility that all African governments have not only accepted but carried out with vigor and energy. The school system tends to superimpose forms of knowledge on existing fold knowledge without necessarily deepening the latter. As a consequence little new useful knowledge is produced. There is need to establish mechanisms and institutions that will deepen and expand Africa’s stock of knowledge. Peasants, for instance, are inclined to augment their knowledge primarily from the most successful practitioners of their occupation. What must be underscored is that the basic task of education is the transfusion of values, but values cannot help us much to pick our way through life unless they become our own, a part to say of our mental makeup. An educational system has to give the people of a given culture the ability to make the world and their own lives intelligible. It is through the creation of intelligibility that meaningful education spurs the outburst of daring, initiative, invention and constructive activity. Finally, each country must critically appraise the arrangements that exist for allocating and distributing its available assets, property, power, privilege, prestige and participation – among individuals and groups, since these assets largely determine the latter’s well-being….

Joji was born and grew up in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He graduated with a B.Sc in Biochemistry in Germany, and is now pursuing a Masters degree in Microbiology & Immunology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland . Joji is particularly interested in matters related to global health, and basic science research that tackles public health challenges. He is engaged in mentoring Tanzanian students in higher education issues, most notably at the Kibaha High School. In this capacity, Joji blogs with Vijana FM about scientific research and development, and how youth can gain greater access to higher learning.


  1. Anonymous 8 years ago

    Just two quotes:

    We have no alternative but to apply ourselves scientifically and objectively to the problems of our country. We have to think; and then act on our thinking. We have to recognize the poverty, the ignorance and the disease, the social attitudes and the political atmosphere which exist, and in that context think about what we want to do and how we can move from existing situation towards one which we like better.

    Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere at the opening ceremony of the University College campus on August 21, 1964


    However, in exercising our minds we must try as much as possible to grapple with issues that are relevant to and from our perspective. For otherwise we will be letting others think for us concerning our problems and the solutions to them.

    Benjamin W. Mkapa addressing the University of Dodoma on Nov 2, 2007

  2. Anonymous 8 years ago

    and…something to think about…!

    Suppose someone starts/revamps a new university/old universities so they become more technology oriented…and suppose also that the focus be on training students to become researchers in the fields of engineering and IT…and in parallel research labs for both basic and applied research be started so as to employ graduates from those universities, what would you think would be the outcome, let’s say in 20 years?

  3. Author
    joji 8 years ago

    In my opinion, we should stop with all this rhetoric of ‘kilimo kwanza’. Why not move forward and emphasize something like ‘viwanda kwanza’? We can achieve this by having a set goals, and starting first with an education system directed to cater such a need. i.e. utilizing anon’s idea of having an army of technology/engineering graduates. In general with what Modesta M suggests, aiming at HRD. The asian tigers made a fast pace due to their heavy investment in engineering, science and technology – we should emulate.

  4. AK 8 years ago

    “There is no reason why Tanzania should not combine an examination, which is based on the things we teach, with a teacher and pupil assessment of work done for the school and community.” (JKN)

    He saw the need for practicality way back in the 60s. And yet 50 years down the line, we are still struggling to meet secondary school attainment quotas because the system still lacks a community-based learning assessment.

    @anon and @joji: Agreed, emphasizing on applied sciences/technology could assist higher-learning grads with being connected back into society. But don’t you think we need to start the “applying” of education way earlier, like in primary school? That is, finding a way that students can use what they learn to benefit their communities, and tracking this usage of knowledge in some kind of formal way?

  5. SN 8 years ago

    Indeed, AK. (Sorry, I will answer you briefly for now) The main problem – I think – is the process of “politicization”; wahusika seem not to get it at all. Anyways, we will have to do it our way and try to help out wherever we can.

    Love this part:

    And, in particular, our education must counteract the temptation to intellectual-arrogance; for this leads to the well-educated despising those whose abilities are non-academic or who have no special abilities but are just human beings…

  6. joji 8 years ago

    AK, you raise an interesting point. The early application of knowledge I think was emphasized back then in TZ and is still done currently – in some way. At least this is why in most Gov’ boarding schools you see ‘bustani ya shule’ or ‘shamba la shule’ in which students actively participated in maintaining. This was with the hope that during the process students will take home modern ‘skills’ of managing cattle or crop farm. I don’t know to what extent entrepreneurship skills was emphasized in this sense.

    But still in this era, I think our focus in the education of the current 7 year-olds (who by the way will be our age by 2030) should move away from our 50 year emphasis in ‘kilimo kwanza’. What about things like entrepreneurship skills?

    Ila kazi ipo, ukizingatia ahadi zinazotolewa kila kukicha bila ya kuwa na mkakati wowote hai wa kukomboa wanafunzi walio vijijini, mfano:

    The Guardian TZ:

    “President Jakaya Kikwete has said every secondary school student in the country will have own computer to aid them when studying in the coming five years. He said by then, all schools will have been connected to the internet.

    The President said the government was working to connect all secondary schools to the national optic fibre system, adding that every student would be taught how to use the Internet.”

  7. SL 8 years ago

    “President Jakaya Kikwete has said every secondary school student in the country will have own computer to aid them when studying in the coming five years. He said by then, all schools will have been connected to the internet.

    The President said the government was working to connect all secondary schools to the national optic fibre system, adding that every student would be taught how to use the Internet.”

    This is a very well intentioned goal and I applaud Mr. President for making such a bold statement. In my opinion however, it remains just that; a bold statement! In the past five years, the gov’t has failed to eradicate a problem as small as lack of buildings and desks for, say, all primary schools in Tanzania! Kama mpaka leo kuna shule wanasoma chini ya mti, unategemea kauli kama hiyo hapo juu sitaiona kama maneno mbofumbofu?

    • MWL.SHAHANGA GEOFREY 5 years ago

      The Tanzania students, need more than computers. Lack of Computers and the internet are not the cause for the student failure, neither are their provision solution for the education sector challenges. Let us integrate our education with work to teach our students in head, heart and hands so that they learn by doing and do practical things from primary level to university level. The excellence in education should not be ‘A’ grade in paper examination but the ability of those graduands to apply their knowledge and skills in saving and serving the poor majority.
      In those computers our students will just concentrate in facebok and twitter chatting on love affairs and Manchester matches. LETS BE SERIOUS TO SAVE OUR EDUCATION SECTOR FOR OUR BETTERMENT.

      • Zuleikha Omar 3 years ago

        Exactly!we have to learn by doing since we are at school and not after finishing because waiting will make our knowledges to evaporate like water.I do like that!!!

  8. Anonymous 8 years ago

    Now is the time the nation really needs immediate solutions to the many challenges it faces. In my opinion, I would still think it’s more important to invest in university graduates now than it would be for non-college students. This is because a nation will exalt herself in development through a key people leading the way. The motivation to invest in non-college students so as to equip them with a more practical-oriented education will come automatically. I believe that the nation needs direction. This direction can only be provided with well trained college graduates. I would think about this as an army with well disciplined soldiers. An example would be the 300 Spartan soldiers who killed 2-3 mill. Persians – an average of 80,000 per Persian soldier.

    @ Joji, I am afraid but Kikwete’s promise is a wishful thinking. He has just lied to us all. He should prove to us that his promise is more important than such challenges as: 1. there is no reliable public transportation (the likes of diesel trams, a very good candidate for a city with a pop. close to 4mill. people) in Dar es Salaam 2. close to half a century since we became independent, we are still grappling to obtain reliable electrical power. 3. A very good form six graduate can not express themselves well in English, leave alone the fact that many Tanzanian university students can not write good job application letters.

    Let’s stop this rhetoric. Let’s stop deceiving ourselves. We are at war. Unless we realize the urgency to attack we are a lost nation.

  9. Bata 8 years ago

    Dah, hiyo ya computer kikwete muongo..hehehe…nacheka kwasababu i can bet my kidney( even my liver) that that wont happen for sure. Mi naona wangeanza na dawati kwa kila mwanafunzi kwanza.

    Katika ile midahalo ya wagombea uraisi kungekuwa na mtu anatoa clip/list ya ahadi zote alizozisema Kikwete kabla hajachaguliwa, na kumuuliza amefikia wapi. Manake kumkamata itakuwa rahisi sana..

    Kikwete ataleta kompyuta bila umeme…lol….angesema kompyuta moja kila shule ya sekondari ningekubali…..kazi tunayo aisee..

  10. Anonymous 8 years ago

    joji…unajua kuna mambo mengi sana raisi anaweza kufanya na akakumbukwa na vizazi vyote vya tanzania…mfano, ahakikishe compyuta zina operating systems za kiswahili, applications kwa kiswahili, na internet halafu ziuzwe bei nafuu (the government could subsidize it)…Watu waweze kutumia technolojia hii! Hapo maana yake ata-advance kiswahili pamoja na kuiweka nchi katika ramani mpya! Soko la wataalamu wa lugha ya kiswahili nchini litaongezeka! taratibu watu wataitwa Microsoft kufanya kazi ya translation, computer scientist (wenye swahili background at mother-tongue level) from tanzania watakuwa na soko kubwa…

    Mfano, hapa ujerumani, nchi inapromote use of solar energy, na mtu yeyote anayetaka kutumia solar energy kwenye nyumba yake, serikali inamsaidi…in cases he produces more power than needed, he sells it to the national grid at a price higher than the normal price that the grid sells it’s power

  11. Taha Jiwaji 8 years ago

    Can any other organizations assist us in this aim to improve our education system? Or any other means to do this aside from using the government.

    Our government, as we’ve witnessed time and time again is not up to the task.

  12. AK 8 years ago

    @Anon (August 3, 2010 at 12:16 pm):

    You mention “This is because a nation will exalt herself in development through a key people leading the way. The motivation to invest in non-college students so as to equip them with a more practical-oriented education will come automatically.”

    I think it’s time we stop thinking of how things will happen automatically. We also need to stop thinking of temporary solutions. There have been “key people” appointed across Tanzania’s government that have been charged with handling interior affairs such as education, health, and finance. Have things progressed to the masses’ satisfaction… albeit automatically?

    What you are suggesting is that Tanzania do something about university graduates. You are not specific about what exactly it should do, except for saying that it needs to “invest in” or “train” these graduates. Invest in what, or train to do what?

    Nevertheless, what you are suggesting is that whatever funding is available for education would better be allocated towards higher levels of education rather than early childhood, primary, or secondary education. So essentially, we should do something about a few thousand graduates, but leave hundreds of thousands of young, literate, and potentially able citizens to be clueless about their futures.

    The consequence: Improvements to younger students may come somehow “automatically” as you say for the rest of the years that the university graduates will live. What happens after their generation, however?

    As joji has suggested above, perhaps the maintenance training Tanzania currently provides for younger students needs to not only continue, but needs to develop into some kind of entrepreneurship program. I believe that education – across all years, with no discrimination of level – needs to provide theory alongside practicality. You can’t teach a man to fish when there are no fish in his area.

    Rather, I should say that you can’t fight a war when you don’t know your own people, or your enemy. 300 was a nice movie. But Greece in 480 BC is not Tanzania in 2010 AD.

  13. Anonymous 8 years ago

    My response built on the comment by anon, August 2, 2010 at 1:32 pm. As a nation we need engineers, doctors, economists and policy makers in the next 15-20 years who will fix the many things that our government has failed to accomplish for close to 50 years of independence-cut international aid reliance, national representatives in international fora, people to pioneer the advancement of Swahili (in line with anon August 3, 2010 at 1:22 pm), economists to analyse the status of our economy and suggest best ways for economic development, above all politicians who will take political positions after Kikwete and the likes. We also need researchers who would work in the research labs suggested. These would be my 300 Spartan soldiers. I see it working in phases. Having ensured that we have something tangible for the next 15-20 years we can think about how to make primary & secondary school education more practical oriented. It could work like this: 5-10 years, revamp/start the/new universities, start research labs (for technology, swahili advancement, engineering,
    architecture etc). After that period, we are cool, as we know something will reward in the next 10-20 years. Afterwards, we go back and look at how we can develop the youngsters.

    However there is another point to underline that it’s more expensive to run a high school than a university. One reason for that could be that they consume and don’t give back to their schools. At universities, you do research, you get projects, and you get paid for that. A country especially as poor as Tanzania, must and should prioritize (in phases like I said). I don’t fully see your
    comment as the most pressing issue right now. Of course in the long run it might work. But I am afraid, no one really does it like that. In Germany for example, students go to mid schools, and on to high schools (arbiture). Those who could not go to arbiture, have to go to some vocational training schools. For those who cannot go to normal universities, they may go to other training schools or schools for applied studies (Hoschule). Hoschule could still be attended by anyone.

    You’re right 300 was a good movie, but “Sparta was unique in ancient Greece for its social system and constitution, which completely focused on military training and excellence.”

  14. Kotin Karwak 8 years ago

    Is the emphasis of higher education targeted at university education misplaced in our education system? I do understand the need for a well educated population at these levels for the community but the push to attain a higher percentage of the school going population to university status may not necessarily be ideal for our nation. In its place more self reliance education that can be achieved at polytechnic and college levels which will equip the students to this idea of self reliance. I would surmise that the majority of university educated folks rely on being employed at the end of their education career, while number of opportunities available are very very limited, resulting in many a frustrated university leavers.
    Is enough investment being made at this middle level education? Are there enough numbers of such institutions and is the curriculum correct for the nations needs?

  15. AK 8 years ago

    I like this fire I see burning.


    Agreed: We need focused, consolidated, and serious work. You and I might not agree on where exactly this work is needed, but we definitely agree on the need for work in the first place.

    I now see that it is just as important to me as it is to you that this work be done in an area where we each have vested interest.

    So let’s do the work already 🙂 It’s time, my friend. I hope that through this forum and through the people we engage, we are able to pursue our vested interests.

    Afterall, aren’t we all soldiers of some sort?

  16. Anonymous 8 years ago

    You are very right. Pamoja 🙂

  17. dynec 7 years ago

    dont complain 2 much,we Tanzania we should wake up so as 2brings changes in our nation remember the slogan of our dady of nation inorder 2 atttain development we should have people,good government,good politics and land

  18. RANI RASHIDI 7 years ago

    it seems that still education system in Tanzania has made nothing to the people about being self-reliant, social crimes are increasing every day and night and mostly caused by our top leaders

  19. Niwagila Jasper Ikula 6 years ago

    Kama ni uongo mkubwa ndio huu sasa. Chuo kikuu kila mwanafunzi hana computer hata laptop sasa itakuwaje kwa shule za secondary? Mheshimiwa rais ahidi kitu kingine tofauti na hiki !

  20. malima m silanga 6 years ago

    Ni kweli kwamba sasa hivi elimu yetu imekuwa ya kwenye makaratasi tu. Unakuta msomi kutoka chuo kikuu hawezi kuwa mbadala katika maisha, kwa mfano akikosa kazi ya fani aliyosomea ndo basi maisha yake yameishia hapo.

  21. U al hv spoken wel

  22. OSCAR JOHN 6 years ago

    Education for self reliance is now in the book only but in real situation ,we are learning theory only at all levels.A secondary school leavers can’t utilize the environment

    • Zuleikha Omar 3 years ago

      Exactly!we have to learn by doing since we are at school and not after finishing because waiting will make our knowledges to evaporate like water.I do like that!!!
      But how can we utilize our knowledge?

  23. NASAELI I SULLE 6 years ago

    The goals of education for self reliance in Tanzania is much more clear as stated by late mwalimu J.k.Nyerere but because of good polices and strategies produced by our government which remain on the paper, the education for self reliance is uniquely to be bookiesh oriented
    Corruptions, embezzlement, dependent economy, huge external debt with poor allocation is northing to remove the big three enemies of poverty, ignorance and diseases in Tanzania.
    To me there is a big deal to finance and put much more emphasis on education which prepare a youth for life, such kind of education should be practically oriented example VETA

  24. NeyK 5 years ago

    I like this – Education should prepare youth for life. It currently prepares us for the next level of education and/or non-existent employment. It seems as though our Education does not have the option of what one does if they do not go to the higher level of education. Education for self reliance is a fine idea. Practical education at all levels is very important to national development.

  25. bola 5 years ago

    he should be remembered for his innovation

  26. robertson Longoi 5 years ago

    politics kwenye taaluma (Elimu) itaua elimu yetu,mfano hiyo ahadi ya kutoa computer kwa kila mwanafunzi tanzania,wakati umeme wenyewe ni < 30% ya watanzania kote mijini na vijijini wanatumia nishati hiyo

  27. J. Ndaki 5 years ago

    The problem with our leaders is to copy everything coming from overseas! In schools today there is the so called ” competency based education”adopted from USA, which is the same thing as “Education for Self Reliance” ; the objectives and the structures are the same. ESR has been with us since the inception of the Arusha Declaration way back in 1967. We discarded it in favour of the latter which is simply the replicate of the former.
    Although the colonialist went away about 50 years ago, they still remotely control whatever we do in our countries in Africa. Our leaders are lazy in thinking hence, they accept whatever rubbish hipped before them. Look at changing from analogue to digital tv. Why should we be so “yes bwana?”This is a shame, let us maintain our manhood because we are free and we have plenty of resources only that we cannot think well.

  28. Simeon Mgode 3 years ago

    Actually competence based curriculum is what Tanzania had before colonialism in her indigenous communities.Our forefathers had survival wisdom, organizational systems, control mechanisms which they lived by and practiced child care and development.They procreated and multiplied population wise with the level of indigenous knowledge they experienced.What is needed today is the integration of both Localization and Globalization in a more thoughtful, critical and creative manner so as to take advantage of our plenty natural resources, transform them into utilizable forms for every Tanzanian.Than the situation is begging from our neo-colonialists who are shrewdly taking it from us and we continue begging them.Let our leaders and policy makers emulate from the Eastern world who thought wisely and worked tirelessly to equate their level of (doing things) reasoning to that of the Western World and now see where they are ? The starting point is you and me acting upon our contextual environments- let us do exploits wherever we are by thinking, doing and speaking the unusual to beckon on the sleeping leaders and policy makers.We can do it let us try to transform our thinking, working and teaching pedagogies which MUST BE TRANSFORMATIVE as was envisioned by Nyerere.


  1. […] Education for Self-reliance […]

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Human verification:

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box