(Extracts from a paper presented at the International Conference on the Arusha Declaration)

Mwalimu Julius Nyerere characterised colonial education as emphasising values contrary to those of socialist Tanzania. He argued that colonial education was based on the assumptions of a capitalist society that encouraged the ‘individual instincts of mankind instead of cooperative instincts’.

Emphasising that traditional African values were based on group, not individual, goals he declared that colonial education was a deliberate attempt to change those values and replace traditional knowledge by the knowledge from a different society. It was elitist and was designed to meet the interests of a very small proportion of those who entered the school system. Nyerere argued that Tanzanian education should develop socialist attitudes of cooperation, equality and responsibility.

This changed role of education was to be achieved by reorganising schools, restructuring the educational system and changing the actual content of learned information.

Among the many reforms initiated was the introduction of se1f reliance activities in the school curriculum. These were designed to overcome elitism, integrate schooling with village life, engender a cooperative mode of living and enable schools to contribute to their own upkeep.

How far have reforms in the education system succeeded in achieving these objectives? Studies done in the wake of various educational reforms generally painted a rosy picture conveying the idea that, even if the ideal has not been reached, it is only a matter of time before a few adjustments in the system will bring it about.

Most commonly sited problems were said to be: misunderstanding by both students and teachers of the philosophical basis of the policy, persistence of the white collar complex and disdainful attitudes towards manual labour, poor project planning with no student involvement and so on. Most authors saw these as attitudinal or technical problems. My own research (in the early 80’s) however, reveals that the problems were structural and political and that technical changes alone would not have solved the problem. Our understanding of the school and education is incomplete unless we site education in the total functioning of the society. specially in its link with the economy. This link between what goes on in the school and what goes on in the villages is very strong.

Mswaki is 22 miles west of Handeni. In 1971 it had 40 houses and 200 people. During the villagisation programme of 1974-75 scattered settlements nearby moved into the village so that by 1984 it had 318 households and a population of 1,566. In November of 1975 it had become recognised as an ‘ujamma village.’

Agriculture at Mswaki is governed primarily be the amount of rainfall. In good years there is enough food but most of the time there are food shortages. Maize is the primary food and cash crop. Communal farming activities were begun in 1972 as a condition of receiving food aid. As the food situation improved communal farming was abandoned. The second phase of communal farming began in 1980 as a result of pressure from above. The government directed that every village should have at least 100 acres of communally cultivated farm. Work on these farms was to be compulsory with 75% of the land to be put under maize and 25~ under an export crop – tobacco.

The growing of tobacco encountered a great deal of resistance. Because tobacco needs three times as much labour as maize peasants argued that the growing of tobacco would leave very little labour for maize and hence risk food Shortages. During 1983 six peasant s were sent to jail for not growing the required acreage of tobacco. One old man described how:

“Militia came to our houses at five in the morning banging on the doors and asking us to come out. I had a kettle with water with me as I was preparing for the morning prayers. One militiaman asked me where my tobacco farm was. I said I would show it to him after I had said my prayers. He kicked my kettle and asked me to march like a frog for my insolent behaviour. After this punishment I went and showed him my tobacco plot”.

Each individual was expected to cultivate a quarter acre of tobacco. In the 1982/83 season the Party Ward Secretary alleged that the village leaders were cheating in measuring the plots. Measuring had been done by pacing but village leaders were accused of using the shortest person in the village to do the pacing. For the 1983/84- season the Ward Secretary therefore used a rope of the requisite length to measure the size of the plots.

The resistance of the peasants to follow government directives was explained away by government and Party officials as backwardness, stubbornness and ‘not knowing what was good for them’.

Despite the changes that have occurred within the schooling system, schools continue to reproduce peripheral capitalism in Tanzania by equipping the bulk of the citizenry with basic skills in a manner that restrains their aspirations and reminds them of their largely rural agricultural future.

In 1984 Mswaki Primary School had 377 pupils. There was a school farm and pupils in the upper classes were expected to spend two hours per week on self-reliance activities. In 1983 three and a quarter acres were cultivated partly in maize and partly in beans and tobacco. The farm was cultivated in the exact manner the peasants had always done. Pupils clearly had not learned any new agricultural skills or techniques. All decisions about the school farm were made by the teachers. In all the self- reliance activities observed teachers never participated but guided. A similar situation was observed in the classroom activities of the pupils. The teacher talks and the pupils listen. Failure to obey results in punishment. Corporal punishment is widely employed. Every teacher carries a cane and uses it often. Teachers are the only source of knowledge. The school lacks books of any kind and although it has a radio provided to listen to school broadcasts there are no batteries. The village receives no newspapers.

Nearly all teacher s have projects besides teaching. All have farms. The carpentry teacher makes and sells furniture. Another teacher buys and sells maize, often to the neglect of his teaching. During a four year period not a single pupil from the school had been selected for secondary education.

Both parents and children reject this practice under which primary education becomes a preparation ground for peasants in a peripheral dependent capitalist economy rather than education for self- reliance. This rejection is manifested in two ways. First, there is a general apathy towards sending children to school and secondly, those who finish schooling are unwilling to stay on in the village and become peasants. The main problem facing the school is absenteeism. In 1983 six parents were fined or sent to jail for not sending their children to school. If the parents cannot persuade the child to go to school the pupil is caned six times. In 1983 there were ten court cases in which children were whipped. In the following year however the attendance of Sixty pupils registered in standard five was only 19 – one third of the enrolment.

Of 64 pupils interviewed only three were interested in going to secondary school and the majority were expecting to leave the Village after completing standard seven. They expected to get unskilled jobs as factory workers, domestic workers, vendors, barmaids etc. One said:

“Life in the village is difficult. Here you are forced to do many things … grow tobacco on your farm … cultivate a quarter acre on the Village farm …. grow your own food … to do all these satisfactorily is very difficult. Even when you work hard you hardly get enough money to buy clothes”.

A teacher added that the coercive nature of the village leadership was not conducive for the participation of youth in the village activities.

We can see that both in the functioning of the village and the school there are features that are similar:

– authoritative and hierarchical decision making;
– emphasis on export crops both in the village and in the school;
– rejection by parents and pupils of their assigned roles;
– coercion to ensure compliance;
– a feeling of superiority on the part of those in authority – resistance by the peasants is explained in terms of cultural backwardness amongst the Zigua people of Handeni.

Education for self-reliance has not led to fundamental transformation of the educational system. There are several reasons:

– the dependent nature of the economy; the role of the schools becomes to produce pupils who are users of technology rather than creators of technology;

– education for self-reliance reforms were initiated from above; bureaucracy, which is itself organised in a hierarchical and top down decision-making form cannot implement reforms that were intended to democratise the school system;

– education for self-reliance does not sufficiently address the question of knowledge; we are users of technology and therefore produce pupils for that role; most of the knowledge that is taught comes from the West; most of our books come from capitalist countries thus making us retain English as a medium of instruction; can there be self-reliance in education without the country being self-reliant in the production of knowledge? meaningful self-reliance is not possible with a dependent economy;

– what kind of society are primary school pupils being educated for? is it the society of the future or the past? the policy states that students should be integrated back into the community from which they come i.e. from the society of the present and of the past which is not a socialist society; this has meant in practice preparing students for a role in a dependent peripheral capitalist economy;

We have shown that notwithstanding the almost universal support for the view that it is possible to remake society by remaking the educational system, even educational reforms that are successful in terms of their immediate goals may not fundamentally a1ter the structure of society. Schools reflect society as much as they affect it.
Suleman Sumra
Dr. SULEMAN SUMRA is a Senior Lecturer in the University of Dar es Salaam and was formerly a primary and secondary school teacher.


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