Tuesday, August 20

EDUCATION FOR SELF-RELIANCE: “CREATING A WHOLESOME CTIZEN”.

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Image result for photo of pius msekwa 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 
.  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 endeavor. 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 import6ance 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 self-reliance’ 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 endeavored 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 pump 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   / 0754767576.

Source: Daily News and courtesy of Cde Msekwa Himself.

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