Nyerere: Education Must Liberate and Empower People

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[From Archives: Education]


Excerpted from speech by the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere (1922 - 1999) the first president of Tanzania who was one of the world's most respected leaders.

It is true that in the Third World we talk a great deal about economic development. About expanding the number of goods and the capacity to produce them.

But the goods are needed to serve man. Services are required to make the lives of man more useful, more equal, and more fruitful. Political, social and economic organization is needed to enlarge the freedom and dignity of man.

Always we come back to man, liberated man, as the purpose of activity; the purpose of development. But man can only liberate himself or develop himself. He cannot be liberated or developed by another.

For man makes himself. It is his ability to act deliberately, for self-determined purpose which distinguishes him from other animals.

The expansion of his own consciousness and therefore of his own power over himself, over his environment and his society, must be therefore ultimately what we mean by development. The same is true of education. Its purpose is the liberation of man from the strains and limitations of ignorance and dependence.

Education has to increase man's physical and mental freedom. To increase their control over themselves, their own lives and the environment in which they live. The ideas imparted by education or released in the minds through education should therefore be liberating ideas.

The skills acquired by education should be liberating skills. Nothing else can properly be called education.

Any teaching which induces a slave mentality or a sense of impotence is not education at all; it is an attack on the minds of men.

This means that adult education has to be directed at helping men develop themselves. It has to contribute to the enlargement of men's ability in every day, in every way.

In particular, it has to help men to decide for themselves, in cooperation, what development is. It must help men to think clearly. It must help them to examine the possible alternative courses of action. To make a choice between those alternatives in keeping with their own purposes and it must equip them with the ability to translate their decisions into reality.

The personal and physical aspect of development cannot be separate. It is in the process of deciding for himself what is development and deciding in what direction it should take a society, and implementing those decisions, that man develops himself.

There is another aspect too. A man learns because he wants to do something and once he has started along this road of developing his capacity he also learns because he wants to be a more conscious and understanding purpose.

Learning has not liberated a man if all he learns to want is a certificate on his wall and the reputation of being a learned person; a possessor of knowledge. For such a desire is merely another aspect of the disease of the acquisitive society.

The accumulation of goods for the sake of accumulating them. The accumulation of knowledge, or worse still, the accumulation of pieces of paper which represent a kind of legal tender for such knowledge, has nothing to do with development.

Adult education is not something which can deal with just agriculture, or health, or literacy, or mechanical skills and so on. All these separate branches of education are related to the total life a man is living, and to the man he is, and will become, or is becoming.

Learning how best to grow soybeans is of little use to a man if it is not combined with learning about nutrition, or the existence of a market for beans. This means therefore that adult education will promote change.

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