The Liberating Role Of Education

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[From The Archives: Essays In Development]

Now and then we bring you essays and speeches from Great minds, to nourish your own. In the last few months, we have published speeches by Malcolm X; Kwame Nkrumah; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Barack Obama. Today, we present Dr. Julius K. Nyerere, (1922-1999) the late president of Tanzania.

It is true that in the Third World, we talk a great deal about economic development. About expanding the number of goods and services and the capacity to produce them. But the goodsare needed to serve man; services are required to make the lives of men more useful; more peaceful; 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 the 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 a 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 therefore be ultimately what we mean by development.

The same is true of education. Its purpose is the liberation of man from the constraints 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 mind 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 mind of man.

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

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 enable 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 aspects of development cannot be separated.

It is in the process of deciding for himself what is development and deciding in what direction it should take his society, and implementing those decisions, that man develops himself.

There is another aspect to this. 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; to be a more conscious and understanding person.

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; the 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 a piece of paper which represents 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 the 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 soya beans is of little use to a man if it is not combined with learning about nutrition; or the existence of a market for the beans. This means therefore, that adult education, will promote change, at the same time that it assists men to control both the change which they induce and that which is forced upon them by the decisions of other men or by the cataclysms of nature.


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