Julius Kambarage Nyerere made the following ground-breaking speech as President of Tanzania at the World Assembly of the ICAE in 1976 in Dares Salaam, and his most important Statements still hold true. The text is reprinted from Nos. 19 and 30 of Adult Education and Development.
We in this country have no Special qualifications to host a Conference on adult education although we are very happy to do so! Many countries have had longer experience than ourselves in this work; many can point to greater success. There is only one thing we in Tanzania can claim, and that is that we are fully aware of the fundamental importance of education as a means of development, and as part of development.
For development has a purpose; that purpose is the liberation of Man. 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 goods are needed to serve men; Services are required to make the lives of men more easeful as well as more fruitful. Political, social, and economic organization is needed to enlarge the freedom and dignity of men. Always we come back to Man - to 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 a self-determined purpose, which distinguishes him from the other animals. The expansion of his own consciousness, and therefore of his power over himself, his environment, and his Society, must therefore ultimately be what we mean by development.
So development is for Man, by Man, and of Man. The same is true of education. Its purpose is the liberation of Man from the restraints and limitations of ignorance and dependency. Education has to increase men'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. Teaching which induces a slave mentality or a sense of impotence is not education at all; it is attack on the minds of men. 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 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 enable them to examine the possible alternative courses of action; to make a choice between those alternatives in keeping with their own propulsions; 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 in implementing those decisions, that Man develops himself. For Man does not develop himself in a vacuum, in isolation from his society and his environment; and he certainly cannot be developed by others. Man's consciousness is developed in the process of thinking, and deciding and of acting. His capacity is developed in the process of doing things.
But doing things means cooperating with others, for in isolation Man is virtually helpless physically, and stultified mentally. Education for liberation is therefore also education for cooperation among men, because it is in cooperation with others that Man liberates himself from the constraints of nature, and also those imposed upon him by his fellow men. Education is thus intensely personal in the sense that it has to be a personal experience; no one can have his consciousness developed by proxy. But it is also an activity of great social significance, because the man whom education liberates is a man in society, and his society will be affected by the change which education creates in him. 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", 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,
So if adult education is to contribute to development, it must be a part of life - integrated with life and inseparable from it. It is not something which can be put into a box and taken out for certain periods of the day or week - or certain periods of a life. And it cannot be imposed: every learner is ultimately a volunteer, because, however much teaching he is given, only he can learn. Further, adult education is not something which can deal with just "agriculture", or "health" or "literacy", or "mechanical skill", etc. 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. Learning how best to grow soy beans is of little use to a man if it is not combined with learning about nutrition and/or the existence of a market for the beans. This means, therefore, that adult education will promote changes in men, and in society. And it means that adult education should promote change, at the same time as it assists men to control both the change which they may induce, and that which is forced upon them by the decisions of other men or the cataclysm of nature. Further, it means that adult education encompasses the whole of life, and must build upon what already exists.
The first function of adult education is to inspire both a desire for change, and an understanding that change is possible. For a belief that poverty or suffering is "the will of God" and that man's only task is to endure, is the most fundamental of all the enemies for freedom. Yet dissatisfaction with what is must be combined with a conviction that it can be changed; otherwise it is simply destructive. Men living in poverty or sickness or under tyranny or exploitation must be enabled to recognize both that the life they lead is miserable, and that they can change it by their own action, either individually or in cooperation with others.
Work of this kind is not often called "adult education" and it is not usually regarded as a function of Adult Education Associations or Departments. But neither is teaching a child to walk, or to speak, usually regarded as education! It is only when a child does not learn these primary functions as it grows out of infancy that organized education takes over the task of teaching them in "special schools" for the deaf or the otherwise handicapped. Similarly, whether or not institutions of adult education ought to be doing this fundamental work of arousing consciousness about the need for, and the possibility of, change will depend upon the circumstances in which they are operating. In Third World countries such work often has to be done by someone, or some organization. It will simply be a matter of organization and efficiency whether it is done by people called "Community Development Workers", or "Political Education Officers", or "Adult Teachers". What is important is that it is done, and that all should recognise it as a necessary basis for all other developmental and educational activities.
The same thing is true of what I would call the second stage of adult education. That is, helping people to work out what kind of change they want, and how to create it. For example: it is not enough that the people in a village should come to recognise that something can be done about their endemic malaria, that it is not an evil which has to be endured. They also have to learn that malaria can be treated with drugs, or prevented by controlling mosquitos, or that malaria can be dealt with by a combination of curative and preventive action. And all this must be followed up with action. Thus we have a whole series of educational activities all of which involve a learning process - an expansion of consciousness. The combination of them all is required if the development - of men and the environment - is to be life-enhancing. And all of them can be assisted by the activities of an educator.
Adult education thus incorporates anything that enlarges men's understanding, activates them, helps them to make their own decisions, and to implement those decisions for themselves. It includes training, but is much more than training. It includes what is generally called "agitation", but it is much more than that. It includes organization and mobilisation, but it goes beyond them to make them purposeful.
Thinking of adult education from the point of view of the educators, therefore, one can say that they are of two types, each of whom needs the other. The first are what one might call the "generalists". They are the political activists and educators - whether or not they are members of, and organized by, a political party or whether they are Community Development workers or religious teachers.
Such people are not politically neutral; by the nature of what they are doing they cannot be. For what they are doing will affect how men look at the society in which they live, and how they seek to use it or change it. Making the people of a village aware that their malaria can be avoided, for example, will cause them to make demands upon the larger community in which they live. At least they will demand drugs, or insect spray, or teachers; they will no longer be passive beings who simply accept the life they know. And if people who have been aroused cannot get the change they want, or a substitute for it which is acceptable to them, they will become discontented - if not hostile - towards whatever authority they regard as responsible for the failure. Adult Education is thus a highly political activity. Politicians are sometimes more aware of this fact than educators, and therefore they do not always welcome real adult education.
The work of these "generalists" is fundamental to adult education. It is after their work has been done - that is after a demand has been generated and a problem identified - that what might be called the "specialists" can become effective. If you go into a village and explain how to spray stagnant water and with what, you may be listened to with politeness; but your effort has been wasted and nothing will happen after you have left unless the villagers first understand what the spraying will do, and why it is important. Of course, it is possible for the "health educator" to give this explanation himself; he should certainly be capable of doing so, and prepared to do so. But his specialized knowledge can be more effective - and can be spread among a larger number of villages - if the people already have discussed and absorbed the reasons for anti-mosquito spraying and developed a desire to learn how to do it for themselves.
It is at the level of this "specialist" adult education that the division into health, agriculture, child care, management, literacy, and other kinds of education, can make sense. But none of these branches can be self-contained; their work must be coordinated and linked. The work of the agricultural specialist must be linked with that of the nutritionist and that of the people who train villagers to be more effective in selling or buying; and he may himself find the need to call upon - or lead the villagers towards - the person who can teach literacy. Adult Education in fact must be like a spider's web, the different strands of which knit together, each strengthening the other, and each connected to the others to make a coherent whole. In saying that I do not wish to imply that adult education has a beginning and an end, or that it is necessary for a particular community or individual to travel along all the various branches of learning at a fairly simple level. The point I am trying to make is that mass adult education - which is what most of us are concerned with in our working lives - must not be thought of as being in self-contained compartments, nor must it be organized into them. If the people's felt need is improved health, the health specialist must lead them into an awareness of the need for improved agricultural techniques as he teaches the elements of preventive medicine, or helps them to lay the foundations of curative health service. And the health specialist must have organizational links with the agriculture teacher, so that this new interest can be met as it is aroused, and so on.
But certain individuals or communities will wish to pursue particular interests further. The mass education must be a kind as to show that this can be done, and to provide the tools with which it can be done. For example, it must lead to literacy (if it does not start with that); and it must incorporate access to books of different levels, even if it cannot include provision for more formal teaching. The mass education should also show people how to learn from the use of resources which are locally available, like a nearby dispensary, a good farmer, local school teachers, and so on. For mass adult education must be seen as a beginning; a foundation course on which people can build their own structures according to their own interests and own desires. And the adult educator must demonstrate this function in his own activities; that is, by continuing to expand his personal knowledge through reading, listening to the radio, informal discussions, participation in physical development activities, and attendance at such other organized education courses as may be available.
All these are methods of adult education, and must be understood as such. Which one, or which combination, is appropriate at a particular time will depend upon many things. But one fundamental fact must underlie the choice made. A mother does not "give" walking or talking to her child; walking and talking are not things which she "has" and of which she gives a portion to the child. Rather, the mother helps the child to develop its own potential ability to walk and talk. And the adult educator is in the same position. He is not giving to another something which he possesses. He is helping the learner to develop his own potential and his own capacity. What all this means in practice is that the adult educator must involve the learners in their own education, and in practice, from the very beginning. Only activities which involve them in doing something for themselves will provide an on-going sense of achievement and mean that some new piece of knowledge is actually grasped - that it has become something of "theirs". It doesn't matter what form this involvement takes; it may be a contribution to a discussion, reading out loud, or writing, or making a furrow of the required depth and width. What is important is that the adult learner should be learning by doing, just as - to go back to my earlier example - a child learns to walk by walking.
There is a second very fundamental determinant of adult education method. It is that every adult knows something about the subject he is interested in, even if he is not aware that he knows it. He may indeed know something which his teacher does not know. For example, the villagers will know what time of the year malaria is worse and what group of people - by age or residence or work place - are most badly affected. It is on the basis of this knowledge that greater understanding must be built, and be seen to be built. For by drawing out the things the learner already knows and showing their relevance to the new thing which has to be learnt, the teacher has done three things. He has built up the self-confidence of the man who wants to learn by showing him that he is capable of contributing. He has demonstrated the relevance of experience and observation as a method of learning when combined with thought and analysis. And he has shown what I might call the "mutuality" of learning; that is, that by sharing our knowledge we extend the totality of our understanding and our control over our lives.
For this is very important. The teacher of adults is a leader, a guide along a path which all will travel together. The organizers and teachers in an adult education programme can be no more than that; to be effective therefore they have consciously to identify themselves with those who are participating in it primarily as learners. Only on this basis of equality, and of sharing a task which is of mutual benefit, is it possible to make full use of the existing human resources in the development of a community, a village, or a nation. It is within this context of sharing knowledge that all the different techniques of teaching can be used.
The most appropriate techniques in a particular case will depend upon the circumstances, and the resources, of the learning community and of the nation in which it lives. For it is no good spending time and money on elaborate visual aids which need skilled operators and electricity if either the skilled operator or the electricity is lacking in the village which wants to learn! It is no use relying upon techniques which need imported materials if you are working in a country that has a permanent balance of payments problem. And in a poor country the techniques used must be of very low cost and preferably capable of being constructed out of local materials, at the place where the teaching will be done, and by the people who will teach and learn. Self-reliance is a very good educational technique as well as being an indispensable basis for further development.
This need to become increasingly self-reliant in adult education, as in other aspects of development, will have to be reflected in the organization of adult education activities. Obviously there is no "ideal" adult education organization pattern to which all nations could, or should, aspire. The type of organization has to reflect the needs, and the resources, of each country, as well as its culture and its political commitment. The one unavoidable thing is that resources have to be allocated to adult education. It will not happen without them! There is a regrettable tendency in times of economic stringency - which for poor countries is all the time - for governments to economize on money for adult education. And there is a tendency also, when trained people are in short supply, to decide that adult education must wait, or to pull out its best practitioners and give them more prestigious jobs and administration.
It would certainly be a mistake to try to duplicate for adults the kind of educational establishment we have for children, either in staff or buildings. The most appropriate adult teachers are often those who are also engaged in another job, who are practitioners of what they will be teaching. But it is necessary to have some people whose full-time work is teaching adults, or organizing the different kinds of adult education. These people have to be paid wages and given the equipment, and facilities, which are needed to be effective. How many of them there should be, and whether they should be in one educational hierarchy or under different specialized Ministries or Departments, will depend upon local factors, and will probably vary from time to time. Certainly we in Tanzania have not solved this kind of organizational problem to our satisfaction.
All this means that adult education has to be given a priority within the overall development and recurrent revenue allocations of governments or other institutions. What priority it obtains is perhaps one of the most political decisions a government will take. For if adult education is properly carried out, and therefore effective, it is the most potent force there can be for developing a free people who will insist upon determining their own future.
Education arouses curiosity and provokes questioning - the challenging of old assumptions and established practices. An educated Ujamaa village, for example, will neither allow nor tolerate dishonesty among its accountants, or authoritarianism among its leaders. An educated population will challenge the actions of its elected representatives - including its President. Maybe this is why adult education is generally the Cinderella of government departments, or why its function is captured by newspaper, cinema, and television owners and editors with a personal axe to grind! And do not let me pretend that Tanzania is an exception to any of this. Our policy commitment to adult education is clear. But our practice, and our practitioners, are - to put it mildly - not above criticism!
But of course, even if a top priority is given to adult education, there are priorities within that priority still to be determined. Resources are always limited. In poor and backward countries they are laughably small in relation to the need. So choices have to be made between such things as generalized education, different kinds of specialized mass education, the radio, mass circulation of subsidized literature, residential education, the training of the educators and an increase in teachers untrained in techniques, and so on.
Once again, there is no "best" choice of balance among all the necessary activities. What is appropriate will depend upon the existing level of knowledge and understanding in different fields, and upon the existing resources in men, material, and equipment. In Tanzania, for example, we have now broken through the stage where miserable conditions were regarded as "the Will of God". Our present task is therefore primarily that of helping people to acquire the tools of development -the literacy, the knowledge of health needs, the need for improved production, the need to improve dwelling places, and the basic skills necessary to meet all these demands.
We are finding that the organization of this second stage is much more difficult, with our limited resources, to ensure that when people have learned a skill, the ploughs, and the carpentry equipment, and the survey levels, etc., are also where they are wanted and at an accessible price level! But there is a saying that nothing which is easy is worth doing, and it could never be said that adult education is not worth doing! For it is the key to the development of free men and free societies. Its function is to help men to think for themselves, to make their own decisions, and to execute those decisions for themselves.
You can search for articles in our article index (sorted by authors, issues, year, regions and countries). It also provides a full text search.
The journal Adult Education and Development is distributed free of charge in English, French and Spanish. If you wish to receive the journal, please subscribe here.