The University of Western Cape, South Africa, instituted a Vice Chancellor's Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Annual Lecture on Lifelong Learning in 2004, in recognition of the seminal contribution the late Tanzanian President Nyerere made to our understanding of human development in Africa and elsewhere. The annual lecture series was launched by the South African National Minister of Education, Ms Naledi Pandor, followed in 2005 by Dr Rosa María Torres, former Minister of Education and popular educator from Ecuador, and then by the South African Deputy President, Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. In 2007, Ms Anne Hope was invited to deliver the lecture. Like her predecessors, Anne Hope is an inspirational feminist adult educator with a long history of work in Africa and elsewhere on the side of poor and oppressed people. She is the co-author, with her colleague Sally Timmel, of the well-used "Training for Transformation Handbooks". We reprint extracts of her speech below.
Source: dgvn Informationsdienst, Bevölkerung & Entwicklung,
Nr. 64 Dezember 2007, p. 10
First of all I would like to say how honoured I am to be invited by the Rector and Vice Chancellor, Professor Brian O'Connell, and Professor Shirley Walters, to be the main speaker at this annual event on Lifelong Learning in honour of President Julius Nyerere. I have been an admirer of Nyerere for nearly 50 years and he certainly contributed a great deal to my own lifelong learning, so it is a privilege for me to have this opportunity of honouring him, and of contributing something towards the ongoing recognition of this great man.
The topic of this session is actually Lifelong Learning and I was asked to share something of my own process of lifelong learning. I think there is a very strong correlation between one's commitment to lifelong learning and the quality of one's life. As soon as one stops learning, one's life begins to shrivel.
I think those who are really committed to lifelong learning need two qualities. One is a strong sense of curiosity, and the other is wonder. It is a great gift to have parents who encourage one's sense of curiosity. My father certainly did this for me and my siblings. I can remember sitting on the arm of his chair while he told us stories, especially the Just So Stories, "How the Leopard got his Spots", and "The Elephant's Child who was filled with insatiable curiosity" - and "that was how he got that useful long trunk of his." I remember my father reciting with great enthusiasm the verse from Kipling in which he talks of questions as his most important assistants:
"They taught me all I knew.
Their names are How ? and What ? and Where ?
And Why ? and When ? and Who ?
I send them over land and sea,
I send them East and West
But after they have worked for me
I give them all a rest."
The encouragement to use these "six questions" to ask about things we don't understand, to search for answers to problems, to discover how things work, and why things are the way they are, is essential to launch a child on lifelong learning, even though the questions of children may often drive adults dotty.
Nyerere was a wonderful example of a lifelong learner. He never stopped asking those questions. He never stopped trying to understand the causes of the problems of his people, or stopped searching for effective solutions. Nyerere was one of the most creative development thinkers and one of the greatest statesmen of the 20 th Century and of Africa. He was in a unique position because much sooner than most other people, he recognized that the policies of the dominant development organizations were not only failing to deal with the problems, but were in fact making them worse, contributing to the impoverishment of the countries of the South. He was a very clear thinker and developed an increasingly sharp analysis. All his life he was in a constant search to find effective alternative solutions . He never stopped thinking, and he never stopped learning.
Unlike most of the development thinkers, who could only try out their ideas from academic settings or the offices of organizations, either local or global, he had the authority, as President of Tanzania, to put his ideas into practice immediately in a whole country. The disadvantage of this was that it became glaringly obvious if any of his ideas were not working, whereas for most people the ideas that are not effective remain hidden in the pages of books and are soon forgotten. In hindsight we can see that Nyerere made some mistakes, but he was always open to evaluating his efforts , admitting it when they were not working, and trying something new, continuing to apply his mind to old and new problems alike.
Most of all he was a great and generous human being who had the well-being of his people deeply at heart. His concern started with the people of Tanzania, but this concern was constantly growing and soon stretched way beyond his own country. He tried hard to develop regional unity in East Africa, even going to war at great cost to his own country to help Ugandans get rid of Idi Amin. He committed himself unreservedly to the struggle to get rid of apartheid in South Africa , and gave strong support to the African National Congress (ANC) in exile and to all the young exiles who flooded into Tanzania after 1976. This means that there is and should always be a very deep bond between South Africans and Tanzanians. We owe him, and them, a lot.
Nyerere helped to develop the Southern African Coordinating Committee, which later became SADC, and as chairman of the South Commission he helped the countries of the South to challenge the global economic structures which made the industrialized countries get richer and richer at the expense of those of the South.
Since 1954 I have belonged to an international women's movement committed to working for justice and peace, called the Grail. As you probably know, in many different legends the Grail cup is the symbol of ultimate happiness, peace and fulfilment - a fulfilment which is always elusive, but so close to our hearts that it is worth spending one's whole life in the search for it. In order to deepen our understanding of different countries, the Grail organized long-term exchange programmes for people who were willing to spend three or four years serving in a different country. I was lucky enough to be sent by the Grail to teach in Uganda for four years in my 20s. This had a lasting effect on my life.
I was based in a small town called Kalisizo just 100 km north of the border with Tanzania. We were building up from scratch a girls' boarding school, only the fourth secondary school for girls in the country. Kalisizo was referred to as a "centre of trade and education" . The education and the trade consisted of a dozen or so small Indian shops on either side of the main, dirt road. We were trying our best to make the education we offered relevant to the needs of the country and to the kind of life these girls would be leading later in their villages, so there was a strong emphasis on agriculture. We aimed at encouraging as much self-reliance as possible.
We grew all our own food. In that area this meant big banana plantations for the staple food, matoke (steamed green bananas), sweet potatoes, cassava for times of famine, groundnuts, onions and tomatoes for sauces, and lots of pawpaws and pineapples. The land was so fertile that if one put posts in the ground for washlines, in no time at all they started to bear leaves. The girls worked after school each day in the fields and the older ones were actively involved in the local community. We built in a lot of leadership training and the girls helped us organize women's and girls' clubs in the villages.
During those years in the late 1950s and early '60s, we made frequent trips to Tanzania. One of my colleagues had been a fellow student with Nyerere, Julius, as everyone called him, when he was studying for his master's degree at Edinburgh University. So as all the East African countries, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, were moving towards independence - Uhuru - we took a great interest in his career. These were the years in which he was rapidly becoming more and more central in the struggle of Tanganyika for independence. By 1957 he was drawing crowds of 30,000 wherever he went in the country, and in December 1961 he became Prime Minister of the first government of independent Tanganyika.
I first saw him at the celebration of Internal Self-Government in May 1961 in the town of Mwanza on the shores of Lake Victoria. The excitement was enormous, unforgettable. But a month after independence, in January 1962, Nyerere resigned as Prime Minister. Along with everyone else I was flabbergasted. Here was the undisputed leader of the country, resigning right after independence. What on earth was happening? But Nyerere had his reasons. He did not resign as president of the party, TANU. He had decided that if the country was to become a true democracy with responsible, well-informed voters, there must be far more political preparation of the people as a whole. So he spent the next year travelling all over the country involved in an intensive programme of political and economic adult education. Then, a year later, when Tanganyika became a republic, he became the first President of the country. The name Tanzania was only adopted after the unification of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964.
For a while, when he returned from Edinburgh, Nyerere had been a high-school teacher, and education remained a matter of supreme im portance to him all his life, including adult education. We were delighted when he gave his speech on "Education for Self-Reliance" because he was affirming many of the things that we were ourselves trying to do in Kalisizo, but of course putting it into a wider national context. It was not for nothing that Nyerere chose to be called "Mwalimu", the Swahili word for teacher. He remained an extremely skilled teacher all his life, explaining highly complex economic problems in simple terms, with vivid imagery from the experiences of everyday life, in such a way that rural people, with very little formal education, could understand them.
"Freedom and development are as completely linked as are chickens and eggs! Without chickens you get no eggs, and without eggs you soon have no chickens. Similarly, without freedom you get no development, and without development you very soon lose your freedom."
One of his deepest convictions was the equality of all people :
"The significant thing about the division between rich and poor people, rich and poor nations, is not simply that one has the resources to provide comfort for all its citizens, and the other cannot even provide basic needs and services. The reality and depth of the problem arises because the man who is rich has power over the lives of those who are poor, and the rich nation has power over the policies of those which are not rich. And even more important is that our social and economic system, nationally and internationally, supports those divisions and constantly increases them, so that the rich get ever richer and more powerful, while the poor get relatively poorer and less able to control their own future."
That is obviously still true today, both within our country and on an international level.
Nyerere always stressed that the important thing was not the development of things, or of money, but the development of Man. He often used the word "Man" , where today we would speak of "Human" development, but unlike many other men, who are actually thinking only of men when they use this word, Nyerere was deeply conscious of the contribution and the rights of women.
"The people who work hardest in Tanzania, in fact are far too overworked, are the rural woman."
Nyerere was a practising Catholic, and believed that all religions had a very important contribution to make to the building of a new society. He seldom spoke about his own religion, but it did in fact profoundly influence the values to which he was committed. He went to Mass and Communion every day all through his life, even during the busiest years of his presidency. He was much more concerned about the "well-being" of his people in the full human sense, than merely with economic growth. He did not measure development, as many people do, only in terms of impressive growth of GDP. He was deeply committed to an egalitarian society in which the fundamental human needs of all people would be met, where there would not be a large gap between the richest and the poorest, and where all would have the opportunity to experience the quality of life for which they longed.
He was willing, when necessary, to challenge other African leaders. He was also willing to challenge the Church, even as he identified with it, when he saw we were not living up to our own values. (...) He saw it as the role of the Church not only to provide welfare to relieve the suffering of the poor, but also to challenge the structures which created and perpetuated poverty:
"The church has to help people rebel against their slums: it has to help people do this in the most effective way it can be done. But above all the church must be obviously and openly fighting all those institutions and power groups which contribute to the maintenance of those physical and spiritual slums - regardless of the consequences to itself and its members...The church must work with the people building a future based on social justice. It must participate actively in initiating, securing and creating the changes that are necessary. Its love must be expressed in action, against evil and for good."
He would have expected the same of sincere Muslims, Hindus, Jews or Buddhists.
The problems Nyerere was struggling to solve have not gone away. In many ways they have become worse on an international level. We live now in a yet more unequal world. Though some countries, such as India and China, are well on their way to becoming superpowers, there are still huge gaps between the rich and the poor within their borders, and between rich and poor nations, including many of those in Africa.
Of course Nyerere made mistakes, and some of his policies did not work. In the early 1970s we all had high hopes of the "Ujamaa" villages, built on the principle of sharing in each village, in the way the members of a family share their resources. Ujamaa means "family" , and it was this quality of the extended family, with concern for one another, that Nyerere hoped would characterize African socialism, a socialism permeated with African conviviality.
At that time the Makonde Ujamaa sculptures started to appear everywhere. I have no idea where or when the first one was made, but innumerable different versions were carved. No two are ever alike. They portray the deep intertwining of the lives of all the members of a family - of all the members of the One Human Family. Each generation rises from the previous one, benefiting from all they have achieved, recognizing that "we all stand on the shoulders of the giants who have gone before us" . We are all related, all dependent on one another, all reaching up in aspiration towards the fullness of life. I have a very small example of one of these statues. As we continue with the programme I would just like to suggest that we pass it slowly around the room, from hand to hand, so that, as we touch it, we can consciously connect with this awareness, recently born out by scientific research, that we are all in fact part of the one great human family.
Nyerere tried to persuade people to move from individual plots into Ujamaa villages, so that they could be within easy reach of the services the government wanted to provide for everybody, access to schools and clinics, piped water and electricity, and ongoing adult education programmes.
However, in Tanzania not everyone wanted to move and some of the government officials grew impatient with these people and started to remove them forcibly. This of course raised a great deal of resentment and was the death knell of the policy. And in fact during those years the production of food decreased seriously. Tanzania went from being the largest exporter of food in Africa to the largest importer. One reason for this was definitely the very severe droughts of those years, but there were other factors.
I have heard people say that they recognize that Nyerere truly believed in equality but that "all he achieved was to leave all the people in his country equally poor." It is true that Tanzania is still a poor country, but I am convinced that it was not Nyerere's social-democratic policies, but the policies of the global economic structures, especially the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and GATT, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (which later evolved into the World Trade Organisation) that perpetuated the poverty of Tanzania and many other countries. The huge increases made by OPEC in the price of oil in 1973 also exacerbated the problems. Towards the end of his life Nyerere said:
"At the World Bank they asked me 'How did you fail?' I responded that the British ruled us for 43 years. When they left I took over a country where 85 % of the adult population was illiterate; there were two engineers and twelve doctors. When I stepped down in 1988 there was 91 % literacy, and nearly every child was in school. We had trained thousands of engineers and doctors and teachers. The per capita income was $ 280. Ten years later, the per capita income has halved to $ 140. Enrolment in school has fallen to 63 %, and conditions in health and other social services have deteriorated. In those ten years Tanzania has done everything the IMF and the World Bank wanted. So I asked them: 'What went wrong?'"
I returned to South Africa at the end of 1962, shortly after Ugandan independence. It was here through the Grail that I first heard of Paulo Freire, the Brazilian educator who was turning upside down the accepted wisdom around both adult education and development. Some of our Grail members were working with him in the Movement of Basic Education in Sao Paulo, Brazil, working out new methods of developing conscientization through literacy programmes. He used to say he was encouraging people to "read their own reality and write their own history" .
This programme was bringing to life, and giving hope to, thousands of formerly apathetic poor people, evoking in them critical thinking, and activating creative responses to make changes in their own situations. Paulo Freire also worked with the Grail members in Portugal as they developed programmes with farmers and fishermen in the south of the country.
In 1969 I went to do a Master's in Adult Education and Human Relations at Boston University (...). There I took every course I could find dealing with Freire's approach, and Freire himself spent the following year in Boston. I attended a number of his chaotic seminars. I could tell you many stories about those seminars, but we learnt a lot, the hard way, and I became convinced that this philosophy and methodology could become extremely significant in bringing about change in South Africa. When I got back to South Africa I was working with the Christian Institute, with Beyers Naude. He agreed that I should start a number of literacy programmes trying to adapt the Freire methodology. 1
One of the high points of those years was attending a conference on adult education at the University of Dar es Salaam in 1975 with a group of Kenyan trainers. Paulo Freire was the keynote speaker and President Nyerere gave the opening address. It was very clear how much these two had in common in their whole approach to adult education and development.
The conference itself was not very well organized. They spoke all the time about the importance of participation, but they kept the participants sitting in straight rows listening to one lecture after another and there was no chance whatsoever for dialogue. So after Nyerere had left to go about his presidential business, and Freire had been profusely thanked and then completely ignored, we went to him and asked him if our team could meet with him to discuss some of our programmes. He agreed, and a few Tanzanians joined us in a splinter group which met with Freire every day for the rest of the conference. It was a wonderful seminar in which in very informal little gatherings we were able to critique everything we were doing. We learnt an enormous amount.
"To say a people are not ready to govern themselves is like saying an individual is not ready to live."
I happened to be in Tanzania again in 1999 when Nyerere died in London. His body was flown back to Tanzania. Though there were many expressions of respect for Nyerere, there were also from Westerners many critical and sweeping judgments that "because of his socialist policies Nyerere had not served his people well." These were in sharp contrast to what we experienced in Tanzania.
Nowadays, more and more people are recognizing that there is still much that we can learn from Nyerere, and the world would certainly be a happier place if there were more politicians who shared his integrity and true concern for the well-being of all their people.
Nyerere was a social democrat in the true sense. (...) His vision of African socialism is of a convivial society. "Con" means "with" and "vivere" means "to live" , so convivial means to live with one another, but it suggests so much more than simply living side by side. It suggests a quality of enjoying one another's company, a quality of relaxed relationships with one another, and shared opportunities that enable everyone to blossom and develop their full potential. That of course does require good education, health care, houses and jobs for all, but it contains very much more than just meeting basic needs. It involves respect and appreciation, even enjoyment of our cultural differences, and the possibility of enjoying the good and the beautiful things in life. I think it expresses what many of us longed to experience in South Africa all through the days of "the Struggle" .
Nyerere's vision of African socialism drew on all the strengths of African traditional culture. Nyerere did not go to school until he was twelve years old. He had grown up in the small, rather remote, village of Butiama in Musoma District. He was deeply steeped in African values before he had any contact at all with the West. Though he could later hold his own in any sophisticated international assembly, he never lost the solid values of "ubuntu" which he had learnt as a child. His vision of African socialism was based on Freedom, and included a strong sense of both human rights and responsibilities.
1 Together with five teams of three people each, Anne Hope developed the SASO Literacy Programme based on the Freirean methodology. But the programme did not happen, because all the students who had been at the Freire training were in prison, mainly for other activities against apartheid. Anne Hope herself left the country and went into exile in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Washington.