The traditional thinking is that societies need the intellectuals in order to modernize and develop. This leads to arrogance and a sense of indispensability. Nyerere says this is all wrong. It is other way around.
Without the society to be served, intellectualism is meaningless and hallow. Intellectuals should put service first and self-second, and be modest and practical.
“…….Here in Africa we can use our skills to help people to transform their lives from object poverty….but we have to be part of the society, we have to work from within it and not try to descend(on it) like ancient gods…..””
….There is ,infact, only one reason why underdeveloped societies like ours establish and maintain universities. We do so as an investment in our future. We are spending large and disproportionate amounts of money on a few individuals so that they should, in the future, make a disproportionate return to the society. We are investing in a man’s brain in just the same ways as we invest in a tractor; and just as we expect the student we have trained to make many times as great a contribution to our well-being as the man who has not had this good fortune.
We are giving to the student while he is at the university, so that we may receive more from him afterwards. There is nothing altruistic about it; poor people cannot afford financial altruism. We have a right to expect things from university graduates and others who have had higher education of any king; we do not just have a hope, but an expectation.
This, Mr President, is not am usual position, nor a peculiar demand made on African’s by African’s which is not made in other places. You know better than I do not that two thousand years ago, Jesus said: ‘ For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they shall ask the more’.
What is it, then, that we require of those in our societies who have education? We require service to the community-and service in geometric progression according to the amount they have received.
There is no doubt, of course, that the knowledge which has been acquired at schools and higher educational institutions can be used almost exclusively for personal gain, with benefit to the society being a mere by-product. Indeed, it sometimes seems that we have organized our societies on this basis, as the temptation of the highest wages is so often connected with the least socially useful occupations. But even in the most needed positions, highly educated and skilled people can at present often abuse their trust if they have mind to do so.
It is not unknown for people to demand higher and higher wages, or better and better conditions, for using the training and the skill they have acquired at the expense of the society. Instead of accepting that they have a debt of service to repay, these individuals demand greater and greater differentials between them and the unskilled labourer, on the grounds that they are ‘key workers’-that without an engineer no bridge can be built, etc.
Whether or not it is right, in any abstract terms, that an engineer should get more than a technician, and a technician more than a labourer-or even a President more than the people he represents-is not my concern today.
…But how far we educated people going to take the demand for a higher reward, which we have already established? It is true that the bridge cannot be built without the engineer; but it cannot be built without the labourers either. Shall we always compare our wages and salaries with those higher ones that other people are getting-perhaps in the wealthy societies of America and Europe? Or shall we begin to compare them with the people who get much less for working as hard, although differently? Shall we, in other words, use the skills which society has enabled us to acquire, in order to hold that same society at ransom?
If we stop to think about our position in our society I do not think we shall do this. For the fact is that, as well as having special responsibilities because of the investment which was made in us, we also have special opportunities-a fact which is being increasingly realized. Africa today is an exciting place to live in; African development is an exciting challenge, and we have the opportunity to shape and to lead the response to that challenge. For, going back to my example of the bridge, carrying bags of cement, working in water, and so on, without any vision of what it is all about-which is the labourer’s fate-is not much fun. It is very exciting, however, to take part in the designing of a bridge and participate in its building according to the plan you have drawn up.
Graduates in the developed societies do not have such opportunities as we have in Africa, and such social satisfactions as we can have. A young man or women there can certainly participate in rising the standard of living of his country; but he may well find that this means the difference between a coloured and a black-and-white television service-which is hardly calculated to give one mental or emotional stimulus! But here Africa we can, by the use of our skills, help people to transform their lives from abject poverty-that is, from fear of hunger and always endless drudgery-to decency and simple comfort.
We can help to relieve the women of the burden of carrying water on their heads for miles; we can help to bring light and hope to small children otherwise condemned to malnutrition and disease. We can make our own homes-that is, the homes where the masses of our people live-into decent comfortable places, where all the inhabitants can live in dignity.
But there is one essential qualification we have to fulfil if we are to receive this kind of satisfaction of a job well done. We have to be part of the society which we are changing; we have to work from within it, and not try to descend like ancient gods, do something, and disappear again. Country, or a village, or a community, cannot be developed; it can only develop itself. For real Africa can show examples of modern facilities which have been provided for the people-and which are now rotting unused. We have schools, irrigation works, expensive markets, and so on-things by which someone came and tried to ‘bring development to the people’. If real development is to take place, the people have to be involved. Educated people can give a lead-and should do so. Why can show what can be done, and how. But they can only succeed in effecting changes in the society if they work from a position within the society. Educated people, in other words, can only be effective when they are full members of the society they are trying to change, involved in its good and bad fortune, and committed to it whatever happens.
In order to do this the educated people of Africa have to identify themselves with the uneducated, and do so without reservation. Otherwise their best efforts will be wasted. We have found this out by experience in Tanzania. We have found that, if you want to introduce changes in a village most quickly, you do found that, if you want to introduce changes in a village most quickly, you do not necessarily go to the most educated person-or even to the party or government official. You go to the person whom the people of that village respect and look up to for leadership. When this ‘natural leader’ is the most educated man, progress is easier and better, for he has won the hearts as well as the minds of the people, and they feel that he is ‘one of them’. The next best thing is when the most educated person has a good relationship with the natural leader of that particular society; he can then influence development indirectly. But if the educated man is so arrogant in his knowledge, or so superior in his living standards, that the people are fearful of him, or hold him in contempt-in this case he would be better not to be there; for he will be a brake, not an accelerator, on development.
Of course, this does not mean that to be useful and successful in the work of national development, the university graduate, or the teacher, must always in a traditional manner without using greater knowledge for his own comfort. Nor does it mean that he must always conform to the majority views on everything. But his divergences from his community must be-and must be seen to be-adaptations of something people already understand. They must not allowed to indicate a contempt for the majority or their way of life; they educated person has reasons for his different way of life which arise out of his among whom he lives and works, that is, to his equals. If, for example, he child, he must explain the connection between the two things when people ask, or as the occasion arises. And he must do this knowing that people may be disbelieving at first, and without appearing to have the attitudes that they are stupid fellows who cannot even look after their own children.
For this acceptance of equality regardless of education is essential. And really we would be betraying our own ignorance if we imagine that only modern technology, and modern knowledge is of any value, or that it somehow bequeaths to us a superior over our fellows who are not as lucky as we are. Africa’s traditional respect for the aged was not-and is not-stupid. It arose out of their accumulated opportunity to learn from experience of life and its problems. The assumption that uneducated local elder know nothing can lead to disastrous results. In Tanganyika, for example, Euro 36 million was spent by our colonial masters on what was called the Groundnut Scheme- and now we import peanut butter! One of the contributory reasons for this expensive failure was that the the ‘experts’-that is to say, the educated fellows-found the average rainfall over a ten-year period in the relevant area, and planned accordingly. They assumed that, because the local farmers were illiterate, they could give no information about the regularity of the rains, year by year, or month by month. They assumed, too, that it was simple indolence which made people reluctant to cut down all the trees when planting a shamba. So large areas were cleared-and few nuts grew, but erosion began!
I did not give this example in any spirit of criticism of expatriate experts. Other examples could be given when local educated people are involved. I simply use it because it is the oat expensive mistake we have experienced in Tanzania-or are likely to-and it makes one realize the importance of recognizing that we can learn from everyone. Knowledge does not only come out of books, or lectures-or visiting Presidents! We have wisdom in our own past, and in those who still carry the traditional knowledge accumulated in that tribal past. And in particular, we should remember that, although traditional Africa was backward technologically, it cannot be described as having been backward in the harmonization it had achieved between man and his society. We would be stupid indeed if we allowed the development of our economies to destroy the human and social values which Africa societies had built up over centuries. Yet if we are to save these, we cannot afford the arrogance which our technical superiority tempts us to assume.
Mr. President, what I am trying to say is that we are all, educated and uneducated alike, members of one society, and equal human beings in that society. We can try to cut ourselves off from our fellows on the basis of the education we have had; we can try to carve out for ourselves an unfair share of the wealth of the society. But the cost to us, as well as to our fellows citizens, will be very high. It will be high not in terms of satisfactions forgone, but also in terms of our own security and well-being.
But this means that university studies, and the university itself, are only justified in Africa if they-and it-are geared to the satisfaction of the needs of the society, the majority of whole members do not have any education. Work at the university must, therefore, be so organized that it enables the students, upon graduation, to become effective servants. For servants they must be. And servants have no rights which are superior to those of their masters; they have more duties, but no more privilege’s or rights. And the masters of us educated people are, and must be, the masses of the people.
For saying things like this in East Africa, and making demands upon our intellectuals which are consistent with these words, I have been accused of turning on my own kind0of being a kind of intellectual cannibal! It has been said that my education and my nature make me an intellectual, but now I am anti-intellectuals. If this is the case, I can only say that I have much company, for there are now many people-many ‘intellectuals’-who adopt the same position as myself!
But in fact I believe such accusations are only made by those who have basically misunderstood the points I have been trying to make. nd I certainly hope that this is not the impression I am leaving with you today. It is true that I reject the proposition that intellectuals are a special breed of men and women, by their very existence deserving privileges’ and rewards denied to others. But I do accept that intellectuals have a special contribution to make to the development of our nations, and to Africa. And I am asking that their knowledge, and the greater understanding that they should possess, should be used for the benefit of the society of which we are all members.
For we are all related to one another. Educated and uneducated are all citizens of one nation, one continent, and one world. Our future is inextricably linked, and intellectuals above all are dependent upon the society of which they are members. For the peasant can eke out a living on his own; he can grow his own food, make his own clothes, and shelters. The intellectual can do no more-and indeed may find it difficult now to do even that. And certainly without society he will not find much opportunity to use his intellectual abilities! It is for his own interests, therefore, as much as anything else, that the intellectual must use his abilities in the service of the health and well-being of society.
There is one final point I wish to make. I have been appealing to African universities and African universities students-as well as to others receiving higher education-to be committed members of their society, and to design all their work for its service .I do not believe that this is at all inconsistent with the traditional function of a university, which is often defined as the search for truth. For I believe that society is served by truth. I believe that we need the universities, and their products, to stand up for truth as they see it, regardless of the personal consequences to themselves. Neither leaders nor masses are infallible; it may be that we are wrong-either through ignorance, or through malice. It is part of the task of those who are not burdened with day-to-day responsibilities to help us, and the people, to the best of their ability. And this may sometimes involves saying unpopular things if you believe them to be true.
But you will have noticed that I said the truth as it is seen should be spoken regardless of personal consequences. It would be sheer arrogance to speak the truth as you see it regardless of the consequences for society. The man who shouts “Fire” in crowded schoolroom may be responsible for more deaths through panic than if he had said nothing-a certainly more than if he had quietly organized an evacuation. For the whole truth is known to none of us; we may have found out a new part of it, but we must not assume more.
Universities in Africa must try to deal objectively with the problems they investigate; they should analyze and describe them in a scientific manner; and from their accumulated knowledge they should suggest methods of dealing with them. But objectivity does not mean working in a vacuum. The university, whether it likes it or not, is part of the society. Both in the selection of the problems to be examined, and in the manner of dealing with them, this fact must be taken into account. It is part of that essential truth which a university has to promote.
Africa needs objectivity from its universities. We are dealing with new problems; we need all the light thrown on them that can be obtained. But the universities must be committed institutions too; committed to the growth and the development of our societies. They must promote committed service-and therefore honest, truthful and selfless service.