Nyerere now seems to have abandoned the combative approach, exhorting Africans to use education as tool for liberation and national development, Rather he is opologetic to failure in giving quality education because of poverty.
“The basic educational problems of Africa states since 1980 has been that the resources available to African governments have declined dramatically. And when something like 40% of the national budget has to be allocated in debt servicing, even while arrears continue to make that debt larger, and the annual interest higher, there is not much left for the governments other responsibilities…..Increasingly, it is possible for government to choose only between evils.”
Mr. Chairman and Friends:
I thank you for your invitation to deliver this Michael Scott Memorial Lecture. You thus give me two opportunities, which I welcome.
When late in 1959 I visited the Africa Educational Trust’s first office in Vauxhall Bridge Road, one of the things on my mind was the decision of the Tanganyika African National Union(TANU), to establish in Dar es Salaam a residential college for adults “along the lines of Ruskin College, Oxford”.
The outcome of that visit was that the African Education Trust lost Miss Joan E. Wickel, it first(and at that time) only staff member, whom I recruited to help us carry out that decision. Thus the trust could claim that one of its very earlies contributions to Africa was of great service to Mainland Tanzania and between 1961 and 1993 is assisted hundreds of men-and some women-to improve their capacity to serve the people of their country.
But my major reason for appreciating your invitation is the opportunity it gives me to pay tribute to the life and work of the Reverend Michael Scott.
Like virtually all African students in the United Kingdom between 1949 and 1952,I greatly admired the work of Michael Scott in (and for the people of) South Africa and South West Africa, the Namibia of today. But it was only later, after I had met him a number of times that I began to get some measure of Michael’s unique and challenging qualities.
Michael Scott was selfless; and unconscious of his selflessness. His trust in God, and his commitment to the service of God, was to him a call to action against oppression and injustice among men. From his life and mode of living it appears that Michael never thought of the possible consequences to himself of such action. Certainly, he never complained. Yet the consequences of his own actions to others never ceased to matter to him. For he saw life and morality as being one; evil could not, in his view, be fought by evil. That conviction was reflected in his personal commitment to non-violent methods of struggle in all the cases of social and political injustice which he made his own.
And Michael never thought of himself as doing anything unusual. He helped individuals when he could, but at the same time he looked for the underlying cause of their suffering. When finding it, he considered only what action of his could initiate or support a struggle against something morally wrong. He neither sought, nor expected any acknowledgement or publicity or reward-or even any thanks.
In sum: Michael Scott lived his life-as nearly as is possible for human beings-on the basis that moral wrong must be opposed, and moral right must be supported. But he was not arrogant. Nor was he judgemental of those who pointed to the compromised or the boundaries of action and advocacy. Michael was for many of us as the voice of conscience personified. Even when he compromised, he did not allow us to forget the purpose of our compromise. I thank God for his life.
Education was not one of the cause about which Michael campaigned. On that subject, he simply initiated the establishment of the African Education Trust! But Michael’s constant moral challenge and questioning is relevant in all aspects of life. Including education. For in modern world of instant communication and global trade, there is an unavoidable interconnection between all political, economical, and social structures and decisions-within nations and regardless of national boundaries. The collective choices of a nations on any one of those aspects of life may well influence both the kind of able to build for themselves. And in particular, economic choices made by the rich and powerful countries have an influence on the economic and thus the social options of the poor and weak countries in Africa.
Education statistics for Africa are extremely difficult to obtain, and often meaningless if you try to use them to compare one country. And in any case, the statistics say little or nothing about changes in the quality of educational provision-at any level. Thus, for example, I see from the 1996 World Bank Development Report that a much lower percentage of the relevant age group was enrolled in Tanzania Primary Schools in 1993 than it was in 1980,whereas there was some small increased percentage enrolment in its public secondary schools-albeit in the latter case it was(for boys) from only 1 to 6% of primary school leavers! Yet visits to any primary or secondary school in Tanzania would have shown large, and there was less basic equipment than at the earlier date-and the supply of neither textbooks nor equipment was ever anything like adequate. Other statistics, however, do make clear that whereas in 1981 about 12% of the national budget was allocated to the Ministry of Education, in 1993 the figure was 3.5%.
I give the example of Tanzania only because it is the country of which I have direct personal knowledge; but deterioration in education is the experience of almost all African countries. There was a post-independence expansion in the proportion of the national budget devoted to education, in the numbers at schools and colleges, and in the staff-student ratio. All those and other significant education indicators began to worsen at sometime in the 1980s, and have continued to fall since then.
The basic educational problems of Africa states since 1980 has been that the resources available to African governments have declined dramatically. And when something like 40% of the national budget has to be allocated to debt servicing-even while arrears continue to make that debt larger(and the annual interest higher)-there is not much left for the government’s other responsibilities.
Yet the questions still remain: What kind of education should the governments provide from their limited resources?For whom should it be provided, and with what objective? Or, to put it differently, is education to be provided by state mechanism, or left to a combination of commercial and charitable activities? And are such decisions to be made by central or local governments or in practice left to ‘the market’.
In 1967, about five years after becoming President of my country, I issued a policy paper ‘Education for self-reliance’. Re-reading it with this evening’s function in mind, I find that there is little if anything with which I now disagree, but much that could be learned from the implementations(or lack) of it. Its definition of the universal purpose of education remains valid I think: “to transmit from one generation to the next the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of the society, and to prepare the young people for their future membership of the society and their active participation in its maintenance or development”.
The document also calls for the education given to be relevant to the society in which it takes place-currently and in expected future. That too I think remains valid. ‘Education for self-reliance’ was issued in 1967 in the context of our aspiration to build socialism in Tanzania. In different countries or different times, ‘relevant’ policy might well be different from those of Tanzania at that time.
That would certainly be true in a society going through a process of rapid change from an economic system based on the principles of cooperation(at least theoretically) to an economic system based on individualism. And when social change results from external economic or political pressures as is often the case in the Africa of today, governments are rarely able-or indeed willing-deliberately to face up the social policy implications of what is happening. When a country is caught in a downward economic spiral or a crisis following natural disasters, government naturally concentrates its attention on overcoming the national economic problems; meantime it tries to improvise short-term palliatives for educational, health and other social crises.
That is what is happening now in very many African countries today. Where it previously existed, Universal Primary Educational theoretically continues to be the policy of the Government and all opposition political parties. In practice, however, only the most brilliant child can learn anything at all in a class of 60 and more(which is almost becoming a minimum in Tanzania),the more especially when there are virtually no books or paper, and sometimes not even blackboard chalk for the class.
The rich respond to such situations by setting up private schools, or paying for private tuition; in addition, charities may establish ‘Bush Schools’. It is politically difficult to disallow such actions; indeed, it could be judged to be morally wrong to do so. Yet the basis is thereby laid for the growth of class society, with all that this implies for mutual respect, and equality-(even equality of opportunity)-among all citizens in the future.
I have no answer to this problem. Tanzania, for example, cannot go back to the 1930s when going to school was a matter of luck-and the agreement of parents who could see little point in it. Now the majority of our mothers and fathers are at least literate-thanks mostly to the literacy drives of the 1970s and early 80s.The parents today besiege a new school or new class, demanding entrance for their child. On what basis does a head-teacher choose among them? Should that responsibility be left on their shoulders?
For it can be argued that when available public resources are scant, it is absurd for a government to continue wasting money on a pretense of educating everyone and thus being unable yo give a good education to anyone-even to a critical mass of youngsters. The argument continues: What the society needs most is not Universal Primary Education, but a core of very well trained teachers for what you hope will be a better future. Also, good quality technicians and scientists are clearly going to be needed if an organized and peaceful society is to survive-much less prosper-in the 21st Century.
The logic of that argument is attractive. Yet if primary education is not to be available to every child, how are you to know which will benefit most from a good education and thus be of most use to the society in future? And how could anyone decide which type of education be given to which chosen child-academically generalists to various levels, or technical or scientific in one specialty or another? Also: what is to happen to the majority of children denied any education? Is it not likely that a large number of these children-perhaps especially those in the towns-will later cause social problems which are expensive to deal with?
Those are practically questions. There are moral issues also. A selective system of primary education is based on the assumption that human being are NOT equal. What President or government is willing to act on that basis? And if the they are willing to act on basis of human inequality as regards education, what is there to stop them as regards voting rights, equality before the law and so forth.
And in Africa if every child does not go to school those to be left out will be mostly the girls. Yet Primary Education for all, at least in Africa, requires full commitment from the state.
The fact remain, however, increasingly, it is possible for governments to choose only between evils. A pretense of universal education-whether it be primary or secondary-is itself evil: is it any better than finding some way of giving a modern education to a few through some systems of selection? After all, that is in practice what a country like Tanzania does now as regards secondary education, and later tertiary education, despite the poor basis for selection at the majority of our primary schools. And even at these senior levels, the quality of the education given now suffers from the government being unable to pay for adequate books and equipment’s, etc.
Yet even now it is a reality that, on the basis of U.P.E. and consequent luck, some children and adolescents-and through adult education like the Open University-some adults also do overcome all the problems of poor quality education provisional. And I dot think that research would indicate that they all come from one economic sectors of society-although to have educated parents is clearly an advantage to them.
Mr. Chairman, I have asked a lot of questions, but given no answers. But the search for answers will have to continue. And in the meantime all of us, including the African Education Trust, must continue to do whatever lies in our power to advance the cause of education for all in Africa.
I appeal to the Trust to continue to do as much as possible to help those Africans otherwise denial education which could help them to acquire knowledge useful in the service of their fellow human being-especially those in their home country. And I ask the Trust also to continue to help concerned African governments to answer some of the problems related to the efficient organization of education, or the best training of teachers, or whatever other research action is-in the opinion of such governments-helpful to them.
I know the resources of the Trust are very limited. I congratulate you however, on what you have so far done, and hope that you gain the financial capacity to do more. And I do so in the confidence that, and in the spirit of your Founder, Michael Scott, you will always remember the vision and the ideal even when reality requires a compromise in action.
I thank you.