The effects of post-independence reform policy on public education in Africa: the case of Tanzania

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The purpose of this study was to examine Nyerere's educational thought in relation to his four reform proposals: integration of the educational system, education for manpower and for self-reliance, and the decentralization of school decision making. Also, it was intended to determine the extent to which these proposals could be a potent force in changing the Tanzanian society.

Using government records and case studies, these reform policies were analyzed in terms of their intended and unintended policy effects on the structure, content and governance of Tanzania's educational system. The analysis revealed that despite increases in school enrollment at all levels, the notion of "self-help" in education has not created the type of schooling that is consistent with the diverse needs of those who have been affected by its programs. The educational system seemed to be limited in changing the Tanzanian society. Political, social and economic factors are more important in fomenting social change than factors within the educational system.

But the efforts of Nyerere in using his four reform proposals in education in changing the Tanzanian society should not be interpreted in terms of the failures of a scholar but in terms of the progress made by a politician who had to satisfy many competing self-interest groups: parents, students, bureaucrats and professional educators.

In this connection, the effort to eliminate racial discrimination in the educational system was successful, but because of the self-serving interests of various groups, deep-rooted ethnic biases, regional imbalances, and the insidious effects of the ill-distribution of wealth, disparities still remain in the system. The number of trained personnel has increased from 10,000 in 1967 to 30,000 in 1976. But low-wage jobs were not provided for the masses, the majority of Tanzanians. The Universal Primary Education Scheme has increased the number of graduates but it has also heightened their unemployment and migration from rural to urban sectors. The emphasis on alternative self-help programs only in the rural sector has the effect of reinforcing a dual system of education that would stream pupils in the urban sector into mental jobs while those in the rural sector into manual jobs.

The policy implications of these developments for Tanzania were considered in the light of creating alternative self-help education programs that are rich and diverse in order to motivate all those to be affected by these programs.