Why schools must emphasise farming

Saturday October 5 2019

 

By Michael J. Ssali

In his essay titled ‘Education for Self-Reliance’ Mwalimu Julius Nyerere spoke of a situation where the type of education provided to Tanzanian children soon after the country’s independence was divorced from the society which it was supposed to prepare them for.
He argued that children were taken from their parents at early age and taken to schools where they spent most of their time learning academic skills and where most teachers concentrated on preparing them for passing examinations.
“But the school is always separate; it is not part of the society. It is a place where children go to and which they and their parents hope will make it unnecessary for them to become farmers and to continue living in the villages.”
I tend to see the situation that Nyerere spoke about happening in Uganda today. The trend is to take children to school as early as three years of age. The majority of our schools have no school gardens. We want our children to become English-speaking computer wizards, doctors, lawyers, accountants, and engineers working in large towns; not farmers living in the villages.
Yet the reality is that our country’s economy is based on agriculture. We also need carpenters, builders, technicians, and electricians in the villages.
Nyerere suggests that every school should have a farm or workshop so that it does not only teach academic skills but also the techniques and tasks of farming. In the school workshop, the children should learn carpentry, tailoring, building, and mechanics. He further says school accounts should not read: ‘Grant from Government, Grant from voluntary agency, etc. They should read: Income from the sale of eggs, Value of food grown and consumed, and Value of labour provided by students on new buildings, repairs, etc.’
Is it impossible that we should ask our youth straight from school to form groups and to give them cash in form of youth development fund for starting income generating projects when they have spent all their school time learning only about which White man discovered River Zambezi, Algebra of Natural Numbers, and such things,?
— ssalimichaelj@gmail.com

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