Tanzania: Commemorating the Death of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere - 20 Years On

ON Monday next week, October 14th, 2019; we will be commemorating the 20th anniversary of the death of the father of our nation, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, who sadly departed from this world in the early morning hours of a similar date in 1999.

Normally, the death of any person is just a one-off event that brings his or her life to a close.

But in the case of such a distinguished leader and statesman like Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, his death brought to a close an impressive long list of endeavours and achievements, (and, inevitably, a few failures) which he achieved in his long service to humanity, or the human community generally, not only of Tanzanians, but also of other countries in Africa, and to the rest of the world.

Thus, during our annual memorial commemorative events, we ought to remember to commemorate not only that one-off event of his death; But also, and perhaps more important, his exemplary life which he spent in genuine devotion to duty, and commitment to providing service to all those diverse communities who benefitted from his actions; as well as his many intellectual works, which provide a shining example of a person who successfully "walked his talk" in implementing his own dictum "Nitajielimisha kwa kadri ya uwezo wangu, na kutumia elimu yangu kwa faida ya wote"; Which he had deeply embedded into the political creed of his political party TANU, which later became CCM.

In that connection, it is gratifying to note that for this year, the 20th anniversary of his death, a number of University Institutions in the country, including the University of Dar es Salaam and the Mwalimu Nyerere Memorial Academy at Kivukoni, also in Dar es Salaami; have taken steps to organize major public workshops, at which the participants will have the opportunity to reflect on certain selected aspects of Mwalimu Nyerere's life-long contributions in a variety of important political struggles; and, in particular, the struggle for Tanganyika's liberation (and that of several other countries in Central and Southern Africa) from the yoke of colonialism; Plus the (failed) struggle for African Unity.

But, more specifically, to reflect on his shining successes in building a fully united Tanzanian nation, based on the very firm foundations of unity, equality and mutual respect.

The Mwalimu Nyerere that I personally knew

In terms of human development, twenty years is a quite a long time. It actually means that we now have an entirely new generation of young Tanzanians, who were born after Mwalimu Nyerere's death; who therefore have no direct knowledge of this great statesman.

Thus, even for that reason alone, those of us who had the privilege of working closely with him, have a binding obligation to help this younger generation to enhance their knowledge and understanding of Mwalimu Nyerere's productive life, plus his invaluable contributions to the welfare of Tanzanians (and many of other nationalities), both past and present.

It is precisely for that purpose that when I was invited last month, to officiate at a zonal graduation ceremony for a group of graduating Form Four Secondary School students at Mumbuga Secondary School in my home District of Ukerewe, I wrote for them a Kiswahili piece titled: "WASIFU WA HAYATI MWALIMU NYERERE", which was received with great appreciation at that ceremony.

It may therefore be similarly worthwhile, and equally helpful, to those of our readers who belong to this young generation, to be provided with a brief resume of the most outstanding events in Mwalimu Nyerere's leadership and governance performances; which is the purpose of today's article.

But, in view of the strict limitations imposed on editorial space for these articles, I will only present a few selected events in two distinct areas, namely (a) the personal sacrifices he made for the sake of the community; and (b) the application of his deeply-held beliefs, or philosophies, to his performances in the governance of our country.

The good news is that as a nation we have, in fact, not only maintained, but have also faithfully continued to implement his invaluable 'teachings" in relation thereto.

His personal sacrifice in giving up a lucrative teaching job

Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere was, basically and professionally, a school teacher; Having undertaken his teacher training course at Makerere College in Uganda (as it was then); from 1943 to 1945.

And, in fact, my first ever contact with him, was when he was teaching History at Pugu Secondary School, (then known as St Francis College, Pugu), during the two years of 1953 and 1954; soon after he had returned from Edinburgh University in Scotland, where he completed his studies on 22nd July, 1952 having graduated with a Master's degree.

Mwalimu Nyerere's political career actually started during the period of his employment at Pugu; With his election to the post of Chairman of what was the "Tanganyika African Association" (TAA); Which was, at that time, a mere Welfare social organization for African Civil Servants, but which he subsequently turned into a formidable political organisation called the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU); which came into existence on 7th July, 1954. (Saba Saba Day).

But his engagement with politics, very soon put him in trouble with the Colonial Authorities; who devised a cunning method which they believed would force him to abandon politics altogether.

They conspired with the Headmaster, and instructed him to ask Mwalimu Nyerere to choose between his secure job as a teacher, and his dangerous political activities !

He himself subsequently narrated this moving , but little known story, to us his close confidants, as follows:- "On one Sunday morning, Father Lyinch, the Headmaster, called me into his office after the morning prayers, to give me what he called his "considered, fatherly advice".

So he said this to me: 'My son Julius, we have noticed that you have recently been heavily engaged in politics, often travelling to Dar es Salaam to attend political discussions with other politicians. I therefore want to strongly warn you, that this is very dangerous for your teaching profession.

You of course know what the Bible says about the dangers of serving two masters. You cannot serve two masters. Hence, take my advice, my dear son in Christ. Put yourself on the safe side, and just abandon your engagement with those dangerous political trouble makers.

You should only concentrate on your job as a good teacher at this respectable school , and help your students to become worthy members of Society after they complete their education here. This is in your personal and your family's interest. So, go and think carefully about it, and let me know your decision as soon as possible".

Mwalimu Nyerere told us he took only a short time to make the difficult choice. As a matter of principle, he chose to resign immediately from his teaching job. His letter of resignation reveals the agony and feeling of sacrifice, that went through his mind at the material time.

For he said (in part) the following:- "When resignation from TANU is given to me as a condition for retaining my job as a teacher, the problem becomes one of principle. I am sorry that my activity in TANU has adversely affected the efficiency of my teaching; I am sorry about the inconveniences that my resignation will temporarily cause you and my other colleagues; I am sad about the economic consequences to my family".

His closing words, namely "I am sad about the economic consequences to my family", do vividly express the extreme sacrifice which he made. We must appreciate that this was, indeed, a rare personal, self-denial sacrifice which Mwalimu Nyerere had to make in pursuit of our country's liberation from the scourge of colonialism.

Mwalimu Nyerere's philosophies

The word "philosophy" carries a variety of meanings. Its best known and most popular meaning, is that it is an 'academic discipline'; which explains why we have professors of philosophy. However, in the context of this article, I am using the word "philosophy" to mean "a set of beliefs, or an attitude to life, that guides someone's behavior".

Mwalimu Nyerere certainly had his own set of beliefs, and his own attitude of mind, which guided his behavior and actions. What is most important for us to remember and appreciate today, is the fact that he actually translated his beliefs, or philosophies, into concrete action, for the benefit of the community.

For example, Mwalimu Nyerere's philosophy in respect of matters relating to the country's governance, was expressed in Kiswahili as "Kujenga Taifa lenye Umoja kwa misingi ya kujitegemea, kuheshimiana, na usawa wa binadamu" (to create and maintain national unity, based on the principles of self-reliance, and genuine respect for human equality).

It is in the context of this philosophy, that Mwalimu Nyerere envisioned the creation of an equal Tanzanian society, free of poverty, ignorance and disease.

There are many of his other governance decisions, which bear testimony to his practical application of this philosophy, which he firmly embedded in the TANU Constitution, and in other policy guideline documents; all of which have continued to be implemented to this day; some of which are discussed in the paragraphs which follow below.

Education for Self-reliance

In early 1967, Mwalimu Nyerere enthusiastically introduced a new concept, which he cited as "Education for Self-Reliance"; Whose desired goal was "to provide the students with the type of education that will subsequently enable them to be self-employed."

It is most gratifying that we are still witnessing today, 20 years after his death, the continuing implementation of this philosophy, in the concerted efforts that are being made by the Government to provide technical education to as many students as possible, by constructing facilities for technical education in every District of Mainland Tanzania. This will surely subsequently enable them to be fully self- reliant in matters of employment.

Ujamaa Villages

"Ujamaa Villages" is the fashionable name that was given to the village settlements which were established on the specific orders of President Nyerere, a huge exercise which was carried out countrywide during the years 1973 and 1974.

It thus became 'fashionable' to call them "Ujamaa Villages", in order to capture the prevailing mood at the material time, of "building Ujamaa" in our country. But Mwalimu Nyerere's definition of an 'Ujamaa Village' was given as follows: "A village settlement, in which the people will live together , and work together, for the general benefit of them all".

Thus, their primary purpose was to bring the rural people closer together (who had previously been living in isolated homesteads scattered widely over large areas), in such a way that they could not benefit from the advantages of living closer together, similar to those that are normally enjoyed by people living in urban areas.

Thus, it is similarly, and equally gratifying , to witness that twenty years after his death, the Government is still faithfully implementing this philosophy (of improving the welfare of rural people) by providing their villages countrywide with clean drinking water, and relatively cheap electricity, through numerous projects successfully implemented by the Rural Electricity Authority (REA).

piomsekwa@gmail.com / 0754767576

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