Julius Nyerere (1922 – 1999), an African Philosopher, Re-envisions Teacher Education to Escape Colonialism


  • Thenjiwe Major Ball State University
  • Thalia M. Mulvihill Ball State University


African philosopher, colonialism, teacher education, social justice, socialism.


Before the introduction of the Western system of education into Africa (18th century), the aim of indigenous education was to preserve the cultural heritage of the family, the clan, and the larger groups. Indigenous education was meant for every member of the society because it was believed that every member of society had a role to play in educating the child, thus the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” This paper addresses the philosophy of self-reliance as advocated by Julius Nyerere (1922 – 1999) when he became president of Tanzania in 1962. Nyerere was highly critical of the social, political, economic and cultural value system imposed on his country during the period of colonization, and he worked relentlessly to go back to the traditional African values. He believed that the Africans should decolonize their mind in order to accept themselves as Africans. He believed that the education system introduced by the British in 1900, when they colonized Tanzania, did not address the needs of the Tanzanian people, therefore Nyerere advocated for education that he believed was more culturally relevant. Nyerere’s philosophy of education has had a great impact on many African countries. This paper explores his educational philosophy of self-reliance and the impact of African Socialism on the African education system today. Furthermore, the paper critically discusses the reasons for the downfall of Nyerere while reemphasizing the power that educational ideas hold for transforming societies.

Author Biographies

Thenjiwe Major, Ball State University

Doctoral Student in the Adult, Higher and Community Education doctoral program, Dept. of Educational Studies, Teachers College, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.

Thalia M. Mulvihill, Ball State University

Professor of Social Foundations of Education and Higher Education, Director of Doctoral Programs, Dept. of Educational Studies, Teachers College, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.