Monday, February 22, 2010

'The danger of a single story' - Chimamanda Adichie

Chimamanda Adichie speaks very well on the dangers of a single story. However, today it’s unfortunate that Tanzania is about to re-introduce a ‘single textbook-per-subject policy’. The minister of education Prof Jumanne Maghembe has blamed the current system which requires many books per subject as a reason for poor performance in schools. Having listened to Chimamanda’s speech, Tanzania’s single textbook policy seems to be a disaster in the making. The new system “may” manage to decrease the “confusion” caused by the use of many books, but there is a great danger it may limit the potentials that the students may have. Mr. Ogola who is a publisher goes further to say, ‘the bigger impact will be on the quality of education as students will face a reduction in intellectual diversity’. This is very true and also it will ‘kill creativity’ as Mr. Oyuga goes on to claim.

The single textbook system will limit diversity in education something that is very important in schools, especially today where employment is scarce; therefore, many people have to find alternative ways to make ends meet. Although I am disappointed but am also curious to see how this new policy will build students to become independent thinkers and creative in terms of being entrepreneurs. The current system of many text books encourages a nation of thinkers and that’s what a successful entrepreneur neeeds today; a broad knowledge about many things. I fear the new system will end up graduating students who are narrow minded with dependent thoughts instead of graduates who are thinkers. Tanzania needs to move from being a nation of dependency to being self reliant, but until something is done with the education system, the nation will continue to be satisfied with foreign Aid instead of finding alternative ways. Although entrepreneurship among youths is becoming very popular by the day today, but more neds to be done, and with the fast changing world, its easy to be left behind and that’s why the education system needs to be more challenging and I don’t see the single textbook doing that.

Read more:
Chimamanda's TED talk on YouTube
Business Daily article


  1. Hivi, have our leaders seen the trend of form IV and VI results in the last 6 years?

    Give it a couple of years; I wouldn't be surprised to hear teachers telling kids, "Nunua Alasiri la kesho na ufanye zoezi la pili la Hisabati!" Kutengeneza pesa...

  2. Regarding this matter, i.e. Tanzania education system woes, I quote one African economist, Justinian Rweyemamu: "........African leaders must pay more than lip service to Adam Smith's dictum that wealth of nations depends on "the skill, dexterity and judgment with which its labor is generally applied". This does not mean merely the setting up of more schools, the responsibility that all African governments have not only accepted but carried out with vigor and energy. The school system tends to superimpose forms of knowledge on existing fold knowledge without necessarily deepening the latter. As a consequence little new useful knowledge is produced. There is need to establish mechanisms and institutions that will deepen and expand Africa's stock of knowledge. Peasants, for instance, are inclined to augment their knowledge primarily from the most successful practitioners of their occupation. What must be underscored is that the basic task of education is the transfusion of values, but values cannot help us much to pick our way through life unless they become our own, a part to say of our mental makeup. An educational system has to give the people of a given culture the ability to make the world and their own lives intelligible. It is through the creation of intelligibility that meaningful education spurs the outburst of daring, initiative, invention and constructive activity."

  3. Insightful discussion. I like how Bahati tied the dangers of a 'single story' to a very relevant policy debate about a 'single textbook'.

  4. Going a bit off topic, I would like to mention one particular thing which people never discuss openly regarding our education system: the recruiting system of teachers. How come we fail to motivate good students to become teachers? All of us know how people end up in teaching colleges (for those who have no idea what I am talking about, just ask around..).

    No pun intended to the teachers who taught me or any other teachers out there - I have been lucky to have had more than decent teachers most of the time. The truth is that we are lacking a lot in terms of building a good basis for kids in elementary schools and most secondary schools.

    I personally think the problems stems from the recruiting process of teachers; who later happen take higher posts in the Ministry of Education, and coming with policies like this! Maybe this deserves its own discussion (Bahati).

    I am sure I have lost some friends today because of my rant.

  5. Waalimu katika society yoyote ni profession inayoheshimika sana, hasa hasa katika nchi za huku tunakobebea maboksi. Mshahara wao ni wa kutosha na resources za kila aina wanapata. Sasa utapataje walimu wazuri ilihali nchi yetu mishahara yao midogo kwahiyo any "good" student wa Form IV hawezi kwenda kwa hiari kujiunga na vyuo vya ualimu. Mimi nina binamu yangu kule Bukoba, amepata Div IV mwaka huu, yaani bado kidogo iwe 0, nimeongea nae, na ninasikia eti anaenda kujiunga na chuo cha ualimu. Sasa mtu aliyefeli anaenda kufundisha tena?