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close this bookTraditional Sex Education in Tanzania (WAZAZI, 1991, 82 p.)
close this folderINTRODUCTION
View the documentTanzania at the Crossroads
View the documentWazazi’s Search for Roots
View the documentSummary of Report

Tanzania at the Crossroads

On August 29, 1982, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, Chairman of Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), speaking in Zanzibar to the Parents’ Association of Tanzania, known as WAZAZI, made a fervent appeal for change in the rearing of the nation’s young people.

What he said was to affect radically WAZAZI’s thinking about educational planning-indeed, to affect planning for the future of the nation itself.

He asked the Party and WAZAZI to accept the challenge of educating the country about the consequences of uncontrolled population growth. Not only was the health of mothers at risk, he warned, but also the future of their children. He said that if the birth rate were not reduced in time, the resulting poverty and misery would breed social instability and political unrest. He pointed out signs of beginning deterioration - the rising incidence of separation and divorce, pregnancies among girls still in primary school, malnutrition among mothers and children, infant mortality, prostitution, juvenile delinquency, drug abuse, and sexually transmitted disease.

In making his appeal at the time and place he did, he was using Party authority to re-establish and underscore the time-honored role of parents - wazazi - in educating the commonwealth. Traditionally, parents have been the primary educators in Tanzania. In the societies of the past, most social and vocational training was conducted in the home. Later, during the struggle for independence and afterwards, the Parents Association of Tanzania, then called TAPA, now known as WAZAZI, began to set up adult education groups, primary schools, and technical secondary schools.

Wazazi’s Search for Roots

Recently, WAZAZI took several significant steps to carry out its mandate.

First, it produced a guidebook for parents based on the 1987 national policy of education, Sera ya Malezi ya Taifa kwa Watotona Vijana, Tanzania. The book provided an outline of information for parents to give their children, together with suggestions on how to present it.

Then, to introduce the book, WAZAZI organized workshops for its field staff and district-level secretaries nationwide, to train them to present the contents of the book to groups of parents in their areas.

The workshops made it clear that some topics needed a more detailed approach. Sexuality in particular called for immediate attention.

It was also clear that a curriculum on this important and sensitive subject needed to be based on an understanding of how sexuality had traditionally figured in the lives and cultures of Tanzanian ethnic groups. By learning more about these cultural roots, WAZAZI could better define its own role in a rapidly changing modern Tanzania.

Accordingly, WAZAZI undertook a survey of 11 Tanzanian ethnic groups, focusing on their sexual and child-rearing practices. The groups were the Chagga, Fipa, Gogo, Makonde, Makonde Malaba, Masai, Nyakyusa, Nyaturu, Sukuma, Zanzibaris, and Zaramo.

Summary of Report

Because the groups surveyed were at the same low level of technological development, most were superficially similar. But their social fabric was complex, made up of elaborate rules of behavior intertwined with rituals, taboos, magic, and divination. In these low-technology societies, ritual, myth, and magic took the place of science in providing the framework of understanding within which people lived their lives. Rituals and myth surrounded even ordinary activities like farming, herding, fishing, and forging tools.

Sexual development carried special ritual and mythic significance, for at least three reasons: All the communities saw sex as a source of supreme pleasure.

All had a religious awe of sex as the source of life itself-of the ability of individuals to reproduce and the ability of their community to perpetuate itself.

All valued sex as the source of kinship/affinity relationships, the basis of solidarity, reciprocity, and cooperation.

Traditional societies consequently educated their children about sex in the holistic context of educating them about life-preparing them for life.

The report analyzes sexual life in these communities, using a sociological framework borrowed from the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. This helps to clarify the social order underlying sexual life in each community-the range of groups concerned with it, the cultural values to which it was linked, the “cultural code” that marked its customs, and the educational system that sustained it.

Though education was informal, each community had a clearly defined curriculum, a set of teaching methodologies, and an evaluation system.

The curriculum was basic facts about sex.

The methodologies were diverse and all-pervasive, stretching over a lifetime. The household was the primary agency, but virtually all clan institutions were involved at one stage or another. Group members learned by living their roles; they acquired knowledge as they applied it. They absorbed skills and values unconsciously through institutions that were apparently neutral-but the apparent neutrality was just what made them such effective transmitters of the dominant ideology.

Finally, the evaluation system was pragmatic. Sex education was measured by results-by whether it produced, for the most part, sexually satisfied couples heading happy families, able to maintain productive households socially acceptable within the clan.

All the models studied had strengths. All also had two inherent weaknesses, perpetuated along with the strengths. One was group members’ lack of contact with the outside world and limited access to information, which enabled the elders, as custodians of the clan heritage, to wield heavy-handed control over women and children. The other was the traditional division of labor that gave women lesser tasks and lower social status than men. This, too, was exploited by male elders as a means to remain in power.

The report ends with some broad conclusions and recommendations:

· Since most Tanzanians see sexuality holistically, sex education should be approached through life education - in which sex is an integral element, not the whole.

· Sex education should remain largely informal, with parents as the primary educators of their children.

· Parents’ teaching should be supplemented with formal courses, particularly when young people enter important new phases of their lives, such as adolescence or marriage.

· Formal sex education should identify and consciously incorporate the best features of informal education, to insure its relevance and impact.

· Under the coordinating umbrella of WAZAZI, national and private institutions should pool resources to develop a cadre of trained specialized counselors - modem walombo/wanyago - to be assigned to key training institutions.

· WAZAZI should encourage and assist the development of youth organizations under these responsible walombo/wanyago. Religious institutions can play an important role in this effort.