A Comparative Analysis of Age-Set and Generation Sets in East Africa: Lesson for the Teaching of History in Tanzania.

Iddy R. Magoti, Samuel Kochomay, Jackson Akotir


The article addresses a practical problem in the teaching of a particular sub-theme in Tanzania’s secondary school History syllabus, namely age-set systems in pre-colonial Tanzania. Based on their reading of the school syllabus, textbooks and other reference materials, the authors submit that the contents of this sub-theme are sometimes wrongly perceived and presented. According to the authors, the problem partly arises from confusions arising from failure to distinguish age-set systems from generation-set systems. Hence, the authors set out to examine how age-sets and generation-sets were formed, how they worked, and the extent to which they influenced socio-economic and political developments in societies where these systems existed. Drawing examples from Kuria, Kipsigis, Maasai, Pokot and Karamajong communities of East Africa, the authors conclude that there are notable errors in textbook sections that present these systems, and that there is no standard definition that fits the characteristics of these systems across all the ethnic groups in which the systems existed. They also argue that, contrary to what the textbooks say, age-set and generation-set systems are not post-colonial phenomena only, as they continued to exist and function in post-colonial societies.


Age-Set, East Africa, Tanzania, History Teaching

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