Reflections on #Education and #Extremism in Tanzania through the ‘eyes’ of #Tariq Ramadan’s book – Islam and the Arab Awakening (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

My heart is very sad as I write this. It was just two weeks ago when I was writing something in which I boasted about my country’s peace. However, I must admit that as I was writing my mind kept running through a question: ‘How can we sustain this peace in Tanzania?’ This question is now hunting me even more especially after last week’s shameful extremist events- the killing of a Pastor in Geita and a Catholic Priest in Zanzibar. Today, this query has gone deeper by the sickening Form IV National Examination Results. 60.7% of examinees got division 0. This is a complete fail. How then do we except to sustain this peace while we are producing a future generation of uneducated youths that, in the best-case scenario, will be full of inferiority complex?

I recently finished Tariq Ramadan’s book (mentioned above), which I have been trying to review but was not yet sure if I have understood it enough to review it. Nevertheless, some of his key arguments can help us to think through these issues that are pertaining and threatening our precious peaceful nation of Tanzania- an Island of Peace!

In his book, Ramadan attempts to explain the Arab ‘Spring’ although he does not use the term ‘Spring’ for very good reasons, which I agree with. He instead uses the term ‘Arab Awakening’.  For the lack of space and purpose of this brief entry, I will not go into explaining his rationale for choosing that terminology instead of ‘spring’. In summary, Ramadan gives a good account of what happened in North Africa and some countries in Middle East. Although he doesn’t agree with the conspiracy theories, which attribute the Arab Awakening to the West (i.e. it was all planned by the West), his book clearly shows how the uprisings did not happen in vacuum. Youths especially bloggers from Middle East and North Africa had received trainings in the USA and Europe on how to use Internet (in particular social media networks) for passive revolution. In fact big companies like Google and Yahoo played a role on that.  Further on that, Ramadan illustrates different reactions from the West to the uprisings. He cites examples of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and petro-monarchies such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. I think everyone who follows news can testify to the varied Western reactions to the uprising in each of those countries. I call this the art of double standards in International Relations. That means, everything comes down to national interests, which at times can even be an image or ego.   In addition to the Arab Awakening, Ramadan talks, in great details and deep thinking, about Political Islam, Secularism, and Islamic Reference. I urge everyone to read this book if he/she wants to understand these subjects from a ‘within’ voice.

Leaving that apart, Ramadan’s book reminds us of the long way that the Arab countries and Muslim majority countries have to go before they can realize full political liberation.  This marks a starting point in which Ramadan’s arguments and recommendations to the Arab world and Muslim majority countries can teach us some lessons too. This is because the context is the same, in the sense that Arab countries, although most of them are way ahead of Tanzania in so many aspects, they are the “Others” just like the way we are.  To understand the concept of “Others” or “Orientalism”, I recommend you to read Edward Said work.  But in summary, the West has, for decades, if not centuries, dominated the world and broadly categorized the world into ‘Us’ and ‘Others’. The ‘Others’ have been made inferior and dependent to the West.  There are many implications to this categorization. Emmanuel Wallenstein, for example, in his World System Theory, would say that the West would ensure that the ‘Others’ remain in that state so as to keep exploiting them. The argument here is that capitalism survives on exploitation.  Gramsci and Neo-Gramscian thinkers will echo the same with the concept of ‘hegemony’.

 There are countries that are striving to move out of the ‘Others’ category. These include China, Turkey, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, and to a certain extent India.  Noteworthy is, these countries do not necessarily have the aim of moving into the ‘Us’ category but they are formulating another category all together. We may call this, a ‘third way’ (iiiish…if I’m allowed to borrow Blair’s words), through which they form a different kind of relations with the ‘poor’ who were once together in the same net. By different relations I mean the relations that are not defined by ‘master-servant’, or ‘superior- inferior’ status, but more of mutual understanding and respect- this is an alternative economic order. At this point, I am afraid to admit that such will be very difficult if we consider the theory of International Relations and Neoliberalism, which is the order of the day…however realizing an alternative economic order is possible with time!  But lets cut this story short and go back to Tanzania, which is deemed to be on the ‘Others’ category for a very long to come. This is evident even by only looking at the 2012 Form IV results that came out yesterday and the extremist events that happened last week, which led to the death of a pastor and a priest.

Poor education is what has brought Tanzania to this point. I had never thought we would ever be discussing religious tensions in Tanzania. What happened in Geita was unthinkable in Tanzania. Since independence Tanzania has had both Muslims and Christians living together and in harmony. We live side by side, we fall in love with each other and we inter-marry, we mourn together, visit each other, and affiliate to the same political parties. This is the kind of the nation that Mwl. Nyerere built through the Arusha Declaration and an education system that ensured national unity and peace.  Unfortunately, this harmony is threatened. We have diluted our education and even that diluted education is not properly delivered. Last week, Jenerali Ulimwengu wrote a masterpiece on Raia Mwema ‘Elimu Yetu Vipande Vipande Kila Mtu na Iwake….’ In it, he highlighted poor quality of our education that produces half-baked Tanzanians who are not even proud of their identity. Depending on how you define ‘quality’ almost all schools in Tanzania do provide a very low quality education. That is why we have 60.7% failed students.  Last week I asked ‘how many pupils in Tanzania can sing the whole national anthem?’ This is one example, but I guess if we look at our civics books, we might end up crying. With this in mind, how can we avoid extremism?

 Ramadan recommendations to the Arab countries to realize real and sustainable political liberation is through ‘studying history, to put down roots in an environment of personal meaning, to gain greater familiarity with both the natural and social sciences, to cultivate art, language, literature, painting, music, and taste in general…that the young people who are today awakening will prove more sensitive to the requirements of true political, intellectual, and cultural liberation than they are fascinated by the material goods of the West’ (pp. 130-131).   In general, what Ramadan is emphasizing is holistic education. In other pages, he talks of ‘intellectual jihad’– which is all about Education.  Education is indeed the only thing that can save not only Arabs but also everyone who is in the  ‘Others’ category.  In Tanzania, we need education more than anything else. If our children are properly educated they will not discriminate or oppress other people’s faiths and beliefs. Christians must understand Muslims and respect their faiths and so must the Muslims.

In January I was graced to visit and talk to members of CCT sponsored interfaith relations committees (IRC) in Kilosa and Geita.  In Kilosa I met with an extremely bright/smart and very articulate woman, Mama Amina Mwarabu. She is a member of the IRC-Kilosa. Her explanation of the current issues is worthy noting. She contends that ‘Those who burn churches and insult other religions are those who do not go to Mosques or even if they do, they do not understand the Islamic teachings- they are not people of faith but mere radicals/ideological (she used the word Itikadi– which I’m not sure of the translation). What she was highlighting is the lack of proper religious teaching that leads to radicalization.  This is also part of education.  We need to ensure that quality and proper education is given in both formal (school) and informal (Mosques, Madras, Churches, Sunday Schools, Home, etc) set ups.  This is what will maintain our peace.

On 18th November 2012, I wrote an article ‘On education’ in which I highlighted the imperative of education on development. I argued that if we do not invest on education we will remain poor.  President Obama has repeatedly say ‘education is the currency of information age’. We are living in the information age. Knowing how to use facebook and twitter is not enough if we do not have education. This is why Ramadan insists on the holistic education that includes history, languages, natural and social sciences, art, and music. We in Tanzania have come to even look down on our own precious language-Kiswahili leave alone our history, geography etc.  Discovery of oil, gas, gold, diamond, etc will not help Tanzanians without education. In fact these discoveries, with no education, leads to resource curse- including intensified conflicts.

Well, I think if I do not stop here this article will not end…so my argument is: we need to sit down and rethink about education in Tanzania.  The extremist events and incidents we are seeing now are partly a reflection of poor education, which gives room to radicalization and indoctrination. EDUCATION is the most assuring way to deal with these issues. Everyone should take this very seriously and contribute…we can all contribute in one-way or another. It is not only politicians or teachers who are responsible. Every Tanzanian is responsible. Let’s not apportion the blame to anyone but us and start doing something. This may include:

  •  Contributing towards school’s infrastructure- buildings, desks, books, etc
  • Teaching- if you live near a school in your village or street you can help teach or providing academic or administration support- this is especially for mushroomed ‘ward schools’ that are in serious need of teachers. I am sure any school administration will accept volunteers. You can do this in the evenings or weekends…offer free classes!  (I am planning to do so for Harambee Secondary School- a ward school in my village)
  • Get into school board membership- you can help to ensure good governance, etc
  • Attend parents’ meetings, local (village meetings), etc
  • Run for local office- village chairman, councilor, etc
  • Join PETS (Public Expenditure Tracking System) Committees in your ward, village, or street
  • Do some advocacy activity on education – at whatever level

11 thoughts on “Reflections on #Education and #Extremism in Tanzania through the ‘eyes’ of #Tariq Ramadan’s book – Islam and the Arab Awakening (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

  1. amani

    Aikande, this is a brilliant piece article, education is very much needed in our communities, all these things happening to Tanzania now are mostly associated with our very poor education system, there is a need to work together on this, we should advocate for this,”education first-better education for every Tanzanian”,it is great to see you are looking forward to supporting your community out there on education, lovely spirit, blessings, together we can 🙂

  2. jenn

    Aikande thank you for awakening us, we can if education and politics became separated. This dirty politics is killing us. Education was supposed to be the first bussiness but no one cares. But we must play our party in our communities to make sure education offered to our children is within standards.

  3. jenn

    Aikande thank you for awakening us, we can if education and politics became separated. This dirty politics is killing us. Education was supposed to be the first bussiness but no one cares. We must play our party in our communities to make sure education offered to our children is within standards.

  4. John

    Totally agree. Very well analyzed. It is funny how everything starts with education…In Africa we boast of one of the better social structures (albeit a few things that we have discussed here and there…some of which we do not agree on…lol), I found the following excerpt on education a while back on something I was reading and thought I should share:

    “The first thing that strikes me about education is knowledge gain. Education gives us knowledge of the world around us. It develops in us a perspective of looking at life. It helps us build opinions and have points of view on things in life. People debate over the subject of whether education is the only thing that gives knowledge. Some say, education is the process of gaining information about the surrounding world while knowledge is something very different. They are right. But then, information cannot be converted into knowledge without the catalyst called education. Education makes us capable of interpreting things rightly. It is not just about lessons in textbooks. It is about the lessons of life.”

    Poignant isn’t it?

    Thanks, John

  5. Tatu Malima

    Thanks Aikande, I have got a lesson through your article, what I can insist for all is “Christians must understand Muslims and respect their faiths and so must the Muslims”. If we respect each other as our parents did we can avoid this such shameful, I am happy being a Tanzania but for what is happening now in our country I am feeling ashamed in front of people, I cannot say anything but begging the Priests and Sheikhs to appeal their people to respect others and not talk nonsense about other religion. Nobody can prove that his/her religion is the perfect one by 100%, but let us respect each other so we can live peaceful as we used to.

  6. Saroni

    As I was growing up, parents owned up to their children’s education. In Tanzania very few do so. Embracing culture has been misinterpreted by many, they have taken up the wrong culture and all they are after is “status”. Education is of concern when national exam results are announced but no one owns up to the dismal performance. be it parents, peers or the schools. Your suggestion on all of us will work if the mentality is changed and it begins with parents and exposure of students to role models not digital media.

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  9. Elifas J Mmanga

    Aikande kwayu, You give us real critique about our new education policy, its just like summary of all policy. But wonder why policy does not say anything about English medium school and the preparation of their teachers.
    says Elifas J Mmanga

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