THE TEACHER: This father is teaching Arabic to his son. When I met him, he was also teaching Arabic to Bintou, the little girl with the tablet covered in Koranic scripture, from the village of Tchinwagari. Those of you who have read my previous posts know that I am sometimes (often) frustrated with the reticence that people in the Azawak have sending their children to school.
And yet, despite my frustration, I try to understand their concerns…. such as: conflict with traditional lifestyle; lack of access to quality education (many teachers are simply not qualified); the reputation that some male teachers have of taking advantage of their female students; absence of schoolbooks and other materials important for learning; the importance of making an income early rather than wasting time on school… the list goes on.
There is another factor. Some parents simply do not see the need for western schools. They teach their children Arabic and Koranic scripture. Others still teach their children Tiffinak, the Touareg language, and one of the rare written African languages. These parents simply do not see the importance of learning French, or learning history as portrayed in French textbooks.
Who am I to argue with this reasoning? Who am I to say that French is more important than Arabic or Tiffinak? In fact, I might agree that within their context, Arabic and Tiffinak may be more valuable. This also leads to the question, why is school so important? I myself raise my three children alternatively, using the world as their schoolbook, and question the validity of classical schooling. In fact, when I insist on children attending school, what I’m really telling the parents is: open up the world of opportunity to your children.
Education will give them one added chance to accomplish their hopes and dreams. If they wish to become a teacher or doctor, they will be able to reach this goal. And yet if they want to remain a herder, or become a merchant, or a religious leader, that path too will still be open. My dream for their children is for them to have doors of opportunity opened, for them to feel empowered to access unlimited success.