by Mohamedarif Suleman (Nairobi, Kenya)
Much has been said about the importance of acquiring education, and what various things have been said by our leaders on the subject. Action, they say, not words, speak louder. The New Millennium is for the well informed, the saying goes. So the question we must ask ourselves is whether we want to belong to the new millennium, the new era. Expectedly, our answer will be a resounding “yes”.
So far, we have engaged in the commendable establishment of schools, both secular and religious. This is a positive direction of thought, but much work needs to be done, and lessons require to be learnt. For once, management must be professional, and non partisan. Most of our educational ventures indicate that because the community directly ran the school, chances of failure were always a threat. The only plausible reasons for success were the shortage of good schools, which eventually became our competitive edge. Professionally run schools stand better chances of imparting the right balance of education and on a long term basis.
But in order for us to achieve that, funding plans must be put in place. The school has to be run as a commercial venture rather than anything else, of course with the objective of dispensing education. But if community-dependance is the basis of the institution, then this would be a short term and problem-plagued project.
Assuming that the the above are put in place, we must now focus on creating some sort of coordination aimed at synchronising our schools within, say the East African region. One school would learn from the experiences of another. There could be educational and extra curricular exchange programs. The availability of scholarships would also be an added advantage with the expansion of the small circle.
Of course, while we draft this master plan, some of our schools are already success stories in their own right, but what we now need is to rewrite our overall success collectively.
And as you would predict, nursery, primary or secondary schools do not end our role. There is higher education that needs to be taken care of. Again, the Education Boards are doing enormous work in this area in conjunction with the AF’s own Board in dispensing scholarships, etc. And till such a time whereby it is not an economically viable idea, or till such a time when we do not feel entirely capable of venturing into building our own Universities one day, we should continue facilitating higher education outside the region. But a proper (read commercial) plan needs to be installed. We can barely finance the multitude of other essential projects let alone this bigger issue of education. And in any case, a lot of the deserving cases are sometimes turned down due to the non availability of funds.
In short, this community needs new, practical ideas that would adequately take care of the community as a more organised unit. Instead of the community relying entirely on the Islamic tax and generous donations, there should be an additional dimension of income-generation. Again, it could be argued that some of the Jamaats are already self-sufficient, but this would apply to a rare minority. The bigger picture remains that we still have to globe-trot to appeal for funds.
What we are forgetting is that, as times become tougher, most hands are no longer going to be able to dig deeper into their pockets. Before this situation catches up on us, we have to work harder in establishing a sustainable growth path, and in so doing, we would be guaranteeing the long life to our socio-cultural unit. It is not of any meaning for us to rejoice that we have witnessed another millennium; we must first characterise this spectacle with a demonstration of our collective ability to respond to changing times and newer challenges. We have said it before that but for a rebel Ismaili dissent group, the Ithansheri group may not have been formed. These forefathers rose up to the need of their time – that of a religion of reasoning, can we live up to ours?