Africa Speaks: Education 1

University of Niamey, courtyard of Liberal Arts Faculty, Niger, 1992

Contents: A Bad Teacher . . . Educational Conflict . . . A Departure . . .
A Memorable Day . . . home page

A Bad Teacher

Maman Sani Ali 12/21/90

When I was in grammar school, we had a very bad teacher. In fact this teacher was a medical doctor; the government had sent him to spend his very first year in the civil service as a teacher of biology in our school.

In class, the teacher--or rather the doctor, for he had no quality of a teacher--always told the pupils to open their notebooks and write everything he dictated to them. He did only this, and nothing more, for every lesson; this continued for the entire academic year. He never explained anything. Whenever he was asked to explain a word or to clarify a passage, he replied: "It's in French that I'm talking to you, not in Chinese. Therefore you are likely to understand. Besides, don't worry about understanding. Just learn your lesson by heart and write for the assignment exactly what is in your notebook." In the assignment he always asked us to write down a chapter of a lesson, and whoever tried to "understand" what the teacher meant, or to write the chapter in his own words, would receive a grade below average. In this case, when you claimed that you deserved a higher mark, he would reply: "You may be right. But you took no notice of what I said, that is the problem. I can see that you tried to understand, but I think you've failed."

Copyright © 1998 Maman Sani Ali


Boy at garden project on road to Filingue near Baleyara, Niger, 1992

Educational Conflict

Maman Kouloungou Harouna 10/30/91

I belong to the Hausa society, especially to the Gobir tribe. This society is characterized by its link to tradition and its respect for of ancestral rules. The rejection of these rituals by a young boy is seen as foolishness by the elders. That is what happened to me during my schooling.

I was taken by force to the primary school. For many boys of my generation, school at that time was considered as a prison. But my parents, convinced by the director of the school of the benefits of education, sent me to school. After some opposition, I became familiar with my new state and I passed my exams after six years. After my success, I went to secondary school for four years where I got my BEPC. I passed three more years at the Lycee and got my Bac. Now I became conscious of my position as a scholar, and I decided to go to the University of Niamey. However, my parents wanted me to go to teachers' college. They were only interested in what I could earn, and if I went to University I would have to spend many years without a job. However I opposed their proposition and left Maradi to go to Niamey in order to continue my studies. I had in mind the idea to be the most educated man of my village. During my studies at the University, I met a girl named Hawa. She was also a student at the University. We got to know each other and at last we became lovers. We decided to get married and continue studying at the University. But my first disappointment came from my family. My father, during my vacation period, warned me that what I intended to do was not possible, and that I would have no help and support from the family. I informed the girl about the situation and asked her to wait and see if they would change their decision with time. One day at the farm, my father decided to tell me the reason for his opposition. First he said that my level of studies at the University had transformed me. By deciding my future by myself, I showed no respect for my parents and family. I was refusing to work on the land, which showed that I saw my future salary, if I became an employee, as a kind of salvation from hard work. Then he informed me that they had arranged for me to marry a cousin, and her parents agreed with the proposition. But I automatically opposed my father's plan. I stated that I was now an adult, so that I had to choose and make my life as I wanted. My father became very angry with me, and when we returned home, he informed the whole family about my opposition. He went on to state that I thought I was better than everyone in the family. I tried to make them understand that today, elders have to give us young people our freedom in order to build our own future, whether it is good or bad. We only need their advice. Moreover, if we refuse to accept their propositions, we will in return not accuse them if they have trouble. My family strongly rejected me, so I left home and rejoined my brother in Niamey. I refused to work with them at the farms. After four years, during which I never came home for vacation, my brother, the elder of the family, wrote to the family and explained the situation, and tried to make peace. I agreed to return home for a visit. My girlfriend, Hawa, in despair of waiting for me, decided to get married to someone else. During my visit home, I suffered with the problem of making my prayers. My father is a Moslem, and he doesn't want to see me missing prayers. He attests that it is the result of my sojourn at the university. I think that he is right; young people at school are more interested in the good life than in practicing religion. In the end, my family accepted to live with me without a single change in my mentality. The punishment has been paid, and I now live my freedom. But this situation never induced me to a delinquency. My revolt had only one meaning: "I need to be heard and understood by my superiors." I continued to have great respect toward everyone, and the situation has a good outcome. My brothers and friends try to emulate my behavior and I am always consulted in all the decisions of the family, for my level of judgment. Respect for one's parents is universal, but parents taken as human personalities can be fallible. They can make mistakes. So, sometimes a young boy can advise a superior. Humans are living in evolving times. This evolution will transform certain rules of the tradition. The elders have to understand and accept this situation. Afterthought: School today is seen as the best guarantee of a good life, because it provides jobs for those who succeed. But what about those who fail? They are used to the rules of the new, advanced society, so they cannot go back to the traditional occupations of farming or cattle rearing. This is the beginning of delinquency, a major problem in our society.

Copyright © 1998 Maman Kouloungou Harouna


Niger River Ferry at Farje [toward Tera], Niger, 1992

A Departure

Issifi Boureima 3/16/92 Midterm in-class writing

The school year was coming to an end. The last lectures were given with great insistence on certain points and the headmaster, Mr. Ali Konan, was very nervous during these last days before the examination. Our class was left alone; all the other pupils were on vacation.

On the last day before the departure we didn't come to school. We stayed at home to wash our clothes or do other things to be ready to go for the examination. All the village was very busy that day. Mothers cooked various meals that they put in tins or plates for their sons or daughters. Many fathers went to the marabouts to get benedictions for their children. All together, we went to the chief's house and to the Iman's house. They wished good luck to us and they urged us to do the best we could do. Then came the D-day. A lorry came from Tera, and stopped in the school compound. All the village gathered around it. My classmates and I were dressed in new clothes and all  our parents were there. There were many children. Some of them were carrying their brother or sister's luggage, but most of them came to say goodbye to their friends. Mothers worried the most, because it was said that Bankilare, the place where we were sitting for our examination, was far away and the road was bumpy and in very bad repair. Some of us had never traveled in a car. Others had never left the village. We were happy and anxious. The crowd was noisy, talking, greeting each other, and wishing good luck. As soon as the headmaster appeared, the crowd quieted down. He took out a list from his folder and began to call out our names. When a pupil was called, he would respond, embrace his father or mother, and get in the lorry. At the end of the list, we were all in the lorry, silently looking at our parents and relatives standing there. Some of them were in tears. At that time people used to weep when a member of the family was leaving, even if the journey was for only one or two weeks; whenever the distance was long, people wept. It usually started with small children, then gradually that special weeping would go up to sisters and finally to mothers. I suddenly felt very sad when I saw my sister in tears, waving her hands and trying to keep a forced smile. The crowd got close to the lorry and shook hands with us. My mother came very close and murmured in my ear, "Don't be afraid, work as you used to do, Issacha Allahou, you'll bring back your certificate. Both your father and I are praying for you. You'll pass." A warm and strong feeling overwhelmed my heart and the sadness completely melted. I was going to get a diploma and it would open the way for me to go up to Tera to continue my studies in a junior high school. For a moment I forgot the crowd and its sad tears. Then my father came and handed me a bank note of five thousand francs [$20]. He said, "Good luck, may God help you and your mates. Don't forget you're a man, life is a perpetual struggle." I was very confused, because I wondered where he found the money. Did he borrow it? No answer came, but a resolution. I swore an oath to myself: "I'll pass, continue my studies, and help him." My sadness came back and tears began to drop from my eyes. Then the driver started the engine, we were about to leave. The headmaster and another teacher took their places near the driver and in a roar we left the village. It was on Saturday, the 20th of June, 1973; I was leaving my village for the first time.

Copyright © 1998 Issifi Boureima


Children at Boubon, Niger, 1992

A Memorable Day

Issifi Boureima 1/6/92

I woke up early in the morning. I was very excited but something wasn't clear in my mind. I didn't know why my father didn't tell me, as he usually did, that I would soon go to school. I waited but he didn't say anything and he seemed not to notice me.

He left our house at the time when other parents were taking their children to school. He didn't say a single word to me. At first I thought he was just going to the shop and buy a new shirt for me. But nothing happened. I waited till half past nine and he didn't return. Even my mother didn't speak to me. Finally I decided to go to school by myself. When I arrived there was a crowd gathered around the headmaster who was sitting on a chair in front of a large table. He had a lot of papers in front of him. He called young boys and girls and they went to his desk with their father or mother. I had no one to go with and he didn't even call my name. Something urged me and I went alone to him. I stood in front of him. He had his head down in his papers. He looked at me at last and asked: "Who are you?" "I am Boureima," I replied. "Where's your father?" "He didn't come." "And your Mother?" I was silent. "What do you want?" he asked. "I want to register," I said. The headmaster called the chief of the village and two other teachers. He asked them to witness. Then he asked me: "Can you count?" "In French or in Zarma?" I replied. "Can you do it in French?" "Yes," I said. "Go on," he said. I began to count, and had reached fifty five when he stopped me. The whole crowd was astonished. They couldn't believe what they had heard. Without any other questions, the headmaster asked my name, my father's name, and how old I was. I gave all the details and he said to the chief: "No one came with him. Do you know his father?" "I know all his family and I was there the day he was born and I was at the naming ceremony." "So you're his witness. I register him." That is how I came to the European education. I was sent to join the group of new pupils. They were all dressed in new clothes and were wearing new shoes. I was dusty and poorly dressed. I had no shoes. The group received me joyfully and it seemed to me that they didn't notice the way I was dressed. Nobody said anything about my clothes, but I thought they all knew I was a very poor boy whose father wasn't able to give him new trousers.

Copyright © 1998 Issifi Boureima


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