Category Archives: Knowledge production

Education and Schooling: A Reflection from my Grandmother

Education and Schooling: A Reflection from my Grandmother

By Eden Almasude*

“My mother was the most educated person I have ever known, people will tell you that” — my father said about my grandmother, an Amazigh woman from northern Morocco.  My father has a Ph.D. from an American university, my grandmother never went to school and did not read or write.  I’m a medical student traveling in Morocco to visit family for the first time, and between the hours of traveling and quiet mornings with strong black coffee and olives I’m having long conversations with my father about culture, philosophy, and language.

I asked further: what is the difference between education and schooling? How is it that my grandmother knew nothing of ‘schooling’ but knew more about ‘education’ than either of us?  She grew up in a village in the Rif mountains speaking Tamazight, the indigenous language of North Africa which is attached to societal perceptions of backwardness, rurality, and peasantry.  I’m not sure how she was educated, but certainly from the communal nature of the village — she was an orphan and grew up poor and with just one sibling.

All societies have a system of education, of course, which are often sophisticated means of passing on culture and tradition.  For my grandmother, this means a system of values which holds up human interactions and ethics as key to survival and wellbeing.  Her ‘education’ implies something about her characteristics, thought, and everyday philosophy rather than information.  Everyone who knew my grandmother loved her, and I have never heard anything but adoration for her in every story my father has told: “she is reflective, caring, ethical, and has a strong sense of justice and fairness,” he says.  He always uses the present tense to talk about her.  In every story she plays the role of the caretaker, always sacrificing for others and taking care of everyone without even thinking about her position in society and her life.

In the modern Moroccan context, however, schooling has taken the place of education with increasing urbanization and loss of traditional societal forms.  Going to school entails a practical loss to the family and wasted hours that could be spent contributing in more tangible ways.  Families who don’t send their children to school are in many ways the most rational, as there is little benefit to spending years studying foreign languages — French and Arabic — which takes place at the expense of the Amazigh language and culture.  Meanwhile, those who went through formal schooling are often left jobless as well, demonstrating the poor system of social support and job opportunities which exist in the country.  Yet many are also excluded from even going to school, and approximately half the Moroccan population is illiterate, showing the failings of the present system of schooling.

My grandmother’s name was Fadhma, and I never met her.  She died years before I came to Morocco for the first time.  I’m sure that much of her knowledge and experience, and those of her generation, have been lost after decades of Moroccan state repression of Amazigh culture but it is by no means gone.  As in any society, we are constantly creating and re-creating ourselves and the meaning of ‘tradition.’  My years of experience in a Western system of schooling fall short of the days I spend speaking with fellow Rifians, walking along the Mediterranean coast, and listening to my father’s stories.

As I reflect on all of this, a professional student born in the United States and looking across the Rif mountains, I interrogate myself: am I ‘educated’?

Eden Almasude is a regular Bokamoso contributor. Read her short biography and previous articles here.

Education in the electronic age: Open source digital libraries as a way to overcome education inequality in Africa

Tweet Across Africa, Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) are continuously metamorphosing the academic landscape irrespective of the rapid global shifts that are affecting education. Like elsewhere, ICT facilitates knowledge search, acquisition, sharing, production and distribution albeit at an arguably smaller scale. Higher Education Institutions in Africa are developing innovative learning networks by engaging in different… Continue Reading

Educated Black Women: modern society’s ‘outliers’

Educated Black Women: modern society’s ‘outliers’

Tweet By: Thembani Mbadlanyana* Today, research shows that women, worldwide, earn almost 60 per cent of all bachelor’s degrees and more than half of masters and doctoral degrees. Associated with this growing bulge of educated women are questions around their marital prospects. Many research studies that have been conducted in this area have tried to… Continue Reading

Data Analytics: Fact Based vs. Faith Based

Data Analytics: Fact Based vs. Faith Based

Tweet In order to realize transparent and accountable leadership, leading driven by facts in decision making is imperative to Africa’s growth and development. With universities turning to big data analytics technologies, it is not deemed wise for African governments to wait without adopting these data analytics technologies as well. Data analytics technologies boast the ability… Continue Reading

Road to Rio +20: “The future we want” and the paradox of a dream

Road to Rio +20: “The future we want” and the paradox of a dream

Tweet by Steve Arowolo The prospects for a better future for the world at large are dependent on a collaborative effort across all sectors of our global socio-political economy. As the world gradually becomes a global village in an era of unprecedented technological revolution and economic interdependency, the idea of our common future as contained… Continue Reading

Localism: From Fashionable Discourse to Political Reconstruction

Localism: From Fashionable Discourse to Political Reconstruction

Tweet In 2001, Unicef estimated that, 60% of city dwellers in Africa live in slum conditions (Unicef, 2001), meaning, the “poorest quality housing, the most unsanitary conditions; a refuge for marginal activities including crime, ‘vice’ and drug abuse; a likely source for many epidemics that ravaged urban areas; a place apart from all that was… Continue Reading

Female Genital Mutilation – Confronting the Cultural Practice and implication for the work of the United Nations

Female Genital Mutilation – Confronting the Cultural Practice and implication for the work of the United Nations

Tweet The international community has spoken out against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) since the 1970’s and the indigenous African campaign against the practice started in 1990 with a statement by the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children. For at least 30 years there have been consistent messages against the practice… Continue Reading

Re-imagining education in developing countries

Re-imagining education in developing countries

Tweet There is one universal value that seems to be truistic: good, quality education can change the world. For the purpose of clarity and to declare my bias, by education I am referring to formal education in the form of schools and institutions that support the teaching and learning processes of young people and children.… Continue Reading

Honour, identity and the public archive in democratic South Africa

Honour, identity and the public archive in democratic South Africa

Tweet In 2011, the South African Department of Arts and Culture announced its decision to organise the Heritage Month under a theme “Liberation heritage in honour of heroes and heroines of the liberation struggle”. Explaining the theme, the Minister said, “We will remember heroes and heroines of our people by erecting monuments in their honour”.… Continue Reading