SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 16th 1957
Source: Speeches, I, pp. 13-19
Mr President, Mr Provincial Commissioner, Sir Philip Mitchell, Ladies and Gentlemen, my Muslim Brothers
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the warm welcome you have given me. I shall never forget this wonderful stay in Mombasa; everyone has been so kind and good to me.
Before I speak to you about the future of the East African Muslim Welfare Society, I would like to congratulate you on the fine work you have done. You have been serving the cause of Islam most nobly, and I am sure that my beloved grandfather would have been very pleased were he with us to witness your fine achievements.
During my last flying visit to East Africa some two months ago, and during this visit, I have felt there is one most urgent need. This is education -- a word we use too freely, often without realising all that it means.
I am convinced that the future of the Muslims in East Africa depends on it. Often, I believe, people think of it as a mindful of knowledge picked from a hundred various books rather like a mouthful of chewing-gum, chocolates and beetle-nuts washed down with a swill of Coca-cola. I do not wish this for any of my brothers, nor indeed for myself. When I say education, I mean more than acquisition of knowledge, more than mere facts, figures and book work. Education is a life-long experience in which qualities such as integrity, mental discipline, humility and honesty should be formed, particularly during the early years. This is why the quality of your teachers is all important.
Too often I have had it said to me: "We do not have enough money to build a school". But my Muslim brothers, money is not one-half, nor one-quarter, nor indeed one-eighth of that which is needed. You can build 500 schools taking care of 20000 students, and yet I would prefer one school with 150 students, if this school is able to produce 120 honest, believing and fully educated Muslims.
It would be suicidal to allow our building programme to outpace our supply of qualified instructors. It is easy enough to send everyone to school simply by building more classrooms; it is much harder to see that all the students are more than half educated. A school with unqualified teachers is like a shoe without a sole, and a school with qualified teachers and unresponsive students is like a shoe without laces. Both are deficient. I am sure it would be wise to devote more time to recruiting and producing highest qualified staff.
While I am speaking to you about education, I would like to add that I do not think it is sufficient that Muslim children should be taught Islamic theology without corresponding secular education [or secular education] without religious training. Both of these must go hand in hand, and I see no reason why they should not do so in the schools which we build and have already built.
Now let me turn to a matter of general organization. I am fully aware that in practically every town in East Africa where Muslims live, there is the desire for a Muslim school. This is perfectly normal but it may never be possible. Then how is one to solve the problem? You will certainly have many suggestions, and I am sure that they are wise ones. However I take this opportunity to put forward some ideas of my own.
During this tour, I have visited a large number of schools and mosques, and in most of these I have been told: "Here the East African Muslim Welfare Society has made a large contribution". Your aims, my Muslim brothers, are admirable, but ought you not to take more care over your methods? If you give money away as though it were charity and do not watch how it is spent, the results may not be as good as you hope, and yet the demand will continue to grow. For this reason I would like to see the Society have a concrete plan for its work in the future.
I would like you to know, and I would like to know myself, how many institutions you propose to set up in the next five years and where you hope to set them up? I would like to know approximately how many students will have passed their General Certificate Examinations in these next years? How many qualified teachers you expect to have at your disposal, and how many pupils you would like to send for higher education? All this will take a lot of work, a great deal of thinking, and an immense amount of planning. But it is necessary.
With the large number of schools and mosques and other institutions which you are subsidising, I feel it is imperative that you should have a clear idea of what you are aiming at.
I hope to see this long-term plan, first because I fear that without it you will find before long different levels of education in the various parts of the country. Second, because I feel sure that a general standard for our primary and secondary schools will facilitate the setting up of higher education in the future.
Once you have an established plan, you will probably feel it wise to set up machinery to see that it is effectively carried out. You could perhaps set up a Board of Inspectors which would tour your schools and send in regular reports on the education which is being offered, the response of the students and also on the maintenance of the buildings and the health of the children. This system of supervision is most necessary.
I have asked you to plot your course for the next five years and I have given several reasons for this. I would like to add here that the Society could dispose of a great deal more money if it could get the education programme recognised by the Government and thereby benefit from Government education grants. This can be achieved, as in Uganda, if our standards meet Government requirements. My grandfather had always hoped for this, and I sincerely believe that the Society would do well to look into the matter most carefully.
This way you would take a large step towards financial self-support. I hope that one day you will be contributing to the Muslims in the whole of this continent, When that happens, the Society should be in a position to stand on its own feet.
This leads me to another point which was of very great importance to my grandfather, and rightly so. You have made magnificent efforts to organize and educate the Muslims of East Africa. But our numbers must not remain static. I feel that the Society should acquire the services of more Muslims to teach the Africans the meaning of Islam and also to give courses in Islamic history in our schools. More money and time could usefully be spent in Tabligh work.
Having lived in the western world for many years, I know that people have found it difficult to reconcile their faith with the pace of modern life. This problem should at all costs be minimised for our brother Muslims who live in these fast progressing countries. You cannot give a child secular education and then expect him not to ask questions about his religion. This is one more reason why your schools should have well-qualified teachers giving courses on the background of Islam, its history, theology, philosophy and all the other subjects which pertain to its glorious past.
Mr President, my Muslim brothers, I cannot end without paying tribute to the great work your Society has been doing. Your very success has created many of the problems to which I have referred. You have widened your horizons by your own efforts and you have reached a point where I believe you should pause to plan ahead.
I hope most sincerely that what I have said today will help you in some small way to meet your new problems in a spirit of confidence and hope. By careful preparation and supervision, with faith in your work, I am convinced that your future is bright with promise.
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