News and Reviews
Bobo Tsamkxao #Oma, Chief of the Ju/’hoansi Traditional Authority, blamed teachers and school authorities for the failures of many Ju/’hoansi kids in their schools. He decried the fact that they did little to motivate the children to do their schoolwork.
The chief spoke at a public meeting along with Anna Hipondoka, the Deputy Minister of Education, Arts and Culture of Namibia, who was visiting the community on a familiarization tour. Only four out of 87 grade 12 students in the Tsumkwe Senior Secondary School passed in 2014. According to a news report about the meeting last week, Mr. #Oma particularly blamed the teachers for the high failure rate. In 2014, the school ranked last in the entire nation among senior secondary schools.
#Oma blamed the school boards as well as the teachers for not communicating with the parents about the absenteeism of the children. The problem, he said, was that the parents were off in the bush gathering food and they only learn that their children are no longer attending school when they return to their communities. The teachers and school boards should get to know the parents and communicate with them more effectively, he argued, so that when children are absent, they can contact them. He said the education system is effective enough, but those who are supposed to implement the schooling are failing.
He identified some specific issues. He alleged that the teachers are going out drinking with the kids at the cuca shops in Tsumkwe. He also claimed that the adults are embarrassing the students in front of others by calling them dirty. They needed to understand, he said, that many of the Ju/’hoansi are very poor, and if the kids are shamed in front of others, they’ll stay away from their schools. Members of the community who attended the meeting strongly supported his views.
Afterwards, Ms. Hipondoka met with the teachers of the secondary school and asked them to set examples for the students by not drinking with them. However, she did praise the ones who taught under trying conditions in the rural schools.
According to another news story about the meeting, Ms. Hipondoka said that the parents told her the reason so many of their children drop out of schools in the region is that they are located so far from their homes. Some children attending one of the primary schools have to walk about 50 km to reach school, where they stay during the week. When they walk home for the weekends, they are often too tired to walk back to school again for the next school week. She also complained about the lack of adequate hostel facilities and the lack of a good supply of drinking water at the some of the schools.
A news report four years ago told a similar story: of parents who generally don’t care much if their kids get an education, of discouraged, poorly trained teachers, and of an education system in disarray. The poor education of the children in the Ju/’hoansi society has again gotten high-level attention, but it is not clear from any of these news story what really concrete measures are being taken.
Scholarly literature, particularly the outstanding recent book by Biesele and Hitchcock (2013), provides the context for understanding the problems. In some of the peaceful societies, such as that of the Ju/’hoansi, giving and receiving networks are extremely important, so many parents try to raise their children within that spirit.
In that context, the traditional Ju/’hoansi educational system that served them well for millennia emphasized an oral-learning process, focusing primarily on creativity and learning through hands-on experiences at the group level, rather than on achievements by individuals as formal schooling often requires. Notwithstanding that issue, Biesele and Hitchcock (2013) argue, the Ju/’hoansi have significantly improved their schools over the past 30 years.
In their book, they quote Mr. #Oma’s reactions in 1987 to the schooling situation he saw at that time. He expressed utter discouragement because the Ju/’hoansi children then feared going to schools because they were beaten at them. He said it was discouraging to see the children skipping schools because they only represented pain to them. In contrast, the schools are much better now.
Biesele and Hitchcock (2013) describe dramatic improvements in the Ju/’hoansi schools, facilities that they opened themselves and over which they maintain community control. In contrast to the news stories of 2011 and of last week, the two scholars maintain in their book that the five schools started and maintained by a program called the Village Schools Project have been enthusiastically supported by the Ju/’hoansi communities and that they are basically a success.
The Nubians of Egypt continue to press for a return to their ancient homeland along the Nile as a solution to their yearnings for stability, prosperity, and peaceful village relations. Most of them were forced to leave their communities in southern Egypt and northern Sudan in 1964 when the Aswan Dam was completed.
The Egyptian government at the time moved the Nubians of their country into inadequate resettlement communities called New Nubia, without much if any access to fertile fields or income opportunities. They have suffered from the traumas of the enforced exile ever since and have struggled to cope with it.
Nubian leaders met on June 13 in Aswan in an attempt to foster legislation that would lead to the establishment of their long-sought resettlement into desirable areas. According to an article last week in the Cairo Post, their leaders are getting impatient with the slow responses of the government. Ahmed Azmy, leader of the Nubian General Federation, said, “we are putting on hold all our [negotiations] with the cabinet over our resettlement. We will oppose any draft law being issued without getting back to us.”
According to the news story, Ibrahim el-Heneidy, Minister of Transitional Justice, announced at a news conference on June 2 that a unified draft law on the resettlement of the Nubians is being prepared, as requested by the cabinet. The government is required, according to the constitution passed early last year, to consult the Nubians and to take into account “the cultural and environmental patterns of the local [Nubian] community.”
This website has reported over the years on the anguish that the diaspora has caused for the Nubian people, plus the pleas and negotiations that have been attempted on their behalf. A recent journal article by Fatin Abbas picks up on these troubles by describing many scenes of alienation, violence, and despair among the Nubians in Egypt as portrayed by Idris Ali, a prominent Nubian writer, in his work Dongola: A Novel of Nubia. Abbas characterizes the novel as an effective portrayal of the discrimination that Egyptians focus on the Nubian minority in their country, but she also describes the gender violence that exists within the Nubian society itself. The two seem to parallel one another.
Abbas provides a good overview of Nubian society and its literature within the broader context of Egyptian and Arabic culture. It is essential to remember that the Nubians are quite distinct from the Arab majority of Egypt. Idris Ali makes it clear that he identifies with the Nubians, even though he writes in Arabic rather than in the Nubian language.
In essence, Ali is suggesting that the Nubians have an ambivalent attitude toward the Arab Middle East. They share the same faith, Islam, as most of the Arabs, and they are politically tied to modern Egypt—at least the ones who live within the Egyptian state. But they hold a very different sense of themselves and their identity from the Arabs. Their traditional territory in southern Egypt and northern Sudan is at the periphery of the Arab world.
Abbas argues that there are basically two periods of Nubian literature: before the closing of the dam and afterwards, when the consciousness of a diaspora began to sink in among them. The more recent tradition, which includes the works of Ali, began in the 1980s and 1990s and emphasizes a feeling of loss, of displacement, and of a catastrophe of enormous proportions. The Nubian authors of the post-dam era typically insist on the separateness of their identity as Nubians. They have been affected by the racism, bigotry, and discrimination they have experienced from Arab Egyptians.
Dongola exemplifies that marginalization and degradation, but at the same time it provides a counter-narrative that insists on the vitality of the Nubian heritage. Furthermore, the novel shows that the Nubians are not just persecuted by the police and other state actors: racist attitudes against them pervade Egyptian society, at least in this novel.
The novel describes the events in the life of Awad Shalali, his wife, Halima, and his mother, Hushia. It is organized into three sections. The first, “Separated Man,” begins in Cairo where Awad is wandering the streets a few days after he has been released from prison. He’d been arrested years before because he had opposed the regime of President Nasser. As Awad aimlessly drifts about, the narrative itself wanders between ancient history and the present, often leaving the reader unclear as to where things stand. This aimlessness reflects the essence of Awad’s challenge to the Egyptian state—and perhaps the essence of Nubian post-dam existence.
When he returns to southern Egypt, Awad is summoned by the security police. An officer demands to know his name, so Awad answers with descriptions of Nubian history. He gives the officer the name of a Nubian pharaoh who ruled Egypt during the 25th dynasty instead of his own name, subtly challenging the popular Egyptian discourse that sometimes refers to the Nubians as slaves and savages.
The second section, “The Trial of Awad Shalali,” documents the hardships that the mother of the protagonist has suffered since her son was arrested and while he travels abroad after his release from prison. Hushia is living in poverty, awaiting the return of her son to their resettlement village in New Nubia.
The last section, “The Sorrows of Hushia and Halima,” focuses mostly on the trials of Halima, abandoned by her husband while he wanders about. By this third section, Dongola has shifted entirely to a feminine perspective, effectively describing Halima’s struggles against the oppressive masculine domination of Nubian men such as her father and her husband. It suggests that Nubian women have to bear a burden of discrimination and oppression more even than men do. They are left in the villages to raise their children in poverty, dependent on inadequate remittances from husbands and fathers who are employed elsewhere.
Halima is portrayed as subject to violence in the village, much as Awad is elsewhere in Egypt. Her father throws her down, bites her, puts his hand around her neck, and threatens to beat her, or even to kill her, because she disobeys him. This violence parallels the experiences of Awad in the first section of the novel while he was in prison, and the novel makes the parallel relationships quite clear. The words and phrases used to describe the master/slave relationship of the state to the Nubians are then used to define the role of the Nubian man to the Nubian woman. She is the real victim of oppression, Assad argues, more so than her husband is. The Nubian patriarchy dominates women as much as the Egyptian state violates the Nubian people.
Jennings (2009) presents a somewhat different take on the post-dam, patriarchal Nubian society. She indicates that many Nubians resent the disregard and disrespect that they often feel they get from the Arab Egyptians. However, in the traditional Nubian village, although women were dependent on men for money, men were just as dependent on women for the upkeep and running of the home. Furthermore, the villagers considered the spheres of men and women to be roughly equal in importance, Jennings (2009) insists.
Abbas, Fatin. 2014. “Egypt, Arab Nationalism, and Nubian Diasporic Identity in Idris Ali's Dongola: A Novel of Nubia.” Research in African Literatures 45(3): 147-166
News and reviews of publications relating to peaceful societies—and sometimes to related topics—are normally posted here on Thursday mornings (U.S. time) and are kept on this page for one week. Older news and reviews for 2015 are listed below, and ones from previous years are listed on the News and Reviews 2004-2005 page, the 2006 page, the 2007 page, the 2008 page, the 2009 page, the 2010 page, the 2011 page, the 2012 page the 2013 page, and the 2014 page. All stories are also included in the News and Reviews Subject Listing. They are listed at the bottom of each society entry in the Encyclopedia of Selected Peaceful Societies, after the heading: Updates: News and Reviews. News and reviews about peacefulness in general are referred to from the bottom of the Facts page, while news stories about this website are linked from the About This Website page. News and Reviews can also be found with the Google search bar.
June 18, 2015. Orang Asli Land Rights
June 18, 2015. Photos of the Hutterites
June 11, 2015. Truth and Reconciliation for the Inuit
June 11, 2015. An Erection Points toward Peace on Ifaluk
June 4, 2015. The President Visits the Ju/’hoansi
June 4, 2015. A Dam Could Destroy Indigenous Communities [journal article review]
May 28, 2015. Yanadi Prohibited from Entering the Forest
May 28, 2015. Tahitians Cherish their Natural Heritage
May 21, 2015. The Lepchas Want Teachers
May 21, 2015. The English Are Coming, the English Are Coming—Run! Hide!
May 14, 2015. Inuit Men Helping Each Other
May 14, 2015. Overcoming Memories of Violence [journal article review]
May 7, 2015. Problem Drinking on Tristan da Cunha
May 7, 2015. Progress among the Ladakhis
April 30, 2015. Ju/hoan Man Appointed to Government Position
April 30, 2015. Semai Women Making Progress
April 23, 2015. Hutterite Innovations and Commitments
April 23, 2015. The Popularity of Redshirts [journal article review]
April 16, 2015. Resettlement Plans for the Malapandaram
April 16, 2015. Hard Hats for Amish Workers
April 9, 2015. Nunavimmiut Face the Future
April 9, 2015. Searching for Life in the Kalahari
April 2, 2015. Oil Palm Prosperity
April 2, 2015. Designs for Energy Efficiency
March 26, 2015. Is Baltistan Peaceful?
March 26, 2015. Semai Place Names Help Preserve Forests—and Peacefulness [journal article review]
March 19, 2015. Paliyans Obtain Better Housing
March 19, 2015. Some Hutterites Use iPhones
March 12, 2015. Archaeological Discoveries and the Media
March 12, 2015. Promises to Nubians in Wadi Qurqur
March 5, 2015. Unicorns, and the Mbuti, Are Troubled by Violence
March 5, 2015. Unicorns, Peaceful Societies, and Peace Systems
February 26, 2015. Paliyans Learn to be Guides
February 26, 2015. Inuit Experiences of Historical Traumas [journal article review]
February 19, 2015. Coltan Mining Fosters Violence
February 19, 2015. Yanadi Economic Tragedies and Successes
February 12, 2015. Human Trafficking in Rural Thailand
February 12, 2015. Donald Kraybill to Retire
February 5, 2015. Publicity for Lepcha Cardamom Crops
February 5, 2015. A French Polynesian Novel Portrays Tahitian Culture [journal article review]
January 29, 2015. A Love Jihad in Ladakh
January 29, 2015. A New Blog about the G/wi
January 22, 2015. The Kadar Preserve their Forests
January 22, 2015. Some Peaceful People Are Birdwatchers [a tenth anniversary reflection]
January 15, 2015. New Opportunity for Paliyan Youth
January 15, 2015. Update on a Birhor Tragedy
January 8, 2015. Review of the Tristan Year
January 8, 2015. Yanadi Woman Advocates Human Rights
January 1, 2015. Piaroa Women Protest Violence
January 1, 2015. Ice Stupas in Ladakh