The age-old dream of the human caravan is not to send astronauts in their orbit in outer space.. it is to send its individuals - every single individual in his orbit of self-realization. It is high time that this dream be thus reinterpreted. It is also the sacred duty of every man and woman to help intelligently reorientate human endeavour towards the culmination of this pilgrimage.

Mahmoud Muhammad Taha - Answers to the questions of Mr. John Voll - 17.7.1963

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EDUCATION: A Letter Addressed to Mr. Osman Mahjoub
Dean Of The Institute Of Bakht AL-Ruda

Ustadh Mahmoud Muhammad Taha

This letter is written in December 24, 1958 and is translated into English by Dr. Mustafa Eljaili

Professional Education

I define professional education as any learning process that supports manual work perfection, regardless of whether the mind’s share on the work is larger (such as research or laboratory work), or the body’s share is the larger (as in carpentry work). For me, the astronomer, the mathematician, the physicist, the doctor, the engineer, the carpenter, and the builder are all professionals. Each of their jobs requires perfection and skill that demand much training and intensive drilling work. Eventually, any educator of a profession should provide learners with as much theory and practice on the job as possible, so that they attain top levels of perfection. That is neither easy, or at hand, but attempts are inevitable since the whole humanity is increasingly oriented towards more efficiency and further perfection.

In a country like ours, we are in bad need of the basic foundations, for at present, we rarely perform a work in a scientific or skillful style. Our professional education is controlled by three criteria, namely: (1) our financial abilities; (2) talents of our children; and (3) national need for various professions.

By financial abilities, I refer to the means needed to build schools, import the necessary equipment for scientific research, and pay for the provision of well-trained teachers. This is in addition to a general economic background that uplifts the living standards and improves mental and hygienic conditions of families.

On the other hand, by the phrase “talents of our children”, I mean the natural preparation of our offspring to become skillful engineers, able doctors, or genius mathematicians. We have to discover such capabilities in each child, then work to develop and refine them. Surely, not every child is able to become a doctor. If we tried to create a good doctor in a talented musician, for example, we would first ruin the talent, then misplace the child, and by that we loose a lot of social advantages. Hence, a special ability in a child should first be recognized, and then encouraged by education and improvement means in order to invest the best of it, for the sake of both the gifted and the society at large. In this, the consideration of males and that of females are of course equal.

Regarding the country’s demand for diverse professions, and following the recognition of children capabilities, we must control the professional education in accordance with our development priorities. For example, within certain duration of years, and in response to a scheduled plan, we should assign specified quotas of civil engineers, doctors, and so on. The objective is of course, to comprehensively upgrade the standard of living: economically, socially, mental and health-wise, in equity for all people, urban and rural. We ought not to construct big cities on the expense of the rural sector, leaving nomads as they are (or barely served), and thus, creating a huge social gab.

On the contrary, we should work to settle nomad citizens. That is through the provision of clean water, for them and for their animals, and through the conservation of sustained pastures, using modern equipment and scientific methods, such as irrigation and fodder storage means. Quality should take priority over quantity, in order to promote education and civilization fast, among the rural- as much as among the urban- citizens. The difference in provision is only in the content rather than the context. The concern of rural education is agriculture and animal husbandry and consequent products, while that of urban areas is directed at industry, commerce, and so forth. Of course this does not mean that rural people should not learn what the urban dwellers study; it rather means that their education, especially in its beginnings, should prepare them to skillfully deal with their local environment. In similar regards, what is said on rural areas applies on urban places.

I suggest that you do not limit the work of your committee to education alone, for education is practiced into a society that is influenced by lots of issues. If these issues are neglected, focusing the concern strictly onto the learning process, then education will not be as fruitful as it is hoped to be. This is mainly because the child does not reach the schooling stage, except after the primary effects had major impacts on his character that are hardly amendable by later schooling. These primary effects originate at his home environment, and the surrounding streets and neighborhood. Besides, the child is at school only for a limited time of the day, after which he returns to that environment which bears a permanent and a greater role on him than does the school. Thus, education planners had to cater for that environment, though, in its detail, it lies into the specialty of other circles. Co-operative efforts of all corporations are needed to bring up the good men of tomorrow from today’s children. Personally, I think that the Ministry of Education of our country should be the largest of all ministries. It becomes fully responsible for our human resource, cares for its quality and maintains the refinements, without which humans are not much better than animals.

The proposed ministry takes charge of children well being, since before birth. That is by regulating marriage, making sure that each couple who intend to marry are healthy and illegible to give birth, then to up-bring, fit new members. The Ministry thence follows up pregnancy and parenthood, and receives children for schooling at stages earlier than what we perform today. We should have educational stages that take care of youngsters at the age of five, in co-education schools, provided at every village. In order for that to be pragmatic we should agglomerate smaller settlements and dispersed households into well planned centers. A center had to be at an optimum location, and supplied with necessary services such as a market, a school, a health center, and a clean water source.