Nubians and Chagossians: ‘Let them go home’

There are interesting parallels between the travails of the Nubians and the Chagossians. The Economist pleads in favour of returning the Nubians to their homeland, but it is unlikely that it will make a similar case for the Chagossians

‘Let them go home’ is the title of an article in the September 17, 2016 of the UK publication The Economist. There are interesting parallels between the travails of the Nubians and the Chagossians. The Economist pleads in favour of returning the Nubians to their homeland, but it is unlikely that it will make a similar case for the Chagossians as in their matter it is the UK government that is involved. Both groups have undergone similar injustices, and both are still awaiting justice.

According to that article, the Nubians belong to an ancient civilization that once occupied practically the whole of Egypt, but were split between Egypt and Sudan when the latter seceded from Egypt in 1956. They have traditionally lived on the banks of the Nile, but were displaced when the Egyptian government began to build a series of dams, of which the most famous is the Aswan dam with its Lake Nasser. Most of the architecturally rich monuments of Nubian culture are now buried under the waters of Lake Nasser.

As for Nubians themselves, tens of thousands of them ‘were forcibly resettled’ and have since ‘been marginalized politically, socially and economically’. Following the Egyptian uprising of 2011, though, latter-day Nubians have felt emboldened to become more assertive in demanding ‘their right to return to the area around their ancestral homeland.’ This has led to the new post-revolution Constitution of Egypt giving first official recognition of the Nubian homeland, and including article 236 which ‘sets out a Nubian right of return’.

Now this is where things get more interesting about the status of the Nubians and Chagossians respectively. Thus, a decree issued by the Egyptian President and approved by ‘Parliament in January, designates many of the villages to which Nubians hope to return as off-limits and under military control.’ Further, according to Mr Oddoul, a Nubian novelist who helped to rewrite the new Constitution, ‘Egypt’s corrupt institutions are working on preventing Nubians from returning so they can take over the Nubian land and use it for their benefit’.

If we paraphrase the above, we get a) ‘designates Diego Garcia to which Chagossians hope to return as off-limits and under military control’, and b) ‘The corrupt institutions of US and UK are still working on preventing Chagossians from returning so that they can continue to occupy the Chagossian land and use it for their benefit’.

Of course, the US and UK governments do not consider their institutions as corrupt, and project themselves as vibrant democracies and not dictatorships à la Middle East. What is clear, though, is that while the big powers wax eloquent about respect for the rule of law and human rights among others, in fact they are guided by two operational principles, namely: 1) there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests, and 2) might is right. Witness what is happening following the judgement about the South China Sea.

The Economist article ends with ‘The least the government could do is let Nubians go home’.

Will the UK government at least let the Chagossians go home?

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Teacher’s Day

On Wednesday last it was Teacher’s Day, and all teachers stayed at home. Brilliant isn’t it? One teacher and her college going son both joked about ‘Cheater’s Day’!

Nothing is what it used to be, which we should expect given that the only permanent thing is that change is the law of nature. However, things do not need to change for the worse. If they do not change for the better, at least they could retain some of the former features that gave such professions as teaching their lettres de noblesse.

As has been observed by some eminent thinkers, the increase in material progress has not been accompanied by a parallel increase in human wisdom, and thus the many risks and ills that contemporary society is facing. In fact, as we all know almost all of this progress has been brought about by advances in technology, of which a great driver in recent years has been IT devices of all kinds, smartphones, iPads and tablets among others. These latter are all available to teachers and students.

Keeping to IT terminology, we can say that we are flooded with a lot of hardware and software. So what is the missing ingredient because of which so much seems be going wrong across the board, not only in education but across all professions and fields of human activity in society at large, and all over the world? We have all known fabulous teachers and exemplary students. And even now they exist. The difference is that, whereas earlier malfunction used to be the exception, nowadays it has taken centre place, and affects all players and actors, all stakeholders concerned.

So it is with teachers and students. What is lacking is not software of the electronic type, but something more vital than that – the human software that is a mixture of kindness, goodness, honesty, mutual respect, devotion and dedication, professional commitment, the willingness to learn and to share knowledge, to dialogue and look at problems and situations in a spirit of understanding rather than blame-and-shame. In other words, that much misused and misunderstood word ‘attitude’ of one human towards another.

More fundamentally, though, it is the trusting relationship between teacher and pupil that ought to be the pivot of the educational system that has snapped, and no amount of hardware will restore that.

Parents, teachers, students, the authorities and institutions, society at large: we are all in it together, and together we will sink or float and rise above our ‘narrownesses’ and the mistrust that has crept in – if we so decide. If not, then no amount of ‘ipadding’ or ‘tabletting’ will be of any use in improving what fundamentally is a human issue. All we can say is good luck to all teachers, students and parents on this great day.

Incidentally, what about an ‘open day’ for education with round table discussions in the lap of nature next year on Teacher’s Day? Could be done in regions and at national level too. Something to think about, as teaching is about imparting thinking skills as well…

TP Saran

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