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2 Instituts Islamiques Naharu Djoliba and Yattabaré: Introducing the Main Actors of the Islamic Schooling Field in Bamako

2 Instituts Islamiques Naharu Djoliba and Yattabaré: Introducing the Main Actors of the Islamic Schooling Field in Bamako

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88



E. Roy



with several owners, principals, and teachers in various médersas, and I undertook

participant observation in classrooms in these médersas. Due to the cooperation of

their owner, two médersas in particular, the Institut Islamique Naharu Djoliba and

the Institut Islamique de Yattabaré, will be used as examples throughout, since the

data gathered are extensive and cover a period starting in May 2005 up until August

2013.

The Institut Islamique (of Yattabaré) is a well-known and renowned médersa in

Bamako. Cheickna Yattabaré, a learned man with close ties to Saudi Arabia, founded

the school in 1958 in the Niaréla neighborhood.2 The school later moved to its current location in Medina Coura, close to the Stade Omnisport Modibo Keita. The

current building, two stories high with an enclosed courtyard, is well maintained

and spacious with fully furnished, airy, and well-lit classrooms. The courtyard of

the school is also well equipped with basketball nets, a small parking lot for the

students’ and teachers’ scooters, and information signs in French and Arabic. In

1985, as soon as it was possible, the Institut Islamique registered with the Ministère

de l’Éducation to become one of the first formally recognized médersas in Mali.

Since then, the school and some of its employees have actively participated, with

some success, in the design of the official curriculum3 for médersas as well as in the

preparation of a nation-wide examination for the Baccalauréat diploma. This

médersa teaches in both French and Arabic, although more time is dedicated to

Arabic. The school is now owned and run by Abdul Aziz Yattabaré, a well-educated

man of great personal charisma and prestige. Although I have met with Mr. Yattabaré

on numerous occasions, both at his school and at other work-related functions, I

mostly worked in collaboration with his director of studies, Mr. Kaba. The latter is

a graduate from the Islamic University of Medina and, although language proved

challenging between us (his French was limited, my Arabic and Bamanankan were

weaker), he was able to provide invaluable information on the Institut Islamique.

For the school year 2010–2011, 921 pupils (gender-segregated classes for the first

cycle, grades 1–6, and mixed classes for the rest) were registered at the fundamental

level and 236 at the lycée level, making the Institut Islamique one of the biggest

médersas in Bamako. Teachers of the first cycle usually have a Baccalauréat degree;

teachers of the second cycle (grades 7–9) have a “local Islamic diploma”4; teachers

2



The history of the school and of Cheickna Yattabaré can be found in Brenner (2001).

It is interesting to note here that I inquired at the Ministère de l’Education Nationale about how

to get a copy of the official curriculum (of the Ministry) for médersas. I was told that no copies

were available in any of the Ministry’s offices and that I should go to the Institut Islamique de

Yattabaré to find one. Upon my next visit to the Institut, I was able to buy the curriculum for the

fundamental cycle at 3000 FCFA francs and for the lycée at 5000 FCFA francs. These documents

were available at the Institut Islamique only because it is the headquarters of the Union Nationale

des Médersas, and Yattabaré is the director of the organization.

4

The status of this diploma remains unclear, since there are no Islamic Universities in Mali; the

diploma in question is either a License from the Arab Department at the Université de Bamako, or

a Baccalauréat from a médersa.

3



6



Arab Money in Malian Islamic Schools: Co-optation of Networks, Domestication…



89



at the lycée level have all studied in Arabic-speaking universities abroad. The lycée

offers a Humanities and Literature program, a scientific program, and a vocational

path. This is important, as it is the only médersa with professional training: 2 years

added to the Baccalauréat gives one a Certificat d’Aptitude Professionel, and 4

years in addition to the Baccalauréat allows one to obtain the Brevet de Technicien.

The Institut Islamique offers these diplomas so that the students can train as commercial employees, electricians, seamstresses, or accountants.

The Institut Islamique Naharu Djoliba is situated in the Badalabougou neighborhood. The médersa was founded in 1966 by the father,5 Amadou Kansaye, of the

current owner and director, Zakariyah Kansaye, and was registered with the government in 1985. This médersa teaches all subjects in Arabic, although it has French

and English classes (as second and third languages). Naharu Djoliba always had

close ties to Iraq (teachers came from there, and other Malian teachers went there

for training). Zakariyah Kansaye himself studied in Iraq and Jordan. The school

grounds are spacious and surrounded by one-story buildings where the classrooms—well furnished, large, well aired and lit—are located. The school is constantly under construction, as Mr. Kansaye builds classrooms on a second story

when more space is required and as funding becomes available. The school has 270

students at the fundamental cycle and slightly more than 200 at the lycée level.

There are slightly more male than female students.6 Although the school has a conflicted history in regard to the official curriculum, Naharu Djoliba is well known for

the quality of its scientific program at the lycée level. Indeed—and this is significant—Kansaye was able to find scholarships for his students to study medicine and

computer science in Sudanese universities and to pursue scientific diplomas at alAzhar University in Egypt. He points out with pride that students of other schools

“only” got theology diplomas at al-Azhar. Naharu Djoliba is the mother-school of a

network of satellite schools covering the entire country (including five in Bamako).

The functioning of these two schools, their sources of income, their internal

organization, the material they present to children, and the resulting values and

beliefs of the young men and women graduating from these schools are central to

my claim here. Indeed, although these two Instituts Islamiques are not representative of all médersas in Mali, or even in Bamako, they are influential in the milieu and

other schools take them as models. Their owners, teachers, and graduates are the

most likely to pursue successful careers in the public domain and to have a voice

that matters in the public sphere.



5



This man, the founder of the Institut Islamique Naharu Djoliba, in collaboration with Cheickna

Yattabaré (already mentioned), Sufiyana Dramé, of the médersa al-Hilal al-Islamiyya in

Hippodrome, and the founder of the al-Mohammediyya médersa, created the Union Nationale des

Médersas du Mali.

6

Mr. Kansaye explained that many of his female students left his médersa after the opening of an

all-girl médersa in the neighborhood.



90



6.3



E. Roy



Arab Aid in Bamako’s Médersas: Hopes and Failure



Following the oil crisis of 1973–1974, revenues for oil-producing Arab countries

increased spectacularly and prompted an augmentation in foreign aid to Africa.

Monetary aid takes three broad forms: (1) bilateral and multilateral aid, which

involves an agreement between Mali and one Arab state partner or organizations

financed by various countries (e.g. the Arab League) to Mali; (2) Islamic philanthropic sources of donations; and (3) the globalized personal network of individual

Malian arabisants. In terms of government-sponsored financing, this meant an average donation of about $5 billion a year between 1974 and 1977. This represented

30 % of the world’s public aid to Mali (Zarour 1989). In the decade of the oil boom,

more than $600 million was lent or given to the Malian Government alone (Brenner

2001). This does not account for all of the private donations made to particular

Malian educational institutions or individuals. The increased revenues from oil also

meant that individuals in oil-producing countries became increasingly rich and also

participated in the transfer of capital, although at a private level, toward Africa.

Assessing the exact amount of aid provided to Africa in general, and Mali in particular, by specific countries is difficult. Mertz and Mertz’s (1983) assessment of

statistics available for Arab aid to sub-Saharan Africa is that they are at best published haphazardly and, at worst, not at all. In addition, accountability and any form

of paper trail for a number of disbursements are not easily accessible, if at all.



6.4



Arab Aid in Monetary Form



I will limit discussions of this financial aid to general trends rather than exact numbers; suffice to say that the estimated sums are much smaller at present than they

were in the 1970s and 1980s.7 The exact numbers are less important here than the

acknowledgement that “[s]tates are not simply victims of determinants such as ‘civilization’ or ‘religion.’ They can and do use them and shape them in policy formulation and strategic choices” (Rudolph 1997: 244). Arab donations instrumentalize

religion in such a way. Bilateral donations to Africa have been the preferred means

to distribute development assistance for most Arab countries. Indeed, as explained

by Mertz and Mertz (1983), bilateral relations have clear advantages for donor

countries insofar as aid becomes a key element of foreign policy. This form of foreign policy through aid has historically been much more important for Arab than for

Western countries. Bilateral aid allows the donor to dictate with greater specificity

areas of particular importance for their own national interests. Bilateral donations

7



Most owners of médersas interviewed by me mentioned and bemoaned the drying up of funding

from Arab states in the past two decades. A notable exception at the time was Mr. Farraj at the

Centre Culturel Islamique de Hamdallaye. That being said, since the crisis developed in Libya—

the Centre Culturel’s main financial backer with the United Arab Emirates—the situation may have

changed.



6



Arab Money in Malian Islamic Schools: Co-optation of Networks, Domestication…



91



also permit maximum visibility and PR for the donor country—rather than funds

given to multilateral institutions where the individual donor country’s name disappears behind that of the institution (Mertz and Mertz 1983).

Prior to 1973, only three oil-producing countries—Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and

Libya—had given substantial amounts of money to African countries. Other countries, such as Egypt, were also involved early on in South–South cooperation. Kane

(1997) provides an explicit example of the instrumentalization of aid to a specific

Malian Sufi order (the Niassène Tijaniyya) by Nasser’s Egypt: Nasser provided

Ibrahim Niasse (the founder of the order) with scholarships to al-Azhar for his sons

and followers, with the aim of creating a class of youth favorable to Egypt, the

President, and his ideology. The popularity of the Egyptian President also involved

a wider dissemination of the pan-Arab secular nationalism he promoted. This

threatened Saudi Arabia and its own pan-Islamic policy and sparked a fierce competition between Egypt and Saudi Arabia for influence in the early years of African

independence (Kane 1997). However, and as opposed to Libya and Saudi Arabia,

Egypt’s influence on Mali has very little to do with its financial investment and more

with religious/cultural capital. Yet Egypt’s influence on politics and policies in the

Muslim world did go beyond the intellectual domination of al-Azhar University.8

By promoting a secularist, radical republicanism, Egypt prompted other Islamic

states to invest heavily in ostensibly or vaguely Islamic endeavors in order to

increase their influence abroad. Egypt’s activities prompted Saudi Arabia to act on

the African scene to regain influence and would also affect Libya’s policies toward

Africa. In the case of the Tijaniyya turuq, for example, the competition between

petro-monarchies and Nasser’s Egypt for influence meant funds were flowing from

the Gulf to Mali despite the Saudi disapproval of religious practices such as Sufism

(Kane 1997). However, Egypt’s defeat in the 1967 war against Israel, the death of

Nasser in 1970, and Egypt’s expulsion from the Arab League as a result of its peace

treaty with Israel in 1979, prompted and confirmed a major shift in the pecking

order of the Arab world, bringing Saudi Arabia to the forefront of both religion and

politics in the Muslim world (Fraser 1997).

Iraq, despite the secularist nature of its regime, largely participated in the aid and

subsidies to Africa to promote Arabic education. It gave scholarships for Africans

to study in Iraqi universities and funded many Islamic centers in Africa. As Kane

(1997) explains, “this generosity corresponded exactly with the outbreak of the

Iran–Iraq War. During this period, Iran undertook an intensive propaganda offensive

in black Africa against Iraq and the monarchies of the Gulf; Iran counted numerous

ardent supporters among young African Muslims, a number of whom had spent

time in Iran” (56). A beneficiary of this aid was Kansaye senior, the founder of the

Naharu Djoliba médersa, one of the biggest and most renowned in Bamako, who

has hosted Iraqi teachers and sent many graduates, including his own son Zakariah

Kansaye, to pursue higher education in Iraq.



8



The influence of al-Azhar University shall be further discussed in the section dealing with

scholarships.



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