"Address at the Conference held on 3rd June, 1950 to inaugurate two Associations for Muslim teachers"

Dr.  Howes, Distinguished Guests and fellow teachers or may I say fellow school masters, since our Chief Guest has just indicated his preference for that term.

My first duty is one of thanks-giving saying Alhamdulillah, Praise be to Allah, which is also the motto of our Zahira College, for the very successful Conference we are now having;  thanking  you  fellow teachers, who are assembled in such large numbers from all parts of the country. As a matter of fact I have not seen such a large gathering of Muslim Teachers before, and I feel certain that in the experience of all of us present here, this is the largest gathering of our teachers that has ever assembled. I am  therefore  really grateful and feel truly honoured that you have on this occasion unanimously chosen  me  as  the  Chairman of  this very important Conference. I feel confident that today's proceedings are going to initiate a new movement in the sphere of our Education and invoke in us an enthusiasm unknown previously. I know that your choice is not so much a recognition of my personal worth, as a recognition accorded to the institution which I represent and in whose hall we are now assembled. Your election of me as Chairman is an indication of the special place that Zahira has in your  hearts,  and the lofty position it occupies in Muslim Education. I thank you again for this great honour and I promise that I shall render all assistance to the utmost of my powers to make this Conference a success. My thanksgiving is not ended, for it is my duty on behalf of all of us present here to thank you, Sir, for having come here despite heavy pressure of work. I know that very important discussions are going on at the present moment probably at Cabinet level, in regard to the shape that Education has to take in the near future, and in regard to the early pronouncement of the policy on Education for which the country has been eagerly and impatiently waiting for since the inauguration of the New Constitution; and I can guess how busy you are at present. Although you have just stated very modestly that you are a mere adviser and that policy making is really beyond you, knowing your experience and knowledge in matters educational and the interest you have  in the children of Ceylon to whom you have just made several references and the authority which in consequence your views carry and having on two occasions,  worked in Ministry offices, I can reasonably guess to what  great  extent  that policy is being, and can be shaped and influenced by you.
Some of your characteristics I did know before you addressed us this afternoon. I  have  had  the  privilege  as  the  Secretary  of  the Ceylon Headmasters' Conference, of  participating  in a  few  of the Conferences summoned at your instance, to discuss the broad outlines of what I am tempted to call the Howes Plan with  special reference to the denominational schools of this country. I therefore know that you firmly believe that bureaucratic uniformity and administrative tidiness however useful they may be in other sphere are positively baneful in the  sphere of Education and that you are always keen on having no faith in rigid definitions that impede progress. You, Sir have  always  stressed from the time of your arrival in Ceylon that in education the pride of place truly belongs to the child.
At this stage, I am reminded of a story which I came across some time back. A teacher, a good mathematician he was, having taught his boys all about fractions asked  whether  there was any difference between half an orange and four eights of an orange. Many of the boys said that there was no difference, but one little boy loudly dissented. He said than half an orange was more than four eights because there was a lot of juice lost when the orange was cut into eight pieces. Thereby he stressed though unconsciously the harm that could be done to education by a bureaucratic mentality wedded to uniformity, centralisation,  rigid  formulas and logical definitions. Very happily for us and very happily for Education, you Sir, appreciate that the solitary boy's answer though perhaps mathematically wrong is sociologically very sound.
It is not therefore surprising that you Sir, have highly commended the first resolution that is going to be moved shortly at this Conference, which reads as follows : "Appreciating that we as teachers should place the child at the centre of our  educational  thinking  and  practice  and  that  we shall fail as teachers  without  a  sympathetic  understanding  of  the  child's  culture  and environment,  we  do  hereby  resolve  to  take,  both  collectively  and  individually,   all  steps  as  are  necessary  for  the  promotion  of  this comparatively modern aim in Education." The resolution  emphasises  that this aim of a child-centered education is comparatively modern. And I would request my fellow teachers here to pay special attention to that aspect of the matter and avoid  thinking  still  in  terms  of  mere reading, writing and arithmetic as the be all and end all of education forgetting that emotions  are  as important as intelligence, and that unless we take cognisance of the child's sentiments, his phobias, his day-dreams, his  fantasies and his social climate, we shall be definitely failing in our duty of preparing the child for life which is the true aim of  education as understood today in all the advanced and progressive countries of the world.
I know for certain that, you Sir, will never devise an educational scheme in which it would be found at a given hour on a given day in the week the same lesson being taught in the same way by the same type of teacher to the same type of boy. In your scheme, the child will be given a central place and even his indiosyncracies will not be forgotten. You said, Sir, that you are responsible for all the children of Ceylon and not merely a group of them. When we emphasize that  our  children  should have education with their cultural background we imply always, and let me state it explicitly on this occasion, that the children belonging to various cultural groups should have education with their own cultural background.
I have been so far referring to your characteristics which I knew even before your address this afternoon. But I have just come to know of some other characteristics of yours of which I was not previously aware. You Sir, referred to the  various  notes,  memoranda  and  letters  I have sent you concerning education and particularly Muslim Education. I was naturally not sure whether you had read them or whether with your present pressure of work I could even expect you to have read them. I was very happy indeed when you mentioned in your speech that you had in fact read them. I surely must take this opportunity of thanking you, and assuring you that this will in no way encourage me to burden  you with superflous memoranda. I did not know before that you placed a special  emphasis  on the teaching of religion to children, and I was very happy indeed to hear from you a few minutes back that it is your  conviction  that  education  will  be  lopsided  faulty and incomplete without an important part being assigned to religion. We Muslims have always been and are still zealous advocates of that view. And it may interest you, Sir, to know that we have been educationally backward and we are still educationally backward, because we were not prepared to risk our children forsaking or even ignoring our religion. We could not give our full co-operation to the State when the State was indifferent to Religion in the sphere of Education and when the Government interpreted State neutrality in a  very  narrow  sense.  We are somewhat different from our fathers and grandfathers in that we are now adquately conscious that we are really and truly backward in Education and in that we are now resolved to make full amends. The attitude of the State itself has altered materially since the days of the Donoughmore Constitution and with its acceptance of full responsibility towards the growing citizens in the matter of education and its emphasis on religion we are naturally looking forward to a whole hearted co-operation between the State and ourselves.
Teachers naturally play a very important part in education, even in child centered education and you Sir have rightly emphasised in your speech that is not the spacious hall nor the airy class room alone that matters in education so much as teachers. We are deeply conscious of this, because in our own case we know that our education did not begin to progress till there was a fair number of our own teachers. There was very little progress in the primary education of our children throughout the country till the special Institutions at Alutgama and Addalaichenai were established discarding old bureaucratic formula and past prejudices. And the teachers trained there went to the remotes of Muslim villages with the encouragement of the Government and imparted education with the necessary cultural background. A child-centred education was not  possible  during the previous period, as the cultural background vitally necessary in the education of the child was almost totally absent. As a result the response of the  parents  was  poor,  and  the party who suffered most was the child.  The injury that was thereby done is still visible in our Community.
Some of you present may be tempted to think that I am high-lighting the contributions of  Addalaichenai  and  Alutgama  even to the extent of disregarding Zahira, because of my being overwhelmed by the honour you have just given me of presiding today. That certainly is not the case. Some of you would remember the occasion when I was present in 1944 at the Alutgama Training College and had the opportunity of speaking to the trainees then. At that time I referred to a letter which I had addressed to Mr. Mashoor, on his appointment as the Principal. In that letter I stated that he was in a position to make a very substantial contribution to the promotion of Muslim education in Ceylon and I still stand by that statement. Any impartial person who goes into the relevant statistics will quite realise that before these two institutions were established, our education was really in a woeful state in spite of the presence of a few English educated young men here and there. On the education of our Community depends the fate of the Community. Such an education should spread throughout the Community and not be merely confined to the wealthy and the upperclasses or just a locality or two. This has been the experience of all progressive countries and whatever might have been the beliefs some of us held in the past, today we are able to say with confidence that in the social and political structure  of  any country the primary education of the country's children constitutes  the  only sound foundation for a stable and enduring structure.
There was a time, no doubt, when reading, writing and artithmetic were considered to be everything in education. That position no longer obtains and you, Sir have emphasized this aspect at practically every meeting that you have addressed. Let me assure you Sir, that we are conscious of our duties in this sphere and shall  endeavour  to discard old and outmoded theories of education in our efforts. We do appreciate the lack of suitable text books, dramas and plays for our children and the necessity for educating the parents of our children in order to achieve our object of a child-centred education. I can assure you, Sir, on behalf of those present here that when our two new Associations, one for the Government Teachers and the other for the Teachers in the Assisted Schools, are formed we shall give  high  priority to these matters, a higher priority than that given to the very important question of our salaries and promotion – prospects. The second resolution to be moved at the Conference reads that "we assembled at this Conference do hereby resolve to form two Associations, one of teachers teaching in Government Schools; and the other of teachers in  Assisted  Schools,  for the purpose; inter alia, of promoting modern educational aims, of safeguarding our rights and making representations  whenever  necessary  to the Government on questions of education and employment." Let us remind ourselves that the first place is definitely given to the promotion of modern educational aims.
We do realize,  and  you,  Sir  have  always reminded the teaching profession of this, that our duty to our children is even greater than our duty to ourselves and our stomachs. I think it is Goerge Bernard Shaw who said that he who can does, he who cannot teaches. Like other clear sayings, this is not quite accurate. As far as we are concerned, I should like to point out to you, Sir that a good majority of us or practically all of us, could have done better, from a purely monetary point of view, outside the teaching profession. But our leaders had pointed out to us in emphatic and compelling terms that there was going to be no salvation for our Community unless the Community itself produced a satisfactory quota of teachers; and we were rightly persuaded by them. Modern society which is money minded may give no status to the teacher; but that is not the attitude of our religion or of our society in its good and glorious days. We shall therefore not forget your exhortaion that we teachers should be missionaries in education.
You, Sir, have stated that you welcome Teachers' Associations and that you  are glad to find that  today  we  are  going  to  form new Teachers' Associations and that from your point of view and from our point of view it is best that important matters are dealt with collectively and not individually. We are very much heartened by your encouraging words and we do assure you, Sir, that we  shall  make  our  new organizations most beneficial to ourselves, to the Department of Education and more important to Education itself. We are really sorry that this inauguration had to wait so long, and the Associations that are going to be formed immediately after this Conference were not formed much earlier. We are  sorry  that  the  activities  of  the provincial or district organisations some of us have had in the past were not sufficiently co-ordinated. And yet we are not discouraged for we have learnt lessons from our past experiences which are bound to be extremely useful in the future,  and  particularly  in  the  near  future. Perhaps an auspicious beginning was awaited and there can be no more auspicious circumstances than those prevailing  today  and  no better patron than you Sir, our new Director of Education who is going to give us a plan and a Programme, the absence of which is responsible for the many difficulties of the present. Your kind words, your  encouraging words will be remembered throughout the history of our new Association.
You Sir, have participated in our Conference at short notice and at great personal inconvenience and I cannot adequately thank you on behalf of all of us present here on this occasion and also on behalf of the few teachers who are absent due to unavoidable circumstances. We do promise you that we shall always remember your words and co-operate with you to the very best of our ability in the fulfillment of the ideal of a child-centred and activity dominated education that you have held up before us.

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