The Isles Minister of Education, Mr Ramadhan Abdalla Shaban, is expected to award the scholarship to her on behalf of a sponsor. He has been quoted as having said, “Awarding a university scholarship is a first here in Zanzibar, so we and the community are very excited about this and what it means for Salha and future winners of the Writers’ for Peace competition.”
He also praised the organisers of the event: Jahazi Ltd, a registered non-governmental organisation on the Isles, which was formed last May. Praise was also given them for putting-up the affair and providing the opportunity for young people to aspire towards becoming something great.
The Writers’ for Peace schools competition is designed to inspire school children and encourage them to nurture cultures that value education and peace. The organisers also acknowledge the reality that children make up half the population of many African countries and that they are the Continent’s future. It is them, who hold the key to changing Africa’s fortunes but they are also the most vulnerable.
This has lead them to believe that education is a key component, which could break it’s cycle of poverty and this is why Jahazi Ltd holds education and peace as its core values. The organisation’s Manager, Pamela Matthews, explained to the ‘Star’ through a telephone conversation on Friday that they are concerned with the lack of literacy in the country, which could threaten the region’s long-term development, as the level of literacy has declined over the past 20 years from 80 to 60 per cent.
She mentioned that at a recent “Pan African Reading For All” conference, Professor of Literature in the Institute of Kiswahili Research at the University of Dar-es-Salaam, Mugyabuso Mulokozi, said that the increase of illiteracy rate among Africans is threatening the development of the continent, as many do not have the skills needed to face the emerging challenges.
“Jahazi Ltd is working towards addressing this issue by working with the Ministry of Education. Its first Writers for Peace competition was launched in every school in Zanzibar (with Form 1 – 6) in July and was based on the late Wangari Maathai’s quote from Unbowed,” Ms Matthews explained.
The quotation she was referring to is, “…humanity needs to rethink peace and security and work towards cultures of peace by governing itself more democratically, respecting the rule of law and human rights, deliberately and consciously promoting justice and equity, and managing resources more responsibly and accountably – not only for the present but also for future generations.”
Using education as a platform, the Jahazi Ltd team launched the “Writers for Peace” competition, as part of its outreach commitment to the community. Peace and democracy was the theme chosen so as to encourage and promote debate on the subject with a university scholarship as the main prize.
Now this is how Salha got the opportunity of winning her way to university. When spoken to by the organisers, she said, “I can’t believe that I have won a university scholarship. I have always dreamed of becoming a writer and now my dream can become a reality.” The ‘Star’ also learnt that the Ministry of Education recorded over 3000 competition entries.
This is an all time high in the number of entries for a writing competitions launched in Zanzibar. This is also the first time that a university scholarship has been awarded in Zanzibar. The festivities are scheduled to start tomorrow at ten o’clock in the morning. The first festival was held last September 2 to 4, at the Old Fort, Livingstone and Peoples Museum in Stone Town.
However, now it can clearly be seen what people like Ms Matthews mean when they say the main aim for having the festival is to educate people through literature and music. “We want to provide a setting in which a meaningful cultural, educational and intellectual dialogue can take place between writer, musicians and festival goers.
Jahazi Ltd, through its sponsors, provides university scholarships to support the areas of literature and music here,” she added. She further went on to say that the festival seeks to introduce festival goers to local artists from both the Mainland and the Isles, together with other parts of Africa, Europe and the United States of America (USA).
For last September’s event they had the likes of the Moussa Diallo Quartet, Al Campos and Soul Harmonic. There was also Jaiza Bongo, Big 5, Maneno, Safar, Said, Mim Suleiman, Lord Malloch Brown, Tim Severin, Tishani Doshi, Haji Gora, Gilian Slovo, John de Silva, Jeffrey Allen and Fatma Jinja. Globalisation, conflict resolution, poetry, local culture and history featured through a combination of talks, while musicians drew audiences to live open-air concerts at the Old Fort and Livingstone.
The promotion of free expression encouraged open conversation and artists were able to freely engage with each other and festival goers. Ms Matthews reminded the ‘Star’ that music has always been used as conduits to connect people and jazz is particularly important, as its roots lie in Africa.