By Rachid Khouya
By Rachid Khouya
Morocco World News
Es-Smara, Morocco, April 7, 2012
A poet, a translator, a wordsmith, a teacher, a scholar and above all a free Moroccan Soul
I heard of the man from many gurus of English in the Moroccan Association of Teachers of English (MATE) and I wish I had had the opportunity to meet him, talk to him, and learn from him. No words can be sufficient to introduce the man and to talk about his life, ideas, achievements, writings and dreams. Mr. Abu-Talib lived to teach and died to teach. His students, colleagues and friends are the ones who have inherited his knowledge and characteristics and passed them to a new generation of teachers. So if teachers of English can see today more than what Professor Abu-Talib saw, it is because they stand on his shoulders.
Unfortunately, nowadays many teachers do not know Abu-Talib and what he did for the teaching of English in Morocco and also for the teaching of Moroccan culture both inside and outside the kingdom. This week, while reading a publication of MATE that was dedicated to the memory of Mohamed Abu-Tailib, I decided to share some ideas with my colleagues and Moroccan youth about this great figure in the history of EFL in Morocco and share what some of his students and Moroccan university teachers and scholars said about him in their tributes.
Mohammed Abu-Talib is a Moroccan citizen. He was born in 1933 in Fez and died at the age of 67 on November 25, 2000 in Rabat. He was a professor at Mohamed V University, in Morocco. In 1959, He got his BA in English and BS in Education from Jacksonville State University in Alabama. Then, he traveled to Howard University in 1964 where he got his MA in English. Mr. Abu –Talib studied Spanish at Guanajuata University in Mexico and Santander in Spain, then German at Heidelberg University in Germany. He taught Arabic, Spanish and German too.
When he died, Mr. Abelatif Zaki, the ex-president of MATE, mourned him saying that “Professor Abu-Talid was a great teacher. He honored his profession and cherished his practice. He held the exceptional and unique talent of bestowing knowledge, insight and experience on all those who got close to him, let alone those who invoked or sought him for learning.” He added, “to our profession he gave precious heritage of a code of conduct whose principles are grounded in the quest for excellence, the pursuit of leadership, the value of self-respect, the merit of hard work and the obligation of facing the challenges to our culture and civilization but also the responsibility of challenging this very culture and civilization when they are not stubborn to understand and take evolution for the natural law it is.”
Being nearly the only member of MATE who paid his dues and membership from year 1 to year 21, who contributed to the organization of most of its conferences, who spoke at most its National Conferences and Regional MATE days, Mr. Zaki acknowledged that Mr. Abu-Talib “did challenge established ways and walks but his way was not to raise upheavals but instill change from within and gradually. He did just that all his life, teaching, coaching, education, communicating, watching for sparks but also prompting excitements and thrill towards the quest for innovation and excellence.”
As a poet, his poetry in English is a unique tothe 20th century. Mr. Mohamed Najbi wrote in his article: “He lived merrily and trusted to good verses,” and explained that, “what is distinctive about his poems is that they do not sate the emotions he experienced. Rather, they tell us their causes and circumstances. Presented vividly, these not only convince us of the authenticity of the emotions but also make us dramatically feel them. This is the craftsmanship of a great poet” as Si Najbi concluded because “each poem in Whispers of Anger has a long history, too.”
For his part, Bouchaib Idrissi-Bouyahyaoui who was of the first young boys who learned English from Abu-Talib, wrote, “Professor Abu-Talib has dedicated his life, for the past 37 years or so, to the reaching profession which he has served in many capacities; first a teacher, supervisor in the secondary school system, then instructor, full professor and chairman of the department, and recently as a member of the Royal Commission for the Foundation of Al Akhawayne University in Ifrane”
According to Mr. Bouchaib Idrissi-Bouyahyaoui, Abu-Talid is a scholar whose “interest, learning, and research are multifarious. He likes to raid many disciplines at the same time in order to sustain his restless, often impatient intellect” And as a teacher, “Professor Abu –Talib looks for students who go beyond what is required of the course. His favorite student is the student explorer, the one who finds out for himself. He prefers the student traveler, the ones who plans ahead for the journey to the student tourist, the one whose activity is guided by the tour operator.”
To sum up this brief introduction of Si Mouhammed Abu-Talib, let me quote professor Fatima Sadiqi’s words about the spirit of Abu-Talib when she said in her tribute to him that “he had a rare combination of qualities that everyone who knows him or worked with him acknowledges brilliant intellect of extraordinary speed and clarity, a vast knowledge, an empowering philosophy of life, a perfect bled of wisdom, compassion and practical experience, an apparently inexhaustible supply of patience and human understanding, a unique sense of humor, and a cheerful and optimistic temperament.” She continued that “He belongs to a breed of intellectuals that is sorely needed nowadays to restore the character ethics in Moroccan thinking.”
He died in 2000 but his soul will always be a candle that lights the way for us in the long way and night of change and reform. Moroccans need to know and teach the lives of such men and women to younger generations. It is a shame not to know and not to teach the ideas, poems, articles and books of our teachers to our students and citizens because those who ignore themselves and their history will never know others’ stories and histories. God bless your soul professor Abu –Talib and be sure that they, “burried you not dead, but alive.” He was like the poet who said:
I burn my candle at both sides,
It will not last the night.
But ah, my foes, and Oh, my friends,
It gives a lovely light.
Edited by Benjamin Villanti
Rachid Khouya is a teacher of English in Es Smara city, south of Morocco. He obtained a Bachelor Degree in English studies from Ibn Zohr University in Agadir. He published many articles and stories in different regional and national Moroccan newspapers. He is an active member of MATE (Moroccan Association of Teachers of English). He is interested in education, human rights and citizenship (Email: [email protected]).
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