|Home | Contact us | Links | Archives|
|Obituary: Bashir Farah Kahiye, The Body Retires But The Dream Remains|
Obituary: Bashir Farah Kahiye, The Body Retires But The Dream Remains
Death ends a life, not a relationship.
Upon hearing of the death of Bashir Farah Kahiye, my brain immediately raced down memory lane to one of my most memorable and treasured encounters with him. It was summer. The sun was just spreading its warmth over the earth after a cold morning shower. Through the open window where I was sitting in class, I could see beads of water dripping from the leaves of the Sogsog tree standing in a pool of clean rainwater. Flowers were opening up and stretching their petals as if welcoming the new day just like a dutiful woman would fling the windows of her house open to let in the morning breeze and sunshine. Birds were fluffing their wings and hobbling from one branch to another in an apparent confusion of choice due to the abundance of food and beauty. A light breeze carrying a whiff of wet earth was caressing my face with the gentle touches of an artist’s brush. Everything was fresh and new. It seemed as if life and time were just beginning.
“Sit down,” he said, as the students jumped to their feet. He immediately headed for the black board and wrote the letters B and P. He was our teacher of English, Mathematics, Social Studies, Arabic and other subjects. A lean, young man with a radiant smile, an inquisitive but a reassuring look and was full of life. And together the teacher and his class, we were the hope of the nation, the leaders of tomorrow.
“Look here,” he said, holding a paper before his mouth.
“B… B… B…”
“Did you see the paper move?”
“No, teacher,” said the class in unison.
“Let us do it again with the letter “P” and see what happens to the paper.”
“P… P… P…” he said and the paper quivered with the puff generated by the release of the air trapped in his tightened lips.
This was Bashir Farah Kahiye, teaching us the alphabet in the mid sixties of the last century at Dilla Elementary School. This was the time when the teacher was held on a high pedestal, the school had the status of the house of God, and students looked up to the teacher as an embodiment of everything sublime in life.
This was the age of giants in the history of our people. The age of great men of religion who had the prudence to draw a line between religious teachings and the indigenous culture. The age of sages who maintained peace and harmony among the community with traditional wisdom. The age of cultural icons who archived the collective memory of the society in beautiful poetry, folk dances and tribal mythology.
With the independence euphoria still fresh in people’s minds, this was the age of big dreams; the independence anniversary was celebrated with pomposity and fanfare; great hopes and expectations were still attached to the Ubaxa soo koraya; rain was abundant, the country was lush green and all kinds of wildlife roamed in the countryside. It was a time when Somali people sang patriotic songs with zest and hope for the unification of all Somali territories. Djibouti was still under French rule; we sang “Iska jir cadawga kula jecel inaad jabtoonad joogsan oo Jabuutaay…” We wrenched our young hearts for the Somali people in what was then known as the Reserved Area, we sang for them “Hawd iyo Danood, haadaamo mee...” We poured our tender emotions over our brothers in the NFD; we sang for them, “NFD dhankeedaa, dhinacaa Jabuuti, dhulka la iga haysto, ee dhaxal wareegay, inaan dhagar ku galo oo dhiig qulqulo ayaan ku dhaarsanee, dhakhsaa la arkayaa, dhowaan la eegayaa inaynu dhacsanee…”
It was the era of hypnotic music, of great singers whose melodies have inflamed emotions of patriotism and love. It was the time when all Somali speaking people woke up in the mornings with Radio Mogadisho’s “Arooryo Suuban, Subax wanaagsan, Soomaaliyoo dhan wada salaanay,” and went to bed in the nights with Radio Hargeisa’s “Tani waa Hargeysoo, Hirarka gaaban idinkala hadlaysee, Habeen wanaagsan, ... waan hoyanayaaye, habeen wanaagsan.”
It was the age when the wind of change was blowing over Africa. When the fathers of freedom were holding the staff, pointing to the glow of dawn over the horizon. A horizon they alone could see. We followed them, we trusted them; why shouldn’t we? It was the age of trust, of blind faith anyway. It was the age of Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere , Jomo Kenyatta, Patrice Lumumba, Léopold-Sédar Senghor and other tall sons of the African dream team. As children we were quizzed on their names, we memorized their mantras and we grew up in their vision. It was the age when the African light was emerging from “the heart of darkness”; when Africa was the heaven on earth, when the Africans had plenty of food and abundant milk. Africa was the darling of our young hearts thanks to Bashir Kahiye and his colleagues who initiated us into that beautiful age of romanticism.
When I remember Bashir Farah Kahiye, I remember him not only as a teacher, but I remember the whole epoch, the history, the geography, the culture, the fresh smell of our soil after a morning rain and above all the DREAM.
Bashir Kahiye was one of the last of a generation of men and women who had imbibed on western education and had their feet so firmly in the rich culture of our people.
I met him not long ago in Abu Dhabi. We recalled, we reminisced and we relished talking about anecdotes, stories, poetry, folk tales and religious hymns of yester years and we talked about the big DREAM that went sour but was still fresh and vivid in our hearts. At this time, Bashir Kahiye was not in the best of his health. He was a man run out of energy and strength, but not of mental power, of humor and of radiance. He was weak and emaciated. Diabetes had taken over his body. Life and dreams were crumbling around him; yet he was a man full of hope, of ambition and of optimism. This was the man I sat in his class and listened to him utter the first letters of the Alphabet for my colleagues and me, the alphabet that made me an African patriot first and a global citizen second, the Alphabet that changed my life forever and forged an everlasting bond between a teacher and his student.
As my namesake, I cannot forget the day I asked him to write my name for me in English. He took the pencil with the care of a compassionate brother, lifted my exercise book with the extreme dexterity of an old teacher and jotted down my name with his beautiful handwriting as BASHIR GOTH. God knows how I would have written my name without him? May be BASHEER GOUD or BASHEER GOOD, BASHEIR GOUTE or even sacrilegiously BASHIER GOD as unassuming friends and foreigners alike sometimes write my name. This is how I owe even my name to Bashir Kahiye and this is why I remember him and the good old days with a lump in my throat and warm tears welling up my eyes. An age swept away by the cruel hand of time and a dream buried under the boots of stupid and ignorant soldiers.
Bashir Kahiye was not an ordinary teacher. He was a man cut for the job. It was not his dedication, his intelligence and his knowledge only that impressed us most as children, but also his humor, his finesse, the ease and the effortless manner in which he made us see the light of education.
In every subject he taught us, from the difficult multiplication table, to soil erosion, a subject he taught us in Arabic as Injiraf Al Turba, to English language and Arabic lyrics in which he sang for us in his sonorous voice, Bashir Kahiye was like a man empowered with special gifts and spirits that enabled him to reach the inner depths of our young, impressionable minds; childhood impressions that last as long as one lives and breathes.
In my subsequent formative years, I met him but few times, and every time I met him I saw in him the same authoritative but compassionate look the same unpretentious but radiant smile.
Being the longest serving Chairman of the Somali Curriculum Board, Bashir Farah Kahiye, was a household name to thousands of Somalis who attended school from the mid seventies to the mid eighties.
An educator par excellence who left his mark in the lives and history of the Somali people, Bashir Kahiye was born in the late 1940s in the town of Aw Barre, located on the Ethiopian side of the western border between present day Somaliland and Ethiopia.
After attending elementary school in Aw Barre and completing his intermediate education in Amoud, Bashir Kahiye had enrolled in the Teachers’s Training College where he started his rendezvous with his long service in the country’s education system. Soon after graduation, he was appointed as a teacher and had worked in many parts of the country among them Dilla Elementary School where I was one of the lucky ones he taught at the beginning of his teaching service.
Bashir Kahiye was among the first to graduate from the Lafole College of Education and would soon after start his long and productive career as the Chairman of the Somali Curriculum Board. A brilliant mathematician and a man with rare intelligence, Bashir Kahiye has pioneered the translation process of the curriculum of Somali secondary schools into Somali. He shouldered with his colleagues in the Curriculum Board the onerous task of finding Somali words for the mathematical and scientific terminology of the school syllabus.
He won a scholarship in the early 1980s and obtained a Masters degree in education from the U.K. As a man destined to tread the road of education, he soon embarked on a new educational project as the head of the Intensive Teachers Training Program, ITT, for refugees. A position he kept until he was appointed as Minister of Trade and Industries in the dying days of the military regime.
After the collapse of the Somali Military junta, Bashir Kahiye was again in tryst with time; this time helping the people of the Somali region in Ethiopia to rehabilitate their education system after the devastation left by the departure of the military regime there.
Upon his return to Somaliland in the middle of the nineties, Bashir Kahiye was appointed as the governor of the Awdal Region by the first government of Mohammed Ibrahim Egal. Though he stayed a very short time in power, Borama people recall how he revived the deteriorating economy of the town by reducing customs duties and how he re-ignited a spirit of hope and enthusiasm among the people. It was during his term that the dream of Amoud University was born and it was he who officiated the establishment of this first institution of higher learning in Somaliland.
Bashir Kahiye could have led a comfortable albeit corrupted life in continuing to serve the government, but being a man of integrity he refused to compromise on his morals and had resigned from office with his fame and dignity in tact.
He participated in the Somali Reconciliation Conference held in Arta, Djibouti, in 2000 and became a member of the Arta elected interim parliament. After spending only a few months in Mogadishu, Bashir Kahiye’s was again on a collision course with the devious plans and survival tactics of the Arta regime. He soon realized that he was not ready to waste more of his precious time trying to redeem the unredeemable. He packed his bags and returned to Somaliland where he lived as an ordinary citizen until he passed away.
With Bashir Kahiye’s death, disappear all his worldly titles and credentials, but most certainly his soul will thrive amongst us as long as those he taught and trained live on the face of the earth. The body has retired but the dream remains; true to Albert Pike’s words “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
Bashir Sh. Omer Goth.