Karim F Hirji is a retired Professor of Medical Statistics and a Fellow of the Tanzania Academy of Sciences. A recognized authority on statistical analysis of small sample discrete data, the author of the only book on the subject, he received the Snedecor Prize for Best Publication in Biometry from the American Statistical Association and International Biometrics Society for the year 1989. He has published many papers in the areas of statistical methodology, applied biomedical research, the history and practice of education in Tanzania, and written numerous essays on varied topics for the mass media and popular magazines. He is the author of Exact Analysis of Discrete Data (Chapman and Hall/CRC Press, Boca Raton, 2005), Statistics in the Media: Learning from Practice (Media Council of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, 2012) and Growing Up With Tanzania: Memories, Musings and Maths (Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, Dar es Salaam, 2014). He also edited and is the main author of Cheche: Reminiscences of a Radical Magazine (Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, Dar es Salaam, 2011). His most recent books are The Enduring Relevance of Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Daraja Press, Montreal, 2017), The Banana Girls (Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, Dar es Salaam, 2017) and The Travails of a Tanzanian Teacher (Daraja Press, Montreal, 2018). He resides in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and may be contacted at kfhirji@aol.com.

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  • Religion, Politics, Science and Society: A progressive primer

    RELIGION DENOTES A SPIRITUALLY elevated moral disposition. Yet, religious strife is a rising and disturbing feature of the present era. It is a world-wide phenomenon. Hardly a region or religion is exempt as Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists and atheists fight against perceived adversaries. Denominations of particular religions battle each other too. As sharp lines are drawn over key issues, room for reconciliation evaporates. National leaders enter the fray, adding fuel to the fire. Arms are taken up. Violence ensues and people suffer. What causes such confrontations? Are they purely faith based conflicts? Have they always existed? Can they be resolved and prevented? Can we reconcile religion with science, or are they to remain perpetual foes, thus promoting further social divisions? The belief that these questions are too critical to be left to experts—theologians, historians or sociologists—is what motivated me to write this book. The author does not write from the vantage point of a particular religion or as a specialist. He writes as a fairly informed humanist who fully respects the inalienable right of any person to practice the religion of his or her own choice. The goal is to explore the interrelationship between religion, politics and society by employing evidence and reason while avoiding bias towards any system of divine faith or the lack of it. He adds to the work of others, but does not present original research findings. Rather, he distills a broad range of existing historical and modern material in an interdisciplinary fashion. By combining usually dispersed material, his aim is to portray modern day religious conflicts in the context of other conflicts and tendencies in human society. This book presents an analysis of globally important religions and secular ways of thought that can provide a basis for people with different perspectives to engage with each other in a peaceful and hopefully productive manner.

  • Under-Education in Africa: From Colonialism to Neoliberalism

    Under-Education in Africa: From Colonialism to Neoliberalism is a collection of essays on diverse aspects of educational systems that were written over a period of four and a half decades, written from the point of view of an activist educator.

    With the focus on Tanzania, they cover education in the German colonial era, the days of Ujamaa socialism and the present neo-liberal times. Themes include the social function of education, the impact of external dependency on education, practical versus academic education, democracy and violence in schools, the role of computers in education, the effect of privatization on higher education, misrepresentation of educational history, good and bad teaching styles, book reading, the teaching of statistics to doctors and student activism in education.

    Two essays provide a comparative view of the situation in Tanzania and the USA. Linking the state of the educational system with society as a whole, they explore the possibility of progressive transformation on both fronts. They are based on the author’s experience as a long-term educator, his original research, relevant books, newspaper reports and discussions with colleagues and students.

    The author is a retired professor of medical statistics who has taught at colleges and universities in Tanzania and at universities in the USA and Norway.

    Table of Contents:
    – Abbreviations
    – Preface
    – Introduction
    – Education and Colonialism
    – Education and Ujamaa
    – Education and Democracy
    – Education and Dependency
    – Education and Violence
    – Education and Privatization
    – Education and Computers
    – Education and America
    – Education and Debate
    – Education and History – I
    – Education and History – II
    – Education and Reading
    – Education and Educators
    – Education and Activism – I
    – Education and Activism – II
    – Education and Liberation
    – References
    – Author Profile

    A collection of essays from an educator-activist that takes us back to one of the richest periods of African intellectual debate about knowledge and colonization, the early 1970s at the University of Dar es Salaam, with valuable lessons for today.

    Budd L Hall, PhD, Professor Emeritus, UNESCO Co-chair in Community‑Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, University of Victoria, Canada

    This is a timely, broad ranging, provocative series of essays about under-education in Africa. The author’s lived experiences, particularly in Tanzania, form a rich base for much of the critical contextual analysis. New generations of scholar-activists in Africa and elsewhere are urged to learn from history, to debate, to question and strive, with passion and hope, to attain a just, more egalitarian world.

    Shirley Walters, Professor Emerita, University of Western Cape, South Africa

    An inspiring collection of vivid stories and profound critiques of education from a committed scholar-activist who draws upon a lifetime of engaged learning, teaching, research and debate. Revealing how under-education has been spawned by global capitalism, it also inspires hope and offers strategies for educational and social change in Africa and beyond.

    Pat Saul, UDSM graduate, teacher and community activist for social change, Toronto

    A dedicated and passionate educator and scholar activist, Karim Hirji explores the connection between education and a dependent economy, and the systematic de-education of the Tanzanian and African masses during the colonial and post-colonial periods up to the present day. Broad structural analysis of underlying factors such as social and economic injustice, political accountability and neoliberal policy is combined with concrete investigation of the challenges facing students and teachers at all levels of the education system and ends on a positive note, “dare to dream.”

    Marjorie Mbilinyi, Professor of Education, University of Dar es Salaam (1968-2003), independent researcher and writer

    Karim Hirji’s erudite yet accessible collection of essays is bound to become an essential companion and a classic for all concerned with the underdevelopment of Africa and its educational doppelganger, under-education. His dialectical, fine-grained and multi-scalar analysis of educational issues traverses the period of colonialism, the first flush of independence through neo-colonialism to present day capitalist neoliberalism. It is a milestone in connecting past and present struggles through the tools of political economy. While the essays focus on Tanzania, they have continental resonance and remain globally relevant.

    The essays draw inspiration and critical lessons from many countries. Hirji’s education commentary is grounded in a dedicated praxis of over forty years. The collection reflects this breadth of experience and the depth of multifaceted struggles. It embraces many pertinent issues valuable for contemporaneous endeavours against miseducation as these relate to democracy, dependency, violence in schools, the privatisation and corporatisation of education, the uses and abuses of technology, cultural imperialism, academic dissent, publishing, reading and the qualities of an effective teacher.

    Written in a register that exudes deep honesty, wisdom, self-critical reflection and borne out of collective struggle, the essays are indispensable to confront the current obfuscations, falsifications and the dominant right wing and indeed neo-fascist assaults on meaningful education and reason. The ideas and practices of Hirji and his fellow activist scholars such as Shivji, and the much missed AM Babu and Walter Rodney remain germane today and will leave a solid legacy for future generations to build on.

    Despite these bleak, dire and precarious times, this remarkable collection is an antidote to despair. Hirji’s injunction, not to lose hope is also a clarion call to action and a firm belief that, to quote Hirji, “…the struggle is a long term one; there are bound to be ups and downs. But ultimately, Africa and its people will triumph.”

    Salim Vally, Professor and Director, Centre for Education Rights and Transformation, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

    “This book will be of interest to readers in search of critical perspectives on education in Tanzania and Africa more widely. It invites the policymakers, teachers and students of today to erase their ‘ideological blinders’. For fellow citizens and observers of Tanzania, it elucidates the ideology of ‘education for self-reliance’ in practice. And, as an authoritative text on under-education, it makes an important contribution to the debates on transformative education and knowledge production in Africa as a whole.” Ahmad Kipacha Senior Lecturer in the School of Business Studies and Humanities at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology in Arusha.

    REVIEWS

  • The Travails of a Tanzanian Teacher

    The Travails of a Tanzanian Teacher is a riveting account of the bumpy first decade of the work life of Karim F Hirji, a retired Professor of Medical Statistics. Filled with a distinctive variety of eye-opening episodes, it covers lecturing at the University of Dar es Salaam, the life of a political exile in a remote rural area and the challenges of setting up from scratch a one-of-a-kind educational institute in Africa. With a style that seamlessly combines the personal with the general, Hirji provides an illuminating description of different aspects of the Tanzanian political, educational, economic and rural landscape during the 1970s. Starting with a commentary on teacher training, he concludes with a critical comparison of modern university education in the nation with that of the earlier era.

    You can read this book online for free.

    A clearly written, excellently illustrated, valuable and absorbing reflection upon a rich lifetime in teaching that deserves an international audience. Richard Pring, Emeritus Professor at the Department of Education, and Emeritus Fellow of Green Templeton College, University of Oxford.

    The remarkable life of a principled Tanzanian educator told with emotion and humor. Peter Lawrence, Professor Emeritus of Development Economics, Keele University UK and Lecturer in Economics, University of Dar es Salaam, 1970-72.

    Karim Hirji’s account of four decades of teaching in post-colonial Tanzania is a timely call on teachers to: “educate in ways that will promote equality and social justice”. Dr Anne Harley, Paulo Freire Project, Centre for Adult Education, University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

    Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o with Rosa Hirji, holding a copy of The Travails of a Tanzania Teacher i.

  • The Enduring Relevance of Walter Rodney’s ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’

    Soon after its publication in 1972, Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa gained global popularity among students, scholars, activists and people concerned with African affairs. His innovative application of the method of political economy transformed the paradigm for rendition of the continent’s past. Because it stridently took the traditional historians and the prevailing neo-colonial order to task, it was also pilloried by the defenders of the status quo. And, in these neoliberal times, mainstream scholars and pundits proclaim that it is no longer relevant for Africa.

    In Walter Rodney: An Enduring Legacy, Karim Hirji makes a systematic case that, on the contrary, Rodney’s seminal work retains its singular value for understanding where Africa has come from, where it is going, and charting the path towards genuine development for its people. After giving a broad picture of Rodney and his times, Hirji examines in detail the criticisms levelled against his work, and conducts a focused review of modern day textbooks on African history. It is seen that most of the claims against Rodney lack a sound basis and that direct representations of his ideas are replete with distortions, unfair selectivity and political bias. Yet, the long term influence of Rodney on African history is unmistakable.

    Hirji’s succinct, coherent defence of an intellectual giant who lived and died for humanity is an essential read for anyone with an interest in Africa and related regions.

    You can read this book online for free.

    Soon after its publication in 1972, Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (HEUA) gained global popularity among progressive students, scholars and activists, and people concerned with African affairs. His innovative application of the method of political economy was a prime contributor to shifting the paradigm for rendition of the continent’s past as well as for visualizing its possible trajectory. Because it stridently took the traditional historians of Africa and the prevailing neo-colonial order to task, it was also vociferously criticized by the defenders of the status quo.
    In these neoliberal times, its visibility has waned. Mainstream scholars and pundits from and outside of Africa proclaim that it is no longer a relevant work for Africa. In Walter Rodney: An Enduring Legacy, Karim Hirji makes a systematic case that, on the contrary, Rodney’s seminal work retains its singular value for understanding where Africa has come from, where it is going, and charting a path towards genuine development for the people of Africa.
    Hirji considers Rodney in his unitary persona as a historian, theoretician and activist. He begins by outlining the publication history and contents of HEUA, and noting the comments it has drawn from varied quarters. This is followed by a depiction of the global context within which it saw the light of the day and the flowering of progressive thought and vision in those vibrant times. The retrogressive reversal, in thought and social reality, that has transpired since then is summed up next. An assessment of how HEUA has weathered this storm is also provided.

    The next chapter presents a brief portrait of Rodney as a revolutionary, with the focus on his seven years at the University of Dar es Salaam. This is followed by an overview of the methodological framework utilized in HEUA.

    These five chapters lay the foundation for the main substantive part of Hirji’s book. This part begins with a detailed evaluation of the criticisms that have been levelled at HEUA. Subsequently, by a review of eight textbooks of general African history in common use today is provided. The aim here is to assess the persistence, if any, of ideas of the type promoted by Rodney in such books and identify the manner in which HEUA is directly depicted therein. Do these books give an adequate and fair depiction of Rodney to modern day students?

    The penultimate chapter argues for the continued relevance of Rodney and his seminal text for Africa (and the world) in this anti-people, pro-capital, pro-imperial neoliberal era. Hirji concludes with a lively account of his own interactions over six years with Walter Rodney. With the focus on the issue of building socialism in Tanzania, a key dimension in the evolution of Rodney’s thinking is described in a critical spirit. The fundamental question addressed is, in our often dark, demoralizing political environment, what do Rodney and his life have to teach us on the matter of navigating between hope and struggle?

    The conclusion emerging from this book is that in the first place most of the criticisms of the content, style and practical value of HEUA lack merit. The representation of Rodney in mainstream books is as well replete with distortions, unfair selectivity and political bias.
    Despite these misrepresentations, Rodney and his ideas retain their signal value for understanding African history, for engaging with its present day conditions, and for projecting distinctive future scenarios for the continent. Hirji’s succinct work is a consistent, coherent defence of an intellectual giant, an astute historian and a compassionate revolutionary who lived and died for humanity. It is an essential read for anyone with an interest in African history, and the fate of Africa and the regions that are historically related to it.

    Walter Rodney: An Enduring Legacy
    Karim F Hirji

    CONTENTS

    Preface
    1. The Book
    2. The Global Context
    3. A Grand Reversal
    4. Rodney, the Revolutionary
    5. Rodney and Historiography
    6. Criticisms of the Book
    7. Rodney in the Classroom
    8. Contemporary Relevance
    9. Hope and Struggle
    Major Writings of Walter Rodney
    References
    Author Profile