Monday, March 14, 2011

The Internet and Tamazight curriculum

        With the availability of computer communication technology in the 1990s and the growth of an important Amazigh student body in the Western hemisphere, the Imazighen seized the opportunity to build worldwide forums. Through Amazigh-net, for instance, an electronic mailing list established in July 1992, the Amazigh cause took an international dimension (Bouzida, 1994). Currently there are also several dozen web sites that are concerned with the question of Amazigh identity and strategies to implement the Thmazight language into the curriculum and mass media.
Prior to the Internet, the Amazigh identity was an internal question, meaning that Imazighen in Morocco for instance did not know about their "brothers" in Algeria, Tunisia, or Mali. The countries of North Africa succeeded in censuring information regarding the Amazigh community. Given that Imazighen were divided and isolated regionally as subgroups (such as Riffians, Shluh, Twareg, and Kabils), each assumed that their problems were local and did not have any significance to others.
     Through Amazigh-net, the different groups of Imazighen began to perceive themselves as one community and the question of Thmazight is no longer that of debating the existence of an identity separate from that of the Arabs, as Shafiq argued. Members of different groups log on daily to discuss not only the urgent situation of Thmazight and Imazighen, but also the plans for the implementation of Thmazight in education, technology, and science.
With the Internet, Imazighen from all over the world have established a Virtual Community through which they have access to the various issues regarding their culture/language and identity. While the Amazigh question has been internationalized, a number of influential scholars, researchers, and talented artists have committed themselves to serve the Amazigh cause. Consequently, several projects aiming at teaching and learning Thmazight have been completed in the last four years. These include the creation of several computer fonts pioneered by the American artist Jo Anna Pettit from Marietta, Ohio, and the development of audiovisual and electronic materials for teaching and learning Thmazight. As a result of such a commitment, North African countries found themselves at an impasse. Through various forces, especially the computer communication technology, they were pressured to recognize for the first time in history the existence of Imazighen as a separate cultural entity.
     With a long history and an ancient alphabet, Thmazight is becoming one of the most important issues in North Africa, especially in Morocco and Algeria. The latter, after decades of struggle, was pressured to create in 1990 a Department of Amazigh Language and Culture (Departement de Langue et Culture Amazigh) at the University of Tizi-Ouzou (Lounaouci, 1994).4 Moreover, in the summer of 1994, the King of Morocco, Hassan II, felt compelled by various sociopolitical forces to recognize the importance of the Amazigh culture and language in Moroccan identity. In his speech, he announced the necessity of integrating Thmazight in the school curriculum (Ennaji, 1997).
  Amar Almasude