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~ Abai Kunanbaev ~


Word Twenty-Five

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By studying the language
and culture of other nations,
a person becomes their equal
and will not need to
make humble requests
~ ABAI KUNANBAEV

From The Book of Words,
Word Twenty-Five


We ought to educate ourselves,
learn what other people know
so as to become their equals
and be a shield and a
pillar for our people
~ ABAI KUNANBAEV

From The Book of Words,
Word Twenty-Five




It would be good if Kazakh children could get an education. To begin with, it would be enough to teach them Turkic letters. Yet such is our irreligious land that before we send our children to school, we have to acquire wealth; besides, they ought to learn the Persian and the Arabic languages. But can those who are hungry keep a clear mind, care about honor and show diligence in learning? Poverty and quarrels within tribes and families breed thievery, violence and greed. If you have livestock, your belly will be full. A craving for knowledge and a craft will come next. Then people will start thinking about getting an education and teaching their children at least something.

One should learn to read and write Russian. The Russian language is a key to spiritual riches and knowledge, the arts and many other treasures. If we wish to avoid the vices of the Russians while adopting their achievements, we should learn their language and study their scholarship and science, for it was by learning foreign tongues and assimilating world culture that the Russians have become what they are. Russian opens our eyes to the world. By studying the language and culture of other nations, a person becomes their equal and will not need to make humble requests. Enlightenment is useful for religion as well.

He who lives his life fawning and cringing will be ready to sell his mother and father; he will sell his family, his faith and conscience for the sake of a condescending pat on the back from a superior. Some fellow will bow and scrape, not caring that he shows his bare behind, and all to win an approving smile from some official.

Russian learning and culture are a key to the world heritage. He who owns this key will acquire the rest without too much effort.

Some of the Kazakhs who have their children taught in Russian schools will do so just so they can use their children's literacy as a proof of their own superiority when quarrelling with their kinsfolk. This should not be your motivation. Seek to teach your children to earn their bread by honest and purposeful work, and let other people follow your example; then we shall not endure the arbitrary ways of Russian grandees, for they have no law that applies equally to all. We ought to educate ourselves, learn what other people know so as to become their equals and be a shield and a pillar for our people. As yet no outstanding individuals have appeared among the young people who have received a Russian education, but this is because their parents and kin spoil them and lead them astray. Even so, they are far better than those who have received no education at all. Yet it is a pity that all their learning goes no further than interpreting other people's words. Well-to-do folks rarely send their children to school: they would rather send the children of paupers to be chastised and humiliated by Russian teachers. But what can these unfortunate ones learn there?

Quarrelling with their kinsfolk, some will exclaim, 'Rather than suffer your insults, I'd send my son off as a recruit and let my hair and beard grow!' Such people have no fear of divine punishment or sense of shame. What will the offspring of such a person achieve even if he attends school? Will he derive much benefit from it? Will he go further than others? He doesn't give a rap for learning: he goes to school, sits for a while and then he goes away. Not a sign of eagerness or diligence! His father hardly agrees to his son getting an education unless someone else foots the bill. Will such a man part with his wealth for his child's schooling?

Here's a piece of advice for you: you don't have to get a wife for your son or leave him ample wealth, but you must give him a Russian education without fail, even if you have to part with all have earned. This is worth any sacrifice.

If you honor God and have any shame, if you want your son to be a real man, send him to school! Don't begrudge the expense!

For if he remains an unlettered scoundrel, who will benefit? Will he be a solace to you? Will he be happy himself? And will he be able to do any good for his own people?

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