Examining the Guji Oromo Ethnomathematical Games and Concepts

Examining the Guji Oromo Ethnomathematical Games and Concepts

Elfneh Udessa Bariso, Fufa Esayas, Dereje Biru
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 30
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5021-2.ch008
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This chapter explores how the Guji Oromo people undertake ethnomathematical activities by applying their indigenous methods. Ethnomathematical activities include counting, locating (the activity of grouping, clustering, making network, etc.), measuring (the actions of quantifying, weighting, etc.), designing (planning, building, and pattern activities), playing (puzzles, paradoxes, models, games, hypothetical reasoning), and explaining (how to do things, activities [e.g., classifications, conventions, generalizations, and symbolic explanations]). This predominantly qualitative study identifies the indigenous ethnomathematical games and concepts and assesses the potential effectiveness of an integration of the ethnomathematics and formal mathematics on the learning/teaching experiences of pupils and teachers. Impacts of such integration on pupils' performance in mathematics assessment are examined. Such an action could enable to amalgamate the Western knowledge system with an African knowledge system to create synergy that might boost the quality of primary mathematics education in Ethiopia.
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Education in every sense is also one of the fundamental factors of development, and it is a human right - declared and protected by the universal declaration of human rights article 26. In this regard, no country can achieve sustainable development without substantial investment in education. In other words, sustainable development could be achieved by opening educational access to all children, because, it is intrinsically linked to all development goals. However, sustainable development could not possible by only opening the classroom doors to learners. Particularly in mathematics education only opening classrooms to all children is no longer enough to bring success in this discipline. To optimize lifelong learning in school mathematics, the curriculum should be connected to the child's reality and experience. When the curriculum is linked to such educational activities, education becomes more meaningful to the learner. One way of realizing such understanding is through the study of Ethnomathematics – part of indigenous knowledge system, in which, learners can realize their full mathematical potential by acknowledging the importance of culture to their identity and schooling.

Additionally, improving the quality of education is not only a national/local priority but also one of the sustainable development goals. The United Nations (2015) concludes 617 million youth worldwide lack basic mathematics and literacy skills and obtaining a quality education is the basis to build sustainable development. In addition to improving quality of life, access to inclusive education can help equip locals with the tools required to develop innovative solutions to the world’s greatest problems.

The current research study project focuses on crucial national issues – identification and mobilisation of indigenous knowledge systems as well as enhancing the quality of education to bring about necessary changes and harnessing innovation. The project sought to distinguish indigenous mathematical concepts and activities that are traditionally used by members of the Guji Oromo society in Guji Zone and West Guji Zone in southern Ethiopia. The study set out to identify ethnomathematical games and concepts through qualitative research among parents, primary school pupils and primary school mathematics teachers from August – November 2019. The research team explored the parents’, pupils’, teachers’ awareness of, attitudes to and recommendations about the roles that ethnomathematics can play, if any, to enhance the quality of formal primary school mathematics curriculum provision.

The research has identified a multitude of ethnomathematical games and concepts in the two zones. To mention just of few games such as qubeellee, ja’a, fe’iisaahiiki, hibboo, hiibbooxarree were amassed and discussed below. The research team has also sought to relate the Guji-ethnomathematical games (a part of the African indigenous knowledge system) to the concepts of the learning theories (a feature of predominantly western/scientific knowledge system). In so doing the research team has attempted to amalgamate the western scientific knowledge system with that of the southern or African indigenous knowledge system to create a synergy that might be able to boost the quality of primary education in Ethiopia in general and Oromia in particular.

The multidisciplinary research team (mathematical educationist, linguist/educationist and historian) has chosen mathematics in recognition of the importance that Ethiopia and many other countries such as UK and USA put on it as one of the priority subjects to accelerate innovation and development. Shiferaw (2017, p 1) elaborates this point when he observes, “recognizing the key role education plays in gearing up the development of skilled human power, Ethiopia has been aggressively working to ensure access and quality of education. Most importantly, the nation has given due emphasis on mathematics and science education to bolster learner performance in those subjects”.

The chapter presents a review of relevant literature; then goes on to the results, concluding remarks and suggestions for future research studies. Definitions of key terms are included.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Gada System: Is an indigenous democratic system of governance invented and applied by the Oromo people in Ethiopia and northern Kenya. According to the Gada system, political power is transferred from one party to another without any violence according to the Gada rules.

Guji Oromo: The Guji-Oromo people are an ethnic Oromo subgroup who inhabit southern Ethiopia. They are mainly pastoralists and agro-pastoral. The Guji have lived in their territory, which is supposed to be part of the cradleland for the Oromo people.

Mathematics Education: Is the formal teaching and learning of mathematical concepts. This is predominantly done in a formal setting such as schools.

Primary Education: Is the first stage of formal education, which normally takes place after preschool and before secondary school. In the Ethiopian context, this includes grades 1-8 or ages 7-15 years.

Ethnomathematical Games: Are games that are used to teach or utilise ethnomathematical concepts. These games involve some application of arithmetic.

Indigenous Knowledge: Is knowledge created, preserved, promoted and passed onto the new generation by their ancestors.

Ethnomathematics: Is the teaching and learning mathematical concepts in cultural contexts. Such instructions normally take place at home, for example, parents teaching mathematics through games and other cultural practices.

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