Introduction / History The Tumari Kanuri, a name that includes the Tumari, Suwarti, Kuburi and Fachi peoples, live in and around the town of N'Guigmi, and around the Lake Chad basin in eastern Niger. Their language has its roots in the former Kanem-Bornu empire, one of the earliest known Islamic empires in Africa. The Tumari Kanuri have been Muslims for over 1,000 years, their religion is part of their identity.
The Quranic school system is well developed, most children receive religious education. The Tumari Kanuri are proud of their language and their heritage. They would prefer to use it over other languages that they use in trade relations, such as Hausa or French. The Tumari raise cattle, and engage in active trade with their neighbors. During dry periods, herdsmen take their cattle to Lake Chad, while the other members of the group stay at home. With their home at a crossroads of desert trade routes, men spend a lot of time buying and selling, women and girls spend most of their time in food preparation and related activities. Children are expected to assume tasks suitable to their age, including caring for younger siblings, water carrying and running errands. Visiting neighbors and friends, and expressing hospitality and generosity are important to the Tumari Kanuri. Having many friends and relationships is more important than accumulating money and possessions.
Only a small percentage of the eligible school-age children actually attend primary school, and of those, only a very few continue on to secondary school. In 1980 an experimental school opened in the town of N'Guigmi to teach students in their mother tongue, however, teachers were given material in a related Kanuri dialect which students did not understand. Because of this, most attempts at education and literacy in the mother tongue have not been successful. The Tumari Kanuri need materials in their own language.