Towards restoring a functional Madrasah system

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Muslim pupils in a Madrasah

Uthman Jaarullah bn Zakariyyah Oladele bn Abdullahi proposes reforms within the Madrasah system. In Nigeria, the Madrasah is variously called Islamiyya, Makaranta Ilmi, or Ilé Kéwú. It is the institution under which  the Almajiri system dominantly operates. The writer establishes that many teachers in, and operators of  Madrasahs are not well prepared towards conforming with current realities in formal and non-formal education and suggests the way out.


 

An Overview of Madrasah

Before the coming of Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and benediction of Allah be upon him), the culture of memorisation was a fundamental way of life among the Arabs. The religion of Islam which he brought, promoted this culture to a productive level.

Beyond this, Islam was primarily known in Makkah and around the world and till date as a pioneering religion of reading, memorizing, writing, and teaching the world, elevated knowledge through the Qur’an and the Sunnah (Tradition of Prophet Muhammad).

Madrasahs are Traditional Islamic Schools where rudimentary knowledge of the Arabic language and reading, memorization, interpretation of the Qur’an are perfected and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad and other Islamic related subjects are taught.

A Muslim child from 2-3 years old and above is eligible to attend Madrasahs. The most popular Academic levels in Ile-kewu are Almarhalatul Ibtida’iyah (Elementary Stage), Almarhatul Idadi’yah(Junior Secondary Stage), and Almarhalatu-l-Thana’wiyah ( Senior Secondary Stage) which is 3-3-3.

Some Madrasahs do have Adult Continuing Education Classes for working adults. The International Center for Islamic Culture and Education (ICICE), Abuja is an example of this Continuing Education Classes.

School girls in hijab

Main Purpose for Establishing Madrasahs

The major purpose for instituting Madrasahs is to elevate Arabic and Islamic education with consequences for spreading of the message of Islam.

Allah says: “And it is not for the believers to go forth (to battle) all at once. For, there should separate from every division of them a group (remaining) to obtain understanding in the religion and warn their people when they return to them that they might be cautious”, in Suratut-Taubah, Qur’an Chapter 9 verse 122. Besides, Prophet Muhammad in his saying (Hadith) made seeking knowledge compulsory on every Muslim as he  also enjoined his followers to seek for knowledge even as far away as China as to Arabia. Madrasahs are traditional centers for learning.

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Madrasahs were in place long before the coming of the colonial masters to Nigeria and most of them were doing wonderfully well. In fact, the first university in the world started as a Madrasah in Fez, Morocco. Unfortunately, some Madrasahs (or Ile-Kewu in the Yoruba Language) have been encountering ill-handlers who are half-baked students or ex-students of Islamic and Arabic Trainings in Africa.

Other reasons for establishing Madrasahs

People established their madrasahs for different reasons and these include the desire to create history and to have fames. Others train students who would obtain senior secondary diplomas in Arabic and Islamic Studies, some others for the love of being Academic Authority and Proprietor, and to serve as main source of livelihood.

Some of those who love to create history and fame for themselves have societal or financial influence or both, but they are mainly amateurs in the Arabic and Islamic studies endeavor. They want to use the establishment of the Institute as ladder to achieve their goals.

The Secondary Certificate level products of Arabic and Islamic Studies Institutes establish theirs because they rely on the academic experience to own Madrasahs. These, they do without striving to further sharpen their intellect through enrolment in any of the Colleges of Education, Universities and other tertiary Institutions. For this group, lacks of practical educational experience make their teaching methods and products non-befitting.

Mosques and Muslim Communities that own Madrasahs believably for altruistic purpose missed the road as some of the selected Arabic and Islamic Teachers are acquired through favoritism and god-fathers. The process of abandoning proper screening methods for selecting competent persons to handle Madrasahs has put this category of Madrasahs under the control of ill-trained scholars.

A small number of those who strive for academic authority and proprietorship do have Professional Backgrounds of the Job but lack financial resources to uphold and sustain it. With the financial hindrance, they are categorized as poor (ill-trained) handlers because their efforts are proven abortive.

Madrasahs are main sources of income for many Islamic Scholars in Nigeria. However, an unspecified numbers of irresponsible parents and guardians often brought their children and wards to these scholars without funding them accordingly, while the scholars do not believe in suspending students for lack of financial supports.

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Consequently, we see those pupils turning into what are called ‘Almajiris’ in the Northern part of the country roaming around the communities begging for alms or sustenance donations.

Need to show interest in Madrasahs

It was rightly observed by Prof. Idris A. Abdulqadir that, ‘there seems to be a conspiracy of silence between the parents, authorities and the society at large. For the parents, the system provides an outlet, and a drainage for the excess children at home, for the authorities, it is a relief that they do not have to budget for about 7 million Almajiri children’s education and welfare. As for the elites, they care less as long as their own children are not involved.” (See The Almajiri System of Education in Nigeria Today By Professor Idris A. AbdulQadir).

Muslim pupils in a Madrasah

Madrasahs, though traditional, are schools in their own forms and rights. Since what goes around comes around, it is needed to show interest in them.

The prevalent ill-trained handlers of Madrasahs are large and widespread. They are presumed to be ill-handlers because they are half-baked of training.

Yet many of these Madrasahs are owned by Mosques. Despite their shortcomings, these ill-trained handlers perform certain roles that cannot be wished away with a wave of the hand.

Disengaging them will create vacuum of the roles of handlers that will be difficult to fill immediately. Besides their abrupt disengagement will expose the society to a pool of ill-trained, half-baked, jobless and dangerous citizens who erroneously perceive themselves as important scholars.

What should be done?

Mosques and owners of Madrasah should be determined to re-train handlers of their pupils at Madrasahs; they should re-furbish the Madrasahs with material and physical needs and re-orientate parents to participate financially in the training of their wards. Also, the content of study at Madrasahs should be functional as to meet the spiritual and knowledge needs of the pupils.

Mosques and owners of Madrasah should set achievable goals for their Madrasahs. They should monitor its progress, sustain its maintenance and control its direction. Where certain owners do not have sufficient resources, they should join people of similar interest to pull resources together to run the Madrasahs.
Mosques and other owners of Madrasahs should give concrete support to handlers (teachers) of the Madrasahs in order to encourage them to acquire in-service training that would improve their competence.

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Islamic Scholars with higher Arabic and Islamic trainings or qualifications should volunteer to organize free in-service Training Seminars for teachers and proprietors of local Madrasahs in order to improve competence of handlers. By so doing, the pupils who are the end-users of the knowledge will receive sound and functional Arabic and Islamic Education and the secular society will be better and safer for it.

Both owners and Investors in Madrasahs should have or strive to have legitimate pieces of land rather than renting or leasing of land. The reason is that there is always instability in rented or leased properties.

In order to gain assistance, owners of Madrasahs which had remain tiny entities for so many years should explore the need to merge with flourishing ones based on love, understanding and amalgamating procedures that are acceptable to the parties and stakeholders involved.

Also, owners of Madrasahs should explore for support from Zakat Foundations and other Islamic Charity Organizations or they should affiliate themselves to National and International Universities who ditch out scholarships to qualified students as part of their Community Social Responsibilities (CSRs).

In conclusion, Government as the overall monitor of happenings in the society should not sleep. They should take interest in Madrasah. These are schools in their own forms and rights. The appropriate educational bodies should strive to assess, screen and restructure the curricula of these Madrasahs to go in line with the National  Policy on Education parameters and International Standards.


Alhajj Uthman Jaarullah bn Zakariyyah Oladele bn Abdullahi is the General Manager, Kausar Abdussalam Hasan Company Limited, Makkah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.C.R.(4031056369), e-mail: ifeolukotun@gmail.com

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