Viability of Sanusi’s suggestion on conversion of mosques to schools

By Iyabo Lawal and Ujunwa Atueyi   |   23 February 2017   |   4:33 am  

Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II

A call by the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, that mosques in the North should be converted to schools in order to stem the tide of terrorism, underdevelopment and poverty in the region may seem a bold statement but is it right? IYABO LAWAL and UJUNWA ATUEYI in this report examine the motive behind the proposal.

Ten-year-old Musa Muhammed has a face that should be on a billboard – a billboard bearing a message about endangered children. Aisha, his mother came from Kebbi State and dropped him off at a Quranic School in Kano State when he was seven.

Left to his own devices, he is gaunt, and clad in torn clothes, which haven’t been touched by water in a long time. He is inside a local restaurant, cleaning off the plates of a customer who has just finished eating – with his tongue.

Like Musa, over seven million children in northern Nigeria are in the Almajiri System, according to figures from the National Council for the Welfare of Destitute (NCWD).

That figure is three times the population of The Gambia.
They are lopped off at thousands of Quranic schools that dot cities in many parts of northern Nigeria where they learn five-days in a week, and attend classes four times in a day. They are also expected to earn a living by begging and sometimes provide for their teachers’ upkeep too.

On Fridays, they are let loose on the city where they beg for alms to feed, or run errands. The notorious ones get their preliminary introduction in fundamentalism from rabble-rousing street preachers who introduce them to the terror trade.

Placed in this context, the call for the conversion of mosques to schools by the Emir of Kano, Mallam Muhammad Sanusi II, sounded like the words of a sage. However, there are those who say it is a recipe for chaos.

The former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, in an address at the joint convocation of 2,000 teachers held at the Kano Government House, on February 7, regretted that the North has been lagging behind educationally.

Mallam Sanusi challenged northern governors to build a giant remedial college to accommodate all northern candidates, who fail to secure admission into conventional universities and for the use of mosques as schools.

To convince his audience that his ideas were not impractical, Sanusi cited the example of Morocco where this model of education was obtainable. He argued that this remedial institution would improve literacy rates in northern Nigeria, which currently plays catch up to the southern part of the country.

However, the debate about the much-touted educational backwardness of northern Nigeria is often starved of the benefit of a background. Prior to the infiltration of foreign cultures both Western and Islamic, indigenous Nigerians had functional education systems.

There existed well organised ancient city states across the various parts of what is today known as Nigeria. Prior to the arrival of the British colonialists, the Almajiri System was founded to perpetuate Islamic education. Pupils lived with their parents, the schools were within their vicinity, institutional funding was provided and even an inspector reported to the Emir on progress.

“The British invaded the region and killed most of the Emirs and deposed some. The Emirs lost control of their territories and accepted their new roles, as mere traditional rulers. They also lost fundamental control of the Almajiri System,” Professor Idris Abdulkadir, former Executive Secretary of National University Commission (NUC) said.

Abdulkadir further stated, “The British deliberately abolished state funding in respect to the system arguing that, they were religious schools.  With loss of support from the government, its immediate community and the helpless Emirs, the Almajiri system collapsed like a pile of cards. Karatun Boko, western education was introduced and funded instead. The pupils now turned, Almajiri together with their Mallams, having no financial support resorted to begging and other menial jobs for survival.  This is certainly the genesis of the predicament of the Almajiri system today.”

Scholars argued that the North never believed that education was bad, only the Western kind, which they believed would corrode their values roil their stomachs.

Therefore, administrators in the region bowed to pressure from religious groups and did little to push western education. The consequence is the current system where there are more mosques than schools and millions of young northerners who lack skills that would make them self-sufficient today.

Extremism
The proliferation of mosques in the North and the failure of the Almajiri system have led many to believe that the system has morphed into a fertile ground for recruiting extremists.

“As the system is currently being practised today, lots of the children never made it.  Some are lost through violence in the streets and some remain as untrained armies available to anybody poised to foment trouble.  They have their own axes to grind against their parents, authorities and the society at large,” Abdulkadir stated.

A large population of illiterates coupled with an army of unemployed northern youths bruising under the weight of a corrupt political system is among the conditions that gave birth to Boko Haram in 2002 in Maiduguri, Borno State, by 32-year old Mohammed Yusuf.

Yusuf, a preacher gave scathing sermons against the government, which resonated with the people who hold a searing grudge against the establishment and Western education. When he was killed by security forces in 2009, hardliners in his organisation led by Abubakar Shekau, led a bloody insurgency whose embers still burn to this day.

This, however, is in sharp contrast with the southern part of Nigeria where though a church is springing up at every block, does not experience any sort of extremism.

It was against this backdrop that Sanusi made the call with an explanation that mosques could serve as alternatives pending when government can provide a conventional school structure.

He said that historically mosques are used for the accomplishment of other things other than worship. They have been used for instructions, meetings, arbitrations, policy planning and education.

Is Sanusi’s call a solution to encouraging education or just a little step in the long way to help northerners in educating their children?
The issue has elicited strong reactions from northern opinion leaders. Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, called the Emir’s statement “mischievous”, insisting that it will not solve the problem of millions of children begging on the street.

In the same vein, the Chief Imam of University of Lagos (UNILAG), Prof. Murtala Bidmos said the idea is not ideal.

Describing the call as a fire brigade approach to education, Bidmos argued that northern leaders are not showing enough interest in the education of their people.

He said, “The mosque is for worship, training and education so the issue of converting it to schools does not arise. Besides, if you go to any mosque in Nigeria you will see that some weekends, Muslim children are there learning.

According to him, the northerners are excessively rich and can build as much school as they desire if they see education as a priority, he urged those mooting the idea of converting mosques to school to leave the mosques alone.

Also, Head of Department, Educational Foundation, UNILAG, Prof. Ngozi Osarenren, reminded that setting up a proper school requires following laid down procedures.

“The only option is that they can build schools within the premises if the land is available. That way, we will be looking after the education of the child and the spiritual growth of the child. A mosque is a mosque and a school is a school.

However, Prof Isiaq Akintola differs. He believes the conversion of mosques into primary schools is in order. The Islamic scholar who is the director Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) said the mosque can serve its primary purpose of worship but can be converted to a center of learning when there is no religious activity.

“Sanusi spoke my mind, Muslims waste space a lot. Our children could be given access to these mosques; when they are not praying, they can be learning there, we can employ teachers and educate our children in western and Islamic education.”

On his part, Imam Ahmad Abdulrahmon, the Chief Missioner, Ansar Uddeen said mosques should not just be a mere place of worship; they can also serve as centers of learning.

“The first known university in the world was a mosque; it has a university attached to it. Activities in the mosque should not be restricted to prayers, learning and teaching is paramount. Education in Islam is total; this is the view of all muslims.

Emir Sanusi is just reminding those who built mosques to revert to the original notion-a mosque is an institution of learning, resource and communication center, place of worship, hospital for the sick and guest house for travellers.

If we do not read extraneous meaning to what he has said, there is no use to spend millions in building a mosque and no active learning is taking place there. Sanusi as an economist is also an Islamic scholar; Islam is a religion that promotes learning and education. You cannot worship Allah without knowledge, wisdom is the lost property of a believer, wherever he finds it, he takes it. “

Sanusi made references to Morocco where such arrangement have yielded results in the past and still yielding results. The Guinness Book of World Records recognises the University of Al Karaouine in Fez, Morocco, as the oldest degree-granting university in the world with its founding in 859 CE.

Al-Azhar University, founded in Cairo, Egypt in the 975 CE, offered a variety of academic degrees, including postgraduate degrees, and is often considered the first full-fledged university.

Contrary to the conflict-prone northern Nigeria, the use of religious centers for places of learning in Morocco and other places have not led to conflicts or destruction. Some believe the problem is far deeper.

It remains to be seen if Sanusi’s suggestions would produce similar outcomes as evident in Morocco and elsewhere in Islamic countries.



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  • Izonebi

    Emir Sanusi’s suggestion is brilliant and should not be misconstrued. it is a suggestion to solve the educational challenges facing the north looking at how this same ideas have applied been in more advanced Islamic societies yielding great dividends to those nations.

  • vincentumenyiora

    This is an interesting topic as it impinges gravely on the attitudes of people in Nigeria socially and worse politically nevertheless it should be on the list of the agenda to be dealt with about Nigeria if we shall find amicable solutions for the problems in the country 0- about time also, folks!

    [Sanusi made references to Morocco where such arrangement have yielded results in the past and still yielding results. The Guinness Book of World Records recognises the University of Al Karaouine in Fez, Morocco, as the oldest degree-granting university in the world with its founding in 859 CE.

    Al-Azhar University, founded in Cairo, Egypt in the 975 CE, offered a variety of academic degrees, including postgraduate degrees, and is often considered the first full-fledged university.

    Contrary to the conflict-prone northern Nigeria, the use of religious centers for places of learning in Morocco and other places have not led to conflicts or destruction. Some believe the problem is far deeper.

    It remains to be seen if Sanusi’s suggestions would produce similar outcomes as evident in Morocco and elsewhere in Islamic countries.]

    The problem of Nigeria you can see from this report has been dated and almost based on the mind set of the people leading and also yielding considerable benefits for them in the region! We don’t see why the North should remain that ‘backward’ in education as explained if the idea of Almajiri is not institutionalized to feather for individual and group idiosyncrasies particularly during political matters, which as we’re now witnessing has not helped matters in the country since the Self Rule. I mean in Morocco and in other Islamic countries including Ghana next door, the training or learning policies have been to wean the children irrespective of the religious belief, onto their national curriculum eventually, contrary to what your Nigerian policies are even as we discuss the matter now with its disadvantages about Nigeria’s social and political setting! A learning system/ base indeed, like in the rest of Islamic countries in the Middle East and the coast of North Africa, you discover that the rate of education and enlightenment as far as (IT) is concerned is almost at the same level with what the Europeans and Chinese do whilst in your case in Nigeria none of these is present -there is nothing to write home about the system regarding the training and ever to be acquired going by the standards and the set up in the Mosques in Nigeria; not surprising as you observed about the advent of the kind of unyielding ‘redoutables’ in the North compared with what you have in the Niger Delta! Apart from the current effects of the kind of training and the characters the system produces eventually, we should not forget that a good number of otherwise matured and educated Northerners passed through the system thus they bear the ideology – the hallmark and influence engendered by the system such that with the kind of political system/ approach you have for Nigeria, you discover that the effect of the training still has strong influence on the people during political activities even though they now look educated and matured!

    There is a kind of a ‘rehearse’ or revert – a fatwa, so to speak, to what was learned at that early ages, which makes the huge difference between Nigerians trained in the North and those in the Southern Nigeria even though in the Western part of the country they do have Islamic schools! So, for any solution to this problem in Nigeria to be sustained there needs to be a recourse to why this observation or difference in the people of the North and those from the South-Western part of Nigeria who are Muslims also – any study to find solutions to this drawback must find ways to establish reason for this discrepancy in the attitude although we know that politics is to a large part, contributory! You’ll discover that it is part reasons for my solutions for Nigeria’s political approach but part of my problem has been; Who do or can you tell about these problems =who do you discuss with? Take a look at the website; http://www.virgo-enterprised.com and see solutions are there and the government is using large part of it yet no contact with the author and they are talking about the effects of corruption!

    What they need for this is total rethink about what the school of Almajiris mean and how it’ll ever help in Nigeria going about the composite groups and formation in the country! I have tried to make suggestions including the scraping f the kind of training since it has not helped even in its base in the North and what is happening in Ghana about their own approach to religious matters may well help Nigeria and so needs to be copied! Again the educated ones in the North need to be undergo the ‘National Orientation’ program to wean them over to recognize others with their own religion and think about Nigeria as ‘One’ people and not exclusive for the Northerners only!

  • Iskacountryman

    the mosque is already a school…

  • vincentumenyiora

    “[That figure is three times the population of The Gambia.
    They are lopped off at thousands of Quranic schools that dot cities in many parts of northern Nigeria where they learn five-days in a week, and attend classes four times in a day. They are also expected to earn a living by begging and sometimes provide for their teachers’ upkeep too.

    On Fridays, they are let loose on the city where they beg for alms to feed, or run errands. The notorious ones get their preliminary introduction in fundamentalism from rabble-rousing street preachers who introduce them to the terror trade.]”

    I think that the major part of the problem lies in lack of orientation of the ‘Imams’ that supervise the “thousands of Quranic schools that dot cities in many parts of northern Nigeria”, who are not regulated and how does the curriculum of the Almajaris relate or conform with the National curriculum? I din’t want to draw comparison here folks, but then look at the Missionary Schools not to tal about the secondary schools in the Southern part of Nigeria you discover that irrespective of the fact that Muslims exist more in South-West they can still co-exist and or cohabit with their counterpart in the Christian sects this is due to the orientation of the instructors who are made never to preach separation or rebuff to their neighbors who are not of the same sect with them – if you can see my point here! I don’t want to expand this matter beyond one or two highlights of the major causes of the problem because it is almost obvious if you look around you! What it is that Nigeria need a ‘National Orientation’ such that really permeates the spectrum and the attitudes of people as it happens to every society coming off civil strife and I raised the issue that early – as far back as 1992 in my correspondences and solutions sent for IBB’s administration from where they lifted the ‘Option A-4’ solution even up to date! The problem of Nigeria is that you give the solutions including, you’ll not believe this, the “Whistle blower” that early in 2005 and up to 2008 in the solutions I handed to Peter Obi, Gen. Y. Gowon and Dr. Bamanga Tukur in London, they do not call you to explain what you mean and how it could serve the society effectively that early, rather they will covet it and or hijack such ideas in the hope that they can get paid for them only to discover that you’re back to the same problems not solved!

    I listened to the ‘NTA’s Good Morning’ program this morning 24th February and what the topic is about is contained in my publications; http://www.virgo-enterprised.com thus – Orientation, orientation orientation and education for Nigerians and how to get at the roots of some of the major problems! You discover that they are now using parts of the solutions like the one contained in my letter/ correspondence sent to the Presidency dated 4th June 2015 and they will not call you to say what you mean and how it’ll help – for example the issue in the seminar held on what women can be doing in Nigeria about corruption held in ABUJA or Lagos yesterday’s NTA’s 9 PM News is contained in the correspondence of 4th June 2015 – wish Mr. Barbachir Davud Lawal can check on this and confirm of refute the claim, folks! Whatever the decision, my book will be in the public domain any time now and you will see all the complaints and the dates and I said don’t blame Vincent when you read of the facts or the truth!

    Much as I am not part of the advisers to government, you discover that they have used the ideas/ solutions derived from my thinking like the (STA), also which I referred to in the correspondence as ‘common pool!’

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