From rejection to acceptance: Quranic school in Maradun steps up to integrate with regular education

Educate A Child (EAC) reaches the out-of-school children of Magami Community in Maradun, Zamfara State, to provide access to quality basic education

Oluwatosin Akingbulu
UNICEF Nigeria/2018/Ayanlakin

30 January 2018

30 January 2018 - Magami is a community in Maradun Local Governance Area (LGA) of Zamfara State. They live about 29 km from the LGA headquarters. With lack of roads, the community is isolated as there is no access to any mobile telecom network too. The community has an estimated population of 4,800 inhabitants, 68% of which are children between the ages of 6 and 11 years.

Three Integrated Quranic Schools (IQSs) operate in Magami community under UNICEF’s project called “More Out Of School Children (OOSC) in School in Nigeria”, supported through a partnership with Educate A Child (EAC) funded by the Education Above All Foundation.

The project aims to enroll and retain 501,574 out-of-school children in four states (Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara) by 2020. These three IQSs have a large number of students, with very few attending a formal school. Mallam Bilal Umar, the proprietor of one of the IQSs, narrated his story to the UNICEF Consultants. He mentioned that the parents of children in his community, including himself, preferred to send their children to a Quranic School rather than formal school, so that they could control the behavior of children.

Mallam Bilal Umar also said that “I inherited this Quranic School from an old Imam, who is currently away to seek more knowledge on Quran. I graduated from this Quranic School some years back, and I assisted this school for 10 years. Perhaps, this is why the former proprietor handed the school over to me in year 2009.”

UNICEF Nigeria/2018/Ayanlakin
A schoolgirl reading out in Hausa language in one of the classes.

UNICEF consultants working in the Zamfara visited the community to assess the situation in June 2017, and were astonished with the performance of the school.

The proprietor shared with the consultants how he motivated the community to change their attitude towards formal schooling. First, he enrolled his own children into a formal school, and then requested other parents in the community to do the same.

The proprietor revealed that the Project team had met him in January 2017 to convince him about the importance of integrating the Quranic School with formal school. The Project team also shared with him a map of out-of-school children prepared by the community. However, he rejected the idea because he did not understand the concept of integration then… not until his son shared his personal experience with him.

His son had participated in a training conducted under the EAC project in May 2017, in Gusau. He showed his father a pictorial presentation of what an ideal Integrated Quranic School would look like. The son also presented details of the training methodology and the way Mathematics, English and Hausa stories could be taught to the students.

Mallam Bilal Umar was finally convinced to accept the idea of integration. He called a meeting of members of the Centre Based Management Committee (CBMC) and community members, where it was resolved to generate money through community labor. The generated fund was used to build more classes for the learners

UNICEF Nigeria/2018/Ayanlakin
Schoolchildren learn Hausa songs in one of the classes.

Today, the community is fully involved in the development of the IQS. The facilitator on his part continues to mobilize more enrolment to the IQS, because of his excellent teaching ability.

Before the integration of the Quranic School, formal subjects were not taught at the Centre, with Thursdays and Fridays being non-learning days. Today, the total number of learners has increased to 277, and all the learners are now enrolled into basic education, 70% being girls.

Day by day, more learners are joining the basic education classes and are willing to continue studying in the IQS. Even those who had dropped out from the school before are coming back. Unlike other IQS centers in Zamfara State, this IQS centre did not have any facilitator from the Zamfara State Mass Education Board, before the EAC project. Today, this has changed. One of the facilitators, Babangida Umar who had formal training on teaching skills, is determined to enroll more learners by convincing parents to send their children to attend the formal classes. He was posted to this IQS in Maradun.

Babangida Umar’s efforts convinced the proprietor to accept integration of the Quranic School and allocate classes on Thursdays and Fridays - the days known as free days in Quranic Schools.

With commitment of the facilitators, some of the learners who started lessons in 2017 can now read simple sentences in Hausa language as well as interpret stories; the learners can now do simple subtraction and addition with the aid of songs and stones. The children are getting more familiar with alphabets as well as Hausa sounds.

Some of the parents visit the IQS during basic education classes to see what is going on and how their children are learning. They also offer useful suggestions to the facilitator as well as the Centre Based Management Committee on how to improve learning at the IQS. Now, parents in Magami community prefer to enroll their children in the IQS because of confidence they have in the facilitators to positively impact their children.

The IQS proprietor intends to plant flowers around the surroundings, build a roof over the uncompleted building and provide toilet facilities for the learners - so that it can be more conducive for learning and growing.