• Topic: Challenges Facing the Education of Muslim Children in Public School
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Challenges Facing the Education of Muslim Children in Public Schools



2.1 Islamic Education during the Colonial Period

Islamic education was provided in the mosque or in the houses of ulamaa with the aim of producing imams, sheikhs, and ma‟alim, apart from imparting knowledge to Muslims to perform daily acts of (Ibadat) worship.

Muslim children from ages 4 – 15 years learnt Islam in Quranic institutions such as Chuo or Duqsi. There was no standardized curriculum. The teacher taught according to his ability and interest. The subjects taught included recitation and memorization of the Qur‟an and Hadith (sayings of the Prophet), Tawhid (unity of Allah), Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), Seerah (biography of the Prophet) and „Arabic grammar. The teachers taught on voluntary basis. Later the Maktab (elementary school) and the Halaqah (circle of the learned) followed. Islamic education was provided with the aim of producing imams, sheikhs, and ma‟alim, apart from imparting knowledge to Muslims to perform daily acts of (ibadat) worship (Maina, 2003:110).

During the colonial period, Halaqah system was practiced in the Mosques and „Ulamaa houses. The Maktab on the other hand was an elementary school which could be held in a private house, shop or in the Mosque (Maina, 1993: 112). The Mu‟allim took the responsibility of acquainting the young with the knowledge of reading and writing and the basic precepts of Islam. The Holy Qur‟an was the main subject. Other subjects included Arabic grammar, Hadith and simple arithmetic among others (Maina, 1993:113).

The various methods of teaching used in this Quranic schools included dictation, recitation, memorization, narration and rote learning. Of the four, rote learning and memorization were emphasized. Traditional Islamic education did not have a rigid curriculum. It was un-ending process whereby an individual could remain a children to late adulthood or even death. The young and old learnt in the same class but the mu‟allim divided them into Faslu (class) depending on their ability to learn (Badawi, 1979).

2.0 The Introduction of Formal Western Education in Nigeria by Christian Missionaries

Western formal education was introduced by Christian missionaries during the colonial In 1844, John Ludwig Krapf, a German working under the Church Missionary Society (CMS) arrived at Mombassa to start Christian evangelical work. Two years later, he was joined by Johann Rebman of the same society (CMS). These two established a CMS station at Rabai. The establishment of Christian missions was accompanied by the building schools. It was in these schools where those who converted to Christianity were taught how to read and write. Missionary education was evangelical in nature (Maina, 1993:95).

The curriculum of the missionary education was confined to the four R‟s. Religion was the most important followed by reading, writing and simple arithmetic. It can therefore be argued that it was religious in content. Most of what was taught was derived from the Bible. All other activities of the missionaries were aimed at making conversions to Christianity (Maina, 1993: 96). Thus, Muslims perceived missionary education as a means of converting their children to Christianity, hence avoided the mission schools. However, it is important to note that before the coming of missionaries and the introduction of formal Western education, Muslims in Nigeria had their system of education. This will be discussed later in this chapter.

Many schools were established by the missionaries among them Buxton High school at the Coast which was opened in 1893 by Miss. M. Bazette (Maina, 1993: 97). The main objective of the school‟s establishment was to offer religious instruction and teaching of the English language. The missionary education policies aimed at promotion of a particular denomination that is Christianity, hence Muslims did not gain much from such education system. Most of the content in the syllabus comprised of Christian Religious Education. Learners were taught English in order to be able to read the Bible.

2.1  Muslim Response to Formal Western Education in Nigeria

 The educational policies of the missionaries were aimed at promotion of their denomination. Muslim therefore regarded the mission schools as institutions of attracting Muslims to the fold of Christianity. When the colonial government took over the responsibility of educational matters in the country, Muslims felt the need to acquire Western education for

„white collar‟ jobs. Government schools did not favour any denominations. Muslims therefore demanded for such schools and appealed to Local Native Councils (LNC) to establish and run schools devoid of missionary activities (Maina, 1993: 114; Maina, 2003: 53). Schools for Arabs were established in Mombasa and Malindi, the first one in 1912 and the second one in 1919. However, they experienced poor attendance. The numbers rose after the introduction of Quranic instruction in Arab schools in Mombasa and Malindi in 1924 (Maina, 1993: 114; Maina, 2003: 53).

The poor response of Muslims to Western (secular) education in early years of the twentieth century was perpetuated by the payment of school fees. Muslim Arabs and Swahili were generally poor and the poverty was aggravated by the abolition of slavery and slave trade, which was then the backbone of their economy. Those who engaged in slave trade benefitted a lot financially. With the abolition, they lost a source of income. Muslims therefore refused to cooperate with the government over the issues of building schools and paying for rental houses for schools (Maina, 1993:123).

In the 1930‟s and 1940‟s, Muslims started to realize that with Western education one could get a wage-earning job hence impact positively on one‟s standard of living. A vivid example of a personality who had benefited from secular education and who also agitated for secular education among the Muslims and Arabs was Sir Ali bin Salim. He had served as an assistant Liwali (a political and religious administrator during the colonial period in Nigeria) of Mombasa and was also the first Arab nominated member of the Legislative Council (LEGCO). He is also associated with the establishment of the first Arab school in 1912 in Mombasa (Maina, 1993: 115; Maina, 2003: 54).

2.2  The Introduction of IRE in the primary school Curriculum in Nigeria

 The education system in Nigeria during the colonial period was racially stratified. At independence, an Education Commission was set up to abolish the racial segregation in education and reform the educational policies for the nation. The Ominde commission was set up in 1964 after independence. The new government found it necessary to revise the whole school curriculum and state clearly the National Goals of education in an independent state. The commission‟s main objective was to examine the way education was being provided by the churches.

The Ominde Commission recognized the significance of religious education in Nigerian school curriculum. Religious education was observed to be as important as any other subject in the school curriculum. It makes an individual to have a proper understanding of oneself, God the Creator and the universe. Religious education also influence behavioural change. As a result it was treated like an academic subject and would be taught along sound educational lines. This meant that religious education was to have an approved syllabus and textbooks. It also meant that the subject should be taught professionally by a qualified and regular member of the school staff. Teachers were meant to facilitate learning and not to preach or evangelize. Like other subjects, it was to meet the national goals of education (Thungu et al, 2022:86).

This therefore means that a clear distinction between the educational mission of church or mosque and the purpose of a school was to be made. For instance, a mosque or a Madrasa is primarily entrusted with pastoral care of Muslims. Accordingly their educational mission is linked with adherents‟ increase of faith and exposition of doctrine. A school on the other hand is dedicated to growth, that is, growth of mind, body and spirit (RoK, 1964: 36). According to the report, where the parent of a pupil at a public school wishes the pupil to attend religious worship or religious instruction of a kind which is not provided in the school, the school shall provide such facilities as may be practicable for the pupil to receive religious instruction and attend religious worship of the kind desired by the parent (RoK, 1964: 38).


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