“Do not play with Muslim children, they are taught to throw stones at people in their ile-kewu”- these were the words of a preacher to us during my church going days. My mind didn’t belong to the church thus I was quick to identify the falsehood in the words of the evangelist unlike my peers. Little wonder we have a host of them scattered all over today fighting a blind war of hate.
I mentioned this episode to a friend who said one may not really blame them (the preacher and his likes) since its evident some rough things go on in these our local madaris. The thought of ‘omo kewu’ running after lizards, roughly threatening and fighting each other and the dirty and never-ironed madrasah uniform made me give my friend a nod, a partial one! Since we will not blame the Christian cleric like he said, it is essential we answer the complementary question “who is to be blamed”?
Yea! Who is to be blamed for the ills and lapses in many of our local Islamic schools? The students, the parents or the Alfas/Mallam?
The aim of the informal Islamic education undoubtedly revolves around producing pious and conscious Muslims who will be able to pass the noble message of Islam across generations. Unfortunately, for a number of factors, this system has over the years been represented and perceived by non-Muslims and Muslims alike as a training ground for rogues roughing it out with jalabia and never get praised except for their many nakali (incantations). All these are born out of the poor setting viz. the curriculum and physical structure, teachers’ competency and poor learning condition. Undoubtedly, many madaris are better-off and have upgraded from what seemed to be the general perception but if our ile kewu teachers are seen as some unfortunate folks who mentors no one. Who is to be blamed for this perception? The teachers for their deeds?
The teacher and his deeds, he is so aggressive and fails to discharge proper the pedagogical service? He embarrasses himself at every ode-olomo (naming ceremony) and ode-oloku (burial ceremony)? Oh! He is a swindle, thanks to jalabi. He is not to be blamed, he probably was never trained to teach, how will a teacher even show his resourcefulness in a class of hundred plus without a helper? What makes him a beggar and swindler if not the paltry and irregular take home? He is not to be blamed maybe, should the parents?
The parents, they are mindless of the standard of tutelage their children undertake, even as they dose out thousands every trimester to the secular schools. They care less about the progress of their children’s studies and the baba olowo (wealthy) amongst them withdraws his kids because of the “local formation” thus denying his kids a great prize of learning Islam, when he has the ability to sponsor a good structure. Well there is no such thing like PTA meeting that will facilitate such discussion. The blame goes to the structure maybe, and who determines the structure, the Muslim community! I and you – him and her!
Recently, a mother to one of my students requested that I help her recite a very long surah in the Quran 49 times – a prescribed invocation by an Alfa. In an attempt to politely turn down her request without compounding issues, I told her I am busy, only for her to tell me: there is owo adua o (oh! There’s a prayer-fee). I was flabbergasted and felt she must be high on Nollywood dose. This obnoxious episode made me see how relegated the Islamic knowledge and its seeker have been in our society.
Nevertheless, the informal Islamic educational system is not such that could be disregarded in any Muslim community, its tenets and honour must be upheld, it should not be such that defeats the aim of its establishment, the blame of its malfunctioning is on us- leaders and followers. The solution does not lie in our hands, it lies in our brain- THINK AND REFLECT!