Converting mosques to temporary school facilities will do a lot of good

The Emir of Kano, Mohammad Sanusi 11, recently advised northern governors to use mosques to offer primary education instead of constructing new classrooms in the midst of scarce resources. According to the emir, since there were many mosques in the northern part of the country, they could function as primary schools during the day time and in between afternoon and evening obligatory prayers. This would slash considerably the amount spent on school infrastructure while more attention and funds could be devoted to the training of teachers and welfare. “When you convert these mosques to institutions of learning in your domain,” said Sanusi, who was also former governor of Central Bank, “you simply bring education to the door steps of citizens at less cost.”

Fortunately, many renowned scholars and Imams across the north are buying into the idea as long as the mosques are well kept and their sanctity observed. Ismaila Modibbo Umaru, Secretary of the Muslim Council of Nigeria in Adamawa State said communities could do well to support the idea. “During the time of the Prophet, mosques were centres of learning and scholarship, so our mosques can be used as classes so long as their sanctity will be respected as places of worship,” he said. Dr. Mansur Ibrahim, also an Islamic scholar in Sokoto, said parents who could not afford to send their children to even public schools would send them to schools “managed by our mosques.”

In the history of Islam, teaching children in mosques is nothing new. Mosques were centres of learning and scholarship. The first ever school linked to a mosque was reportedly at Medina in 653 and by 900 “nearly every mosque had an elementary school for the education of both boys and girls.” Renowned Islamic universities like Al-Azhar and many of its contemporaries were former mosques. Indeed, Sanusi’s credited his recent suggestion to his trip to Fez, Morocco, where he visited a mosque performing its routine function as a place of worship, and a university.

Sanusi’s inspired idea is evidently aimed at spreading literacy in the north where the number of out-of-school children has been on a steady rise. According to the latest report, over 10 million children of school age were out school in that region alone.

To make matters worse, classrooms are an essential commodity, particularly in many rural communities with the result that children study under trees. In the urban centres that have the luxury of being provided with classrooms, many of them are dilapidated with leaking roofs, cracked walls and without windows. In many cases, children sit on the floor as there are no reading tables and chairs for them.

The situation is not helped by the acute shortage of teachers, which in Sanusi’s words were “among the critical factors that lead to positive learning outcomes.” Recently, Hon. Adamu Jangebe, Education Board Chairman in Zamfara State made a depressing revelation on the condition of primary education in the state. He said no fewer than 300 public primary schools were manned by a single teacher each while many more schools in remote communities had none at all, leaving the children to their own devices.

Yet without good education, the future of children is already mortgaged with the attendant danger of making them susceptible to anti-social vices. Indeed, ample evidence exists that the social miscreants and religious bigots, including the Boko Haram insurgents that have wrecked the North-east of the country today, are largely recruited from the army of uneducated people who grew up without any hope for their future. Most of the girls who are married off at tender age are predominantly from rural areas, and mostly with no education.

It is therefore important for critical stakeholders in the north to heed Sanusi’s recent advocacy. It will do a lot of good.