By Hadiza Kere Abdulrahman
Posted on Tuesday, 10 December 2019
Nigerians need to take a hard look at abuse across the board, rather than imagining it is solely a problem of Islamic schools.
Recent reports about the mistreatment of children in Nigeria included news reports of “torture houses” at Islamic schools in a number of states.
The catchy news headlines came close to invoking mass hysteria by linking events at the schools to kidnapping, child begging, Boko Haram and Nigeria’s reported 10 million “out of school” children.
In this environment, every Nigerian becomes an expert and has a strong opinion. But the debate doesn’t include the very people involved in the system who struggle to make a claim for alternative narratives.
I have conducted research into this system of Qur’anic education for the past six years. I have looked specifically at the mainstream misrepresentation and distortion of Almajiranci, a classical system of Qur’anic schooling which is common in northern Nigeria and other parts of Muslim West Africa.
Young boys are sent away from home to live with and study the Qur’an with a teacher, also known as a Malam.
“Single-story” narratives about this simplify an otherwise complex and nuanced system of education and socialisation.
In my research, I used the stories of the men who had gone through the system as a counter narrative. I especially aimed to amplify their voices to challenge their harsh representations by Nigerians like myself – the “Western-schooled elite”. People with the power to do all the representing.