In black Africa, a co-ed Koranic school thrives

Discussion in 'Education & Careers' started by Mabsoot, Dec 7, 2006.

  1. Mabsoot
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    Mabsoot Amir Staff Member

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    In black Africa, a co-ed Koranic school thrives

    GAO, Mali (Reuters) - There must be at least 80 children in the classroom, the desks packed so tightly together that I wonder how those at the back have squeezed their way to their places.


    Adjusting from the glare of the sun outside to the dark of the mud-brick room, I can barely make out the boys in the furthest row.


    But shafts of light through the windows -- holes in the wall, without glass -- catch the dazzling colours of the girls' dresses and headscarves.


    The faces are black African, but the writing on the blackboard is in Arabic -- a difficult, foreign tongue to the 600 children at the Soullamou Islamic school in eastern Mali.
    They are learning it to study the Koran, the holy book of Islam, in this desperately poor west African nation where 90 percent of people are Muslims.
    "Why have you come?" a girl of about 13 asks me.


    The truth is that I have never seen an Islamic school and am curious to compare the stereotype with the reality. In countries like Pakistan, Koranic schools or madrasas have often been viewed with suspicion in the West, and even portrayed as academies for al Qaeda.


    Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once famously asked if the United States was eliminating more terrorists every day than the madrasas and radical clerics were recruiting.


    But in Mali, where most adults cannot read or write, the growth of private Islamic schools or madrasas shows "a hunger for numeracy and literacy" in a state that lacks the means to educate all its people, U.S. ambassador Terence McCulley said.
    He told me the United States is even supporting some of them through development aid -- a "soft power" counterpoint to its military training programme, in which U.S. special forces are teaching Malian soldiers to fight militants in the desert.
    The madrasas are thriving -- in Gao alone there are 41, an increase of nearly threefold in the past three years.
    As it receives no money from the state, the Soullamou school charges at least 5,000 CFA francs (about $10) per student per year, but waives that for orphans and the poorest families.


    "The child has the right to be educated," assistant director
    Boubacar Maiga says. "We can't refuse that to the child, even if the parents can't pay."
    The Malian government supports the development of madrasas and regulates their programme, insisting that they offer the full state curriculum, from maths to humanities.
    The children learn the Koran "like any other subject" for up to 40 minutes a day, Maiga says. Apart from French, which they start at age eight, they take all their lessons in Arabic.


    "It's very difficult, but there's no rule against giving the children a hand by using their native language," says Maiga. By year four or five, their Arabic is fluent.
    He leads me to see the youngest class, where six-year-old children are sitting cross-legged under a shelter of branches and reed matting. They burst into an excited song of greeting, a small boy leading with a solo and the others joining in chorus.
    It is a moving, uplifting experience. But while education in Koranic schools is widely respected across West Africa, there is a darker side.


    Some schools have come under scrutiny from children's rights groups who say unscrupulous Koranic masters or teachers are sending pupils out to beg on the streets.
    "Hundreds of thousands of children in West Africa are being forced to become street beggars for the personal enrichment of the masters themselves and are punished or beaten if they refuse to beg or don't collect enough food or money at the end of each day's work," the International Organization for Migration said.
    Some children were vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and even human trafficking, it added.


    At Soullamou school, some pupils are barefoot but not one of them asks for money or presents -- even when we leave and a throng of kids follows us through the streets, jostling to shake hands and show off the Arabic writing in their exercise books.
    Why do parents choose this school? Maiga's answer makes me smile because it would resonate with many in the West.
    "The parents have seen there is quality teaching here," he says. "We always beat the state schools in exams."
    (Additional reporting by Pascal Fletcher in Dakar)
  2. AishaR
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    AishaR Junior Member

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    :ma:

    Thanx brother for that. Very interesting

    :wasalam:
  3. sultan azeez
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    sultan azeez New Member

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    mashallah

    thats great , i wonder why dont those developed muslim nations help out these poor muslim nations , who wnat to be perfect muslims, inshallah allah , will look after them

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