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Reformed Sangaya education system gives pupils a better chance in life

3 November 2023
Reading time: 5 minutes

One year on and the decision to reform the education system at Sangaya schools in Borno State – by integrating Western vocational, numeracy and literacy skills – is proving to be a great success

Sangaya school teachers say reforms implemented last year, particularly the introduction of Western education, have resulted in “great development” and will give Almajiri pupils “a better chance in life”.

It has been a year since the decision was made to reform the education system at Sangaya schools in Borno State by integrating Western vocational, numeracy and literacy skills into the centres, which are also described as Almajiri and Islamic schools.

Borno State governor Babagana Zulum ordered the integration of Western teaching into these schools in October last year. It was intended to streamline the informal and formal education systems to qualify Sangaya schoolchildren for admission into colleges and universities.
The Borno State Arabic and Sangaya Education Board was established to regulate and reform the Almajiri learning system. With the collaboration of Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA), a programme instituted in 17 states, including Borno State, the board has made great strides to put an end to street begging and the abuse of Almajiri schoolchildren.

Teachers said the inclusion of Western education was already making a huge difference to Almajiri children who could now look forward to a better and brighter future.

Teachers said the integration had already resulted in the transformation of negative perceptions of Western education.

Hussain Goni, a teacher at Goni Kolo Baba Ahmed Sangaya School in Maiduguri, said the Borno State government had initiated Zulum’s decision to reform Sangaya schools in October last year in at least 2,775 Sangaya centres – known as Almajiri schools – and 451 Islamic schools.

“Since the implementation of the reforms we have seen our pupils’ learning of both Western and Islamic education progressing well. The government recruited several facilitators to teach English and mathematics in our schools. They hold classes every Thursday and Friday morning.

“The government pays the facilitators about ₦15,000 a month. Sangaya teachers are also paid now; they get ₦10,000 a month,” Goni said.

“We keep in touch with the government and members of the Arabic and Sangaya Education Board. We really appreciate their help in transforming the Sangaya education system. It has not only improved the circumstances of Almajiri children but it has also been a positive learning experience for the teachers.”
Goni said board members oversaw the school’s activities.

“If there are any problems, we go to them and together the board and the government try to resolve any issues.”
Goni Lawan Zarami, chairman of the Sangaya Association of Borno State, told RNI that it received help from the government every month through BESDA, which donates food and the school materials needed by the pupils.

“We fully accept and endorse the reforms at our Sangaya schools. It’s gratifying to see how well pupils are doing. They are becoming knowledgeable and wise and they have started writing letters and can communicate in English.

“Before the intervention of BESDA, about five pupils at most Sangaya schools shared one copy of the Qur’an. Now there are enough copies to go round for all pupils and they receive additional books and writing materials.”

Goni Muazu Mustapha, a teacher at the Goni Zarami Sangaya School, said: “Since the launch of the BESDA programme in Borno State and the establishment of the Sangaya education board, our pupils now have access to Western education and other items they need, such as mats, blackboards, pens, chalk, books and textbooks, food, money and mosquito nets – all things they never had access to before.

Ambassador Mohammed Isa, a member of the Arabic and Sangaya Education Board, which regulates the Almajiri schools, said the BESDA Operation Project aimed at increasing equitable access for out-of-school children, improve literacy and strengthen accountability for results in basic education.

“It has helped to reshape and reform the educational system of the Sangaya schools and it has helped in the development of both pupils and teachers. Through the programme, it has trained Sangaya teachers on what they should teach their pupils. From time-to-time board members of the board check to ensure the teachers are on track.”

Abba Hassan Abatcha, the dean of student affairs at the Mohammed Goni College of Legal and Islamic Studies, said the Sangaya system of education was in place long before Western education came to Borno State. It was driven by the constitution of the Qur’an and Hadith, a corpus of the sayings or traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, revered by Muslims as a major source of religious law and moral guidance.

“Guided by our emirs and scholars, we stand and hold firm with these principles which have become part of us. We are a religious-based society and Western education has gradually been accepted – not to replace it, but to enhance the knowledge of both teachers and pupils.

“Unfortunately, some people used passages of the Qu’ran to make people believe that Western education should be strictly forbidden. This contributed to the start of the insurgency.

“Now, with the reforms and the addition of Western education, the Sangaya system will no longer be left behind and pupils who graduate will be admitted to tertiary education institutions. This is a great step forward for these children.”


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