In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
I deem it a honour to make this contribution and express my goodwill to the Education Summit organized by the well-esteemed National Council of Muslim Youth Organizations (NACOMYO), one of our most dynamic Islamic groups in the country. I appreciate NACOMYO for its activities and congratulate the membership, on behalf of myself and the Nigerian Muslim Ummah, on the auspicious occasion of this Summit, aptly themed, “Restructuring Education for Sustainable Development”.
The decision to organize an event of this nature is laudable because of the significance of education in Islam and the need to constantly appraise it in order to achieve its goals in our beloved country, Nigeria. It is well-known that ignorance is a calamity and without education, everything is in vain. Education is the bedrock of development and this is why Islam considers it a life-long phenomenon (i.e. from the cradle to the grave) which must be sought all over the world, be it even in China.
It is therefore a right step in the right direction to reflect on education, recognize its promoters and further its course through an educative magazine like Alfityan, the fifth edition of which is being presented at this Summit. Through this Summit, I believe, NACAMYO is furthering its answer to the call of Allah in Qur’an Al Imran, 3: 104: “Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islam), enjoining Al-Ma’ruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do) and forbidding Al-Munkar (polytheism and disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden). And it is they who are successful.” I pray that Allah accept it as an act of ‘Ibādah.
Brothers and Sisters in Islam, our nation is in crisis chiefly because of the crisis of education. Our late Prof. Aliyu Babatunde Fafunwa in his important book, History of Education in Nigeria(1974), defined education as “the aggregate of all the processes by which a child or a young adult develops the abilities, attitudes and other forms of behavior which are of positive value to the society in which he lives”. He added further that education is no less “a process for transmitting culture in terms of continuity and growth and for disseminating knowledge either to ensure social control or to guarantee national direction of the society or both.” But to what extent is this being done in our schools, with specific reference to key terms and phrases like “positive value”, “transmitting culture”, “disseminating knowledge”, “social control” and “national direction” we have in the definitions above?
From the Islamic perspective, the essence of education is to achieve a Total Man or a Balanced Personality. This is why the goal of Islamic education and education in Islam is “to help build up the individual who will act as Allah’s Khalifah or at least put him on the path that leads to such an end” as posited by A. R. S. Abdullah in his Educational Theory: A Qur’anic Outlook (1982). In other words, education is meant to achieve “the balanced growth of the total personality of man, through the training of man’s spirit, intellect, rational self, feelings and bodily senses” as submitted by S. N. Al-Attas in his Aims and Objectives of Islamic Education (1979).
The need to restructure education in Nigeria is urgent because there is a gulf between it and its purposes. A cursory look at our society reveals failure of education in virtually all facets of our national life as evident in misguided youths, corrupt leaders, weak institutions, poor infrastructure, pervasive insecurity, moral decadence, poor quality of life and general degeneration. More often than not, the impression created by the products of many of our schools and institutions is that they spent years at school to acquire certificates, not education, because such individuals are not “Omoluabis”. Who is an “Omoluabi”?
If I may return to Fafunwa again, an “Omoluabi” is a complete gentleman or an “an individual who is honest, respectable, skilled, cooperative and conforms to the social order of the day.” This is a sustainably developed person that can guarantee sustainable development for the country. It is balanced education that can produce this type of individual but our education in Nigeria is not balanced as it relegates our religious and cultural values and emphasizes the quantitative over the qualitative. This is the bane of our conventional education and it is worth thinking about and addressing now and always.
For instance, as part of the agenda of undermining religious education in Nigeria, the new curriculum for basic and secondary education has replaced Islamic Religious Studies and Christian Religious Studies with a new subject called Religion and National Values (RNV). This is a curious amalgamation of five (or four, per pupil) “courses” which are: Christian/ Islamic Studies, Social Studies, Civic Education and Security Education. If this curriculum is implemented, it means that we are in a confused state where many teachers will be teaching a single subject as I pointed out in a Convocation Lecture of the Crescent University, Abeokuta, that I delivered last month.
The implication of the foregoing is that NACOMYO, instead of sitting down and lamenting, is taking the bull by the horns, through this Summit, to put ideas that ignite value on the table on the reforms needed. I once again, on behalf of the Muslim Ummah, appreciate such an intervention and commend the organizers on their thoughtfulness. My prayer is that the outcome of this Summit be made public and its recommendations followed up to a logical conclusion.
Let me end this message with the words of Naraginti Reddy: “If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.” May Allah make us all righteous because “Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you” (Qu’ran, Al-Hujurat, 49:13)
May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon you!
Thank you and Jazākum Llaahu Khayran.
Professor Is-haq Olanrewaju Oloyede, FNIM, FNAL
Secretary-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs