Elhaj Abdou Burno, Northwest Islamic Education Secretary since 2003, has disclosed that much progress is taking place in spite of some obstacles the sector faces.
Briefing The Vanguard, the Secretary said the take-off of the school year was initially timid but after the first day enrollment improved. He, however, regretted that the Moslem Community still regards modern education as a taboo and that there is need for more sensitization. This has not stopped the progress of Islamic education since he took office.
Since he took office untrained teachers have been replaced by trained ones, the results have also improved - for instance an Islamic school scored 100% at national examinations, measuring up with other schools.
Other achievements include the construction of an Islamic school in Sabongari in Donga-Mantung Division with financial assistance from the UN High Commission for Refugees; the construction of two classrooms with 60 benches and the Headmasters’ office, the construction of Islamic primary school Ntabah by the European Union which also made available 60 benches. Other institutions constructed include a primary school in Fundong with 60 benches, another in Bangolan with 60 benches and the headmaster’s office.
“We have also had funding from the HIPC-initiative for the construction of 12 classrooms in Nkambe, 2 others in Babessi and two in Wum,” said Elhaj Abdou Burno.
The Islamic Education Secretary frowned at headmasters who declare very low enrollment as a strategy to siphon school funds. He said his office is very hard on such headmasters. Sensitization has also been made on the importance of Western Education. Abdou attributed the increase in the enrollment into Islamic schools on Imams and quarter heads who use their sermons to preach the gospel of western Education.
Giving an account of his stewardship at the helm of Islamic education in the region, Abdou recounted: “When I took over, there were 30 Islamic schools operating in illegality. But the situation has been regularized today. Besides that, the number of secondary schools has also increased from three to six,” he said. Another remarkable development he pointed out is that 70% of school enrollment is female.
Parents encouraged to send children to school
“Parents seem to have understood the importance of Western Education,” he commented. He said the parents are being encouraged not to limit child education to secondary or high school, but send their children to universities. Those already working with the state are sometimes invited to come and talk to the children during sensitization campaigns. The secretary also revealed that Former Basic Education Minister, Haman Adama, visit to Islamic school Bangolan acted as a great motivation to Muslims to send their female children to school. She provided Government credit for the construction of four classrooms.
“Other problems Islamic Education face in the Northwest,” he added, “include the late arrival of Government subventions. For instance, the subventions for the 2007/2008 academic year came only recently.” He lamented that the late arrival of such assistance retarded the program of the schools. That not withstanding, parents also pay fees piecemeal making it difficult for the management to draw and respect the program of the school and the budget. This method of paying school fees is caused by the fact that many Islamic parents don’t yet know the value of Western Education.
He added that the proliferation of many Government schools where almost nothing is paid has caused parents to be reluctant to pay the 7.000 – 10.000 FCFA charged by Islamic schools. As a consequence, the enrolment is some localities has dropped as most parents opt for free government schools. This also makes it difficult for management to pay the heavy arrears owed Islamic school teachers.
“Other problems faced by the Islamic education of recent,” he continued, “is the delay in the recruitment of Basic Education teachers by government. In this way,” he pointed out, “when teachers are absorbed by government in September, it gives Islamic Education authorities very little time to fill the vacancies. This then affects the tune of the schools.” To solve this problem, he suggested that the lists of basic education teachers recruited into the public service should be published in August to enable Islamic schools fill the gaps like other denominational schools.
ONEPI, a nuisance
One of the greatest problems Islamic education has, he said, is infighting. The main problem is caused by an outfit termed Organization Nationale de L’enseignment Privé Islamic, ONEPI existed in the past but was never mandated by the Moslem community. But this Organization went through dubious means to manage schools. Unfortunately for them, Joseph Owona, then Minister of National Education discovered that ONEPI was fake. He then organized a national conference in Yaounde and ONEPI was replaced by Organization of Islamic Private schools, known by its French acronym as OESPI.
ONEPI succeeded in extorting over 50 million FCFA from Government subventions. Its leader was prosecuted and imprisoned. The Islamic education authorities thought the matter was over. They were mistaken. The organization resurfaced following the death of Professor Dubla, National Islamic Secretary. They employed a lot of gymnastics to get subvention from Government. Failing to do so, he took the matter to court. The court was difficult for them to manipulate. Although they finally failed, their actions disturbed the smooth functioning of Islamic schools, for some time.
Challenges of this year
He enumerated the challenges of this year which include quality education, intensification of pedagogic follow-up and financial control. He called on Government to solve the problem of any fake organization trying to stifle the smooth administration of Islamic Education in the Northwest, saying that one person should not be allowed to destabilize a whole institution. He was pleased that founders of Islamic Schools and PTA Chairpersons had written to the Prime Minister requesting him to use his high office and solve their problem.
El Hadj Abdou Burno called on parents to pay the school fees of pupils and buy their school needs on time to ensure quality education. He equally implored collaborators to sit up and make sure that the ideas and program as designed can be achieved. He was pleased that the creation of the Islamic Teacher Training College in 2003 has improved academic standards in Islamic schools.
Because of its importance, he said the Ministry of Basic Education has increased intake from 50 to 250 for the 2009/2010 academic year. The school is useful in that it does not only train teachers of Islamic schools but checks problems of acute shortage of teachers. He concluded by sounding optimistic that the academic year was going to be smooth.
From our news desk