The best Tsangaya school model for Nigeria By Isa Ali Pantami

The traditional Qur’anic school system commonly known as Tsangaya School is almost as old as the history of Qur’anic revelation. After discussing some Tsangaya models developed and adopted in some countries of the world, I intend to present a proposed model for adoption in Tsangaya schools in Nigeria. This is based on my in-depth interest and experience of schooling and managing Tsangaya on one hand, and knowing the socio-economic and cultural challenges of Nigeria on the other.

In a Qur’anic verse which has been adopted as the framework of this reminder, Allah seriously enjoined His Prophet (Pbuh) to instruct us to work tirelessly and intensively. The Glorious Qur’an says: “And say (O Muhammad) do good deeds! Allah will see your deeds, and (so will) His Messenger and the believers. And you will be brought back to the All-Knower of the unseen and the seen. Then He will inform you of what you used to do” (Q9:105).

I strongly believe that proffering a solution theoretically is not the only way out for Tsangaya System, but rather it requires vigorous and sincere effort from all and sundry, particularly parents, philanthropists, Ulamah, elders, community leaders and all tiers of government. This should be done with genuine and  sincere intention not political motive. This is because Qur’anic education cannot be integrated and sustained with only materialistic ambition and/or political motives.  Contextually, from the models we analysed previously, I intend to present a concise summary of a framework and a model from the previous models to be adopted by Tsangaya system.

First, there is need to establish governing councils for the school, as maintaining and promoting Qur’anic schools is not a one-man business, and not just a necessity but an obligation on every person who believes in the divinity of the Glorious Qur’an. It undoubtedly requires division of labour. People have different expertise, and as a result, their areas of contribution differs. Sincere people brought up or living in any community should identify local Qur’anic School(s) in their town/village and initiate an idea of coming together to promote the school(s).  Our beloved infallible Prophet (Pbuh) says: Whoever revives a good Sunnah (good teaching), he will definitely get its reward, and the reward of anyone who works (or benefits from it) with it to the Judgment Day… (Muslim RH reported it).

It is indeed a virtue to revive any good action for the benefit of others. Tsangaya system requires urgent attention towards its genuine integration which can be achieved through community service by committed people, not those who loot public funds and still claim to be Muslims or Christians. Some pupils in various Tsangaya schools are orphans, while others have completely lost contact with their parents. The only guardian they know and regard are their local teachers. If you hand them over to an insincere government that will most likely fail in fulfilling its obligations to the schools, they would be exposed to untold suffering. In the end, what we fear will surely happen – the pupils will certainly indulge in social vices and extremism as a result of missing parents, local teacher and negligence of insincere governments that have already abandoned public institutions.

Secondly,  there is need to establish committees for Tsangaya schools to complement the work of Governing Councils or Board of Governors. I believe that every school should have three standing committees, which should include education & guidance, welfare, and finance committees. As their names imply, education committee handles the modification and maintenance of Qur’anic knowledge, Tawheed and Tajweed. guidance and counselling committee takes care of all students’ affairs, while finance committee generates revenue for the school. Parents should be appointed into some of the committees even if they are far away from the school geographically. These are some of the strategies adopted by Imam Shehu Uthman Bin Fodio and his lieutenants, and indeed very similar to what is currently found in the Sudanese Tsangaya system briefly explained previously in this series of reminder on Tsangaya.

Thirdly, every school should have an ingenious way of generating income. This is one of the most outstanding challenges that have hindered some genuine efforts in the past. Identifying ways of generating income for running Tsangaya School is very necessary. Some essential ways of generating income include; establishing an organised reward-oriented farm for healthy and mature students and volunteers to maintain, necessary contribution from parents and members of the council and committees, urging and collecting zakat (compulsory alms) – both in cash and kind, sourcing for international assistance from foreign organisations like Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Muslim World League and Islamic Relief Organisation.  The northern governors, who are championing the government initiative and defending it vigorously, need to come forward and present their zakat to Tsangaya system as the month of Ramadhan approaches. Most of them (if not all), declared their assets amounting to billions of Naira, yet nobody has ever seen their zakat or heard about it. “Charity begins at home” in developed and/or responsible nations. However, in our sinking darling Nigeria, “charity begins outside the home”.

About zakat, our infallible Prophet (Pbuh) says: “Any person who possesses wealth and does not pay what is due on it –zakat, on the Judgement, sheets of gold and silver would be heated in the hell fire and with them his flanks, forehead and back will be branded. When they cool down, they will be heated again and the same process will be repeated during the day the measure whereof will be fifty thousand years. This will go on until Judgement is pronounced among people, and he will be shown his final abode…” (Muslim RH reported it). This prophetic reminder reminds us that those who do not pay “zakat” among the Muslim community, their  wealth will become anguish for them on the Final Day. 

The fourth prerequisite for a viable Tsangaya system is the development of an ideal and realistic curriculum. There are many models that could be adopted. However, I strongly propose the idea of allowing intelligent young kids to complete the memorisation of the Qur’an and its basic sciences by heart, which could be achieved within two to four years hopefully, before embarking on acquiring knowledge of Islamic law and worldly courses. This has been the curriculum of our pious predecessors that include Imam Bukhari, Imam Annawawiy, Imam Suyudiy and Imam Bin Hajar. After completing their memorisation of the Glorious Book, they can enrol in public schools or advance vocational courses as the case may be. This might not work well for adults. In that case, adults could be encouraged to enrol into public or vocational schools while attending Tsangaya school side by side.

We have discussed in detail how to formulate the best Tsangaya model for our country. But whatever model we adopt will come to nought if there are no political will and sincerity of purpose from the authorities. Therefore, for our Quoranic schools to be in line with our heart desire, we need sincerity of purpose, sacrifice, commitment, honesty and consistency.  It is an undisputable fact all over Nigeria that, schools managed by proprietors, communities and organisations are by far better than government institutions. People avoid public schools in their communities and enrol their children in private ones managed by proprietors. In Nigeria, ministers of education, commissioners of education, permanent secretaries, directors, advisers of education openly avoid the institutions they manage and enrol their wards into private institutions. Most of our public boarding schools are not better than neglected orphanages of a country is in complete anarchy.

Note: I attended the Shurah meeting of the Supreme Council for Shariah in Nigeria at Kaduna, some days back on the state of the nation. Our greatest anathema in our darling country is unjust and insincere leadership and docile followership. Your prayers are needed for Nigeria.

Mr. Pantami (, an Islamic cleric, is a lecturer at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, and Ph.D Candidate (Computing & IT) in the United Kingdom

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