By Mohammed Rabiu Adam
Education is an indispensable tool across the world regardless of its form or shape, general or specific, formal or informal etc. Globally, educational structure has been identified and designed by scholars such that it augments one phase to the other. The nature and structure of Ghana’s education system is tailored towards building the cognitive ability of the recipient of the knowledge no matter where and how.
‘Makaranta’ as a system of acquiring knowledge is also geared towards building the learners’ capacity not only to worship their faith but also to appreciate knowledge in general. This write up seek to argue the contribution of Makaranta towards Ghana’s education system.
Makaranta as a system of education is found in pro-Muslim communities as it provides the platform for teaching Islamic-inclined knowledge. Makaranta is Hausa word which means ‘a place of learning’ or ‘learning center’. The root word is ‘karaatu’ meaning reading or learning. The meaning of the root word to a large extent implies that speakers of the language are not alien when it comes to seeking knowledge. The primary focus of the Makaranta is the teaching of Arabic language, Islamic studies, Qur’an studies, Qur’an memorization among others, and has since served as the foundation for Muslim students to advance their acquisition of knowledge even in the formal sector through writing of external examination organized by West African Examination Council (WAEC).
Historical Antecedent Of Makaranta
The Makaranta as an avenue for learning was believed to have started decades ago as the content was about teaching of Islamic studies. History had it that, some Muslim parents took their wards to the Makaranta as against the supposed structured formal system of education for fear of their children being converted to Christianity since those schools were then purely built to inculcate certain indoctrination considered to be avarice to the teachings and practices of Islamic religion. Parents as well as the teachers in Makaranta were much more interested in Qur’an studies, Qur’an memorization, Islamic sciences and Arabic language.
It could also be said that at a point the myth surrounding the fear of indoctrination in the formal sector of education was broken thereby Muslims in their numbers embraced it. Despite the remarkable change, the parents never neglected the Makaranta as it provides a specific knowledge towards one understanding and practicing of Islam.
Saturdays and Sundays Makaranta
Both parents and the students devoted Saturdays and Sundays for the teaching and learning of the Islamic knowledge after fully embracing the formal education system in Ghana. The weekend’s program became the only avenue left for the impacting of Islamic knowledge and values. For this alternative platform, students are expected to be present regardless of any excuses emanating from any quarters.
The desire for the knowledge seekers to acquire such a unique education and its maximum impact, it led to utilization of the vacation periods of the mainstream education system for effective teaching as the students and their teachers are available. The weekends’ teachings and learning were superb due to the seriousness attached by the various stakeholders in the community leading to community cohesion.
Makaranta and Further Studies
Evidence are in abundance that some of the teachers in the Makaranta have had the opportunity to further their studies in countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, just to mention a few. Similarly, most of the products were also exposed to the foreign and recognized institutions for further studies. The selflessness displayed by the students who after acquiring their further studies return to continue the course towards the general system of education in Ghana is remarkable.
Makaranta And Formal Education System In Ghana
The common denominator between the Makaranta and Ghana’s formal education sector is acquisition of knowledge to better ones values and moral upbringing. Again, most students who are able to grasp the Qur’an studies and Islamic sciences at the teen age before entering schools are able to excel in the formal sector better than their colleagues who did not have the foundation.
Again, most of the Muslim students in the Arabic departments in the various universities had their strong foundation from the Makaranta. Despite acquiring that degree of knowledge in the formal sector, some of these graduates of the universities are still patronizing the Makaranta both as resource persons and as teachers. The presence of these learned Muslims in the Makaranta have arguably motivated the continue students to appreciate the importance of seeking knowledge.
The Makaranta has also contributed immensely on students at the second cycle stage as the content of the Islamic Religious Studies is traceable in the Makaranta system. The students who have had firsthand knowledge in the field of Arabic Language, Qur’an Studies and Islamic Sciences are better placed to understand and demonstrate their relevance in other fields in the formal sector.
Challenges in Makaranta
Despite the immense contribution of the Makaranta towards Ghana’s system of education, there are some challenges that need to be tackled by the various stakeholders if the success needs to be consolidated for the future. Critical among the challenges is lack of well-structured system. This is where the various Makarantas in Ghana have not been identified to be able to undertake universal curriculum for effective teaching and learning. At this moment that there is a recognized agency like Islamic Education Unit within the structure of Ghana Education Service, one would expect harnessing of the various Makarantas in the country. It is time the Institute of Islamic Studies popularly referred to as ‘Research’ should show the leadership in its educational management by extending their designed curriculum to other parts of the country. Further, the Makaranta system are mostly community-based that needs to be expanded towards accommodating others for socialization and competitions.
The inadequate infrastructural development, books and lack of the renewal of teaching methods and strategies also impede the expected progress of Makarantas in Ghana. The few who have gone for further studies and returned with various degrees in their respective fields do not get the needed recognition in Ghana’s education system which leads to non-utilization of human resource.
The contribution of Makaranta towards Ghana’s education system is very significant in that almost all Ghanaian Muslim scholars have gone through the Makaranta system. In view of this, I humbly call on the Islamic Education Unit to help develop the Makaranta system through codifying the curriculum, recruiting the teachers and placing them on government payroll for the knowledge of this kind that they supply is appreciable and beneficial for Ghana.
Mohammed Rabiu Adam
Headmaster of Al-Basar Senior High School