P085 – Islamic Education in Africa: Reform and (Re-)Configuration
8 July, 14:00 – 15:30

Newman Anneke / University of Sussex
Hugon Clothilde / LAM / SciencesPo Bordeaux


In African countries with significant Muslim populations, Islamic schools often exist in opposition to state education, and enjoy much local popularity. However, Islamic schools have been subjected to reform, as older models are adapted to include Western pedagogies and secular subjects. In recent decades the push for reform has intensified and internationalised, including through funding from Arab Muslim countries, international Islamic NGOs, and Western development donors to deliver Education For All. Currently, reformed Islamic schools sit alongside secular state institutions and older forms of Qur’anic education. What are the relationships between the State and actors supplying these different school types? How do their agendas converge or diverge? What contrasting models of identity are promoted within schools? How is reform challenging older patterns of authority, while creating new bases for legitimacy? This panel will also consider education demand by exploring factors informing students’ and parents’ school choices. Possible questions include how identity constructions plays into decision-making, and how these identities are reconfigured in the context of reform. Finally, how might people’s understandings of the moral value and material utility of Islamic education be shifting with the new opportunities available.

L’éducation islamique en Afrique: réforme et reconfiguration
Dans les pays africains à majorité musulmane, les écoles islamiques existent souvent en opposition à l’enseignement public, et bénéficient toutefois d’une grande popularité locale. Ces dernières années, avec les objectifs affichés “d’Education Pour Tous”, ces écoles islamiques ont été soumises à un ensemble de réforme, les intégrant progressivement dans leur système éducatif national. Ce processus s’est intensifié et internationalisé, notamment avec le financement des pays musulmans arabes et des ONG islamiques internationales mais aussi avec l’implication de bailleurs de fonds occidentaux du développement. Ce type d’institution éducative fait partie intégrante des paysages éducatifs nationaux (école publique laïque, école coranique traditionnelle). Comment ces réformes éducatives modèlent et structurent ces nouvelles institutions ? Quel est leur rapport avec l’Etat? Quelles sont les nouvelles formes d’identité promues par ces écoles? Ce panel sera également l’occasion de discuter la demande d’éducation en interrogeant les facteurs et stratégies qui pourraient jouer sur le choix des élèves et parents. En quoi les constructions identitaires jouent-elles un rôle important dans ces stratégies éducatives? Comment ces identités sont-elles reconfigurées dans ce contexte de réforme éducative? Enfin, comment évoluent et changent la perception des populations envers ce type d’éducation ?


Paper 1

Ayong Ahmed Khalid / University of Bayreuth

Islamic Erudition in Northern Cameroon Between the Jauleru and the Madrasa

The development of Northern Cameroon as a major center of Islamic religious scholarship can be traced back from the jihad led by the Fulani cleric Uthman Dan Fodio in the 19th century. As the base of the scholarly tradition and the foremost institution of advanced Islamic learning, the jauleru (vestibule) of the modibbo (Muslim scholar) produced an uncountable number of locally well-trained scholars, who faithfully transmitted to many generations a unique methodology of acquiring Islamic knowledge. The standard and exemplary scholar shaped by the jauleru was a faqih (jurist) a lughawi (linguist) a Sufi (mystic) and a zahid (ascetic) mostly associated with the Tijaniyya Sufi order. However, from the 1970s onwards, Middle-Eastern returnee ulama established madrasas as a way of democratizing and popularizing the diffusion of Islamic knowledge in the society. Islamic religious knowledge production therefore witnessed a shift of paradigm from a normative traditionalist approach to a more puritanical, rationalist and pragmatic approach to knowledge resulting for a struggle for scholarly and spiritual authority. Drawing from a socio-historical and ethnographic inquiry, this paper explores challenging general assumptions about modernity and social change.

Paper 2

Laheij Christian / Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

Speaking the Truth: Shifting Modalities of Islamic Education and Muslim Politics in Northern Mozambique

The past decade has seen a reconfiguration of Islamic education in northern Mozambique. Whereas regional dynamics of Islamic knowledge transmission have historically been characterised by personalised teacher-student bonds, madrasa education is becoming increasingly standardised and professionalised. This professionalisation is funded by Islamic NGOs from the Middle East and by private donors. It comes against the backdrop of a rapidly growing Islamic reform movement which seeks to bring local understandings of Islam in line with globally-oriented Salafi-inspired interpretations. This paper discusses the political implications of these shifts. It argues that the reconfiguration of madrasa education contributes to the emergence of novel forms of mutuality and public engagement which are premised on explicit concerns with the pronunciation of truth. These forms collide with existing modes of relating to authorities, and lead to confrontations between Islamic reformists and authority figures, of both religious and state types. Several of such confrontations are analysed in this paper, including a successful campaign by the northern Muslim community to overturn an initiative by the Mozambican government to ban the wearing of veils to school. The analysis shows that while attitudes fostered by changes in Islamic education produce individual dilemmas and social tensions, they also enable Muslims to influence the political class in ways that have not been seen before in Mozambique.

Paper 3

Sene Mame Fatou / LAM, Sciences Po Bordeaux

Entre enjeux nationaux et réalités locales : le daara Mame Diarra théâtre de la constante négociation entre État et acteurs religieux

L’éducation arabo-islamique a été développée en dehors du circuit étatique, par des acteurs privés religieux, notamment les confréries. Notre contribution portera sur le daara Mame Diarra Bousso de Porokhane afin d’illustrer les dynamiques de négociations permanentes entre un acteur traditionnel de l’éducation arabo-islamique (la confrérie mouride) et l’Etat qui fait preuve d’un intérêt grandissant pour ce secteur depuis les années 2000. Cet internat, réservé aux jeunes filles, se propose de former des musulmanes à l’image de la marraine du daara. L’établissement est né de l’initiative du défunt khalife mais bénéficie du soutien de l’État. Cependant, ce dernier a constamment affaire aux autorités religieuses locales par qui passe toute décision allant de la logistique au contenu des enseignements. L’implication de l’État dans la création de cet institut situé dans la deuxième localité la plus importante du mouridisme, sur le plan symbolique, montre que derrière le discours sur la visée éducative de la modernisation des daaras, se tapit une forte dimension politique et que les politiques éducatives ne sont pas unilatérales. Grâce au daara Mame Diarra, l’Etat peut afficher un taux de scolarisation des jeunes filles dans un foyer religieux de 89,9% tandis que la confrérie mouride bénéficie d’un soutien financier tout en affichant sa capacité d’adaptation aux renouvellements face à l’émergence de nouveaux types d’entrepreneurs religieux.

Paper 4

Sommer von Würden Julie / Centre of African Studies, University of Copenhagen

Islamic and educational knowledge in Zanzibarian schools

This paper deals with the educational knowledge in schools in Zanzibar, a predominantly Muslim setting. The paper discuss the presence and transformation of religious and cultural forms of knowledge: How Islam and culture become educational forms of knowledge, or “educationalized”, in secular schools and in Islamic schools in Zanzibar Town. The paper focus on the (legitimate) meaning and social classifications in classrooms connected to micro-knowledge politics and micro-identity politics. As in many other parts of Africa, educating and institutionalizing children and young people in Zanzibar has become a state strategy aiming at social welfare. There is however a need for more critical scholarly attention concerning the content of schools. Schooling in Zanzibar must be understood in the light of complex transnational relations, forms of government e.g. Omani Arabic rule, British colonial times, postcolonial socialist/Marxist-inspired governments, more liberally oriented regimes as well as internal disputes related to class, land, race and ethnicity issues. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the (formal and informal) pedagogical practices in schools that affect and in the same time are affected by people’s lives more broadly.

Paper 5

Newman Anneke / University of Sussex

Embracing the Qur’an, contesting reformist ideology: Reactions to girls’ Islamic education in a Senegalese village

In Senegal overall, Islamic education is very diverse. The oldest type is the Qur’anic school embedded within a Sufi understanding of Islam, teaching only boys memorisation of the Qur’an. There are also Qur’anic schools for girls, Arabo-Islamic and Franco-Arab schools using Western pedagogies and teaching secular subjects, and schools reflecting ‘Salafi’ interpretations of Islam critical of Sufism. However, this paper concerns a village in northern Senegal where Sufi clerics have opposed any alternative to the classical male-dominated Qur’anic school, fiercely resisting ‘reformist’ challenges to their pedagogy or interpretation of Islam. This paper therefore documents community reactions to a surprising development: the creation in 2009 of the first Qur’anic school for girls in the village by a female graduate of an Arabo-Islamic school in Dakar, of Salafi orientation. First, I analyse clerics’ responses, arguing that their permissiveness reflects growing support for women’s Islamic education, while judging that the school does not threaten their reputation. Second, I look at other women’s reactions. They engage by sending their daughters to memorise the Qur’an, but meanwhile contest the teacher’s anti-Sufi ideologies through socialisation. This provides a novel gendered angle on Islamic education dynamics by illuminating the struggles between women – rather than men – of different Islamic affiliations, and complexity of female Muslim subjectivity in contemporary Senegal.

← Back to list