First and foremost, we thank Almighty for the release of these kids. We thank all Good Samaritans who came together, jettisoning their ethnic and religion, to rescue these kids by their prayers and contributions—in kind and cash. It is indisputably one of the darkest pages of Nigerian history. It is indeed a catastrophe of gargantuan proportion. It can only be imagined in other climes; but unfortunately, it is a reality in Nigeria.
Any responsible Nigeria—irrespective of social status, political party or religious affiliation—would writhe in pain whenever news of abduction is aired. Is it even a breaking news anymore? Just two days ago, 73 students abducted again in Zamfara. So, what is new in the news of abduction? Except perhaps one chooses to ignore the fact, kidnapping has become a huge industry in Nigeria. Kidnappers might be legally required to register with the Cooperate Affairs Commission (CAC); and perhaps pay company tax to the government. It sounds like a joke, right?
Insecurity in Nigeria has reached its nadir. If you think it has not, only God knows the calamities that are hibernating to strike. I just hope and pray that we are experiencing the worst moment in our dear country. For if anything disastrous than this is upcoming, it will only be better and safer to live in the belly of the earth than on its surface.
It did not come to me as a shock. It is something I had envisaged before it came. I mean the resolution of the parents of Islaamiya kids who were recently released. Some of the parents resolved that they will never send their children to school again—be it secular or Islamic. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have had any objection if the North (or Nigeria as a whole) has attained some degree of progress in its level of education. But one must be concerned that most states in Nigeria are still considered Educationally Less Developed States (ELDS).
Oh! You think it is only the northern states that are ELDS? You are wrong! Though all northern states are, by default, there are other ELDS in the South. All in all, 23 of the 36 states in Nigeria are ELDS (19 northern states plus 4 southern states). Approximately, 64% of the vast territorial space of Nigeria is considered educationally less developed. Nigeria is indeed the Gi‘ant’ of Africa.
If a developed country is ravaged by bandits who go on kidnapping spree like Nigeria, parents can resort to home schooling. As veritable as home schooling is, it is not a good option in Nigeria for some reasons. One, how many parents are literate enough to teach their kids? Two, how many literate parents have teaching skills? Three, how many able and willing parents have time and patience to teach? Four, how many parents are financially buoyant enough to employ home coachers in the face of unprecedented economic hardship? Five, How many graduates are graduate enough to home-coach?
Just three days ago, a university graduate contacted me asking if I could help her out. ‘On what?’ I asked. In response, she said she was asked to write an application letter to a mushroom secondary school in her locality but she doesn’t have an idea. ‘How to right application letter?’, I asked amazingly. Imagine that you employed this young graduate to coach your child on something as basic as letter writing, what would be the outcome?
Yet, her case is better! I know a graduate who cannot right correctly anything dictated to him. In fact, one needs to be a wizard (if at all) to read and understand a sentence written by this graduate. Well, this is a story for another day.
The bottom line is that Nigeria is not matured for home schooling on a large scale. And without basic education, there can never be progress. I am appealing to these parents to re-enrol these kids to schools. In fact, it is now that these kids need education. They need it badly. They need to be rehabilitated, re-oriented, and re-educated. Spending three months in kidnappers’ den must have had a serious negative impact on their thinking, perception and understanding of things around.
We should not capitulate to the demands of these agents of darkness. We should not help these haters of education (Islam) to achieve their dreams. For anyone who hates education really hates Islam. Without education, without enlightenment, you can only try to be a good Muslim; you may never be one. That is why any call for Sharia in any society must be preceded with massive investment in education accompanied by results to show for it.
It does not just connect. Sharia? In states that are rightly adjudged to be educationally less developed? Let’s be frank, the seed of Sharia germinates only in a fertile land which source of fertility is knowledge. If Sharia is implemented on illiterate masses by illiterate or semi literate implementers, the outcome could be catastrophic. The Qur’an is very clear on this “Certainly, We have brought to them a book (the Qur’an) which We have explained in detail with KNOWLEDGE; a guidance and a mercy to a people who believe” (Q7: 52).
It is very unfortunate that Zamfara, the foremost sharia state in the North, is what it is today. It should, typically, be a centre of knowledge, scholarship, and research. I won’t say it is a centre of ignorance; but at least it is not the right place to go for seekers of knowledge—courtesy of bad governance, and now bandits.
Any parent who do not want his children grow up to be bandits, the sure way to go, and the most effective precaution, is education—especially Islamic education. This should be understood within the right context. Qur’anic memorization is not tantamount to Islamic education. Most of us get it wrong. Most of our so called Islamic schools are Qur’anic memorization schools where Islamic ethics are not taught.
Our emphasis should be on Islamic education where students will be taught the difference between right and wrong, lawful and unlawful, what is disliked and what is permissible. Students, in these schools, should be taught how to live in peace with neighbours—Muslims and non Muslims. They should be inculcated with the understanding that we are all children of the same parent (Adam and Hawwa [Eve]) irrespective of the languages we speak, the religions we practise, and the colours of our skin.
They should be taught that non Muslims have the right to worship just as we do. This is not just because we live in a democratic state (Nigeria), but because it is the injunction of the Qur’an. It says “To you be your religion, and to me my religion” (Q109:6); “There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path” (Q2:156); “And say: ‘The truth is from your Lord.’ Then whosoever wills, let him believe, and whosoever wills, let him disbelieve; for the wrong doers We have prepared a Fire…” (Q18:29).
I cannot imagine any parents denying their children the opportunity to learn these noble Islamic ethics. While I understand their feelings, they should not allow the kidnapping incidence to create in them hatred for knowledge. This might lead to hatred for Islam (unconsciously); perhaps they don’t know. Hatred for knowledge (generally speaking) is hatred for Islam.
It is true that education is at stake in the North. All schools are under lock and key already in Zamfara; similarly Unijos. The only saving grace in Borno are the mega schools in Maiduguri (the State Capital). Yet, our kids must go to school. May Allah help restore peace to the North and Nigeria at large.