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Opinions of Sunday, 7 August 2011

Columnist: Alfa, Abdur Rahman Shaban

Saturday Classes and the Muslim School Child

The
Saturday Classes Dilemma: the sad case of the Muslim Student

INTRODUCTION

The average
Ghanaian child as we have been told by educationists over the years is being
unnecessarily burdened with a loaded curriculum at all levels of the
educational ladder. Indeed I dare say that is without doubt.

The least said the
better relative to challenges that have bedeviled our contemporary educational
system ranging from the quality of teachers, the physical school structure,
encumbered syllabus and government policies in that direction, yet another
fringe problem within the context of this write-up: Saturday Classes hounds
children.

THE PROBLEM:
EMBATTLED YOUTH

The Muslim
child is in perspective here because he/she is a very complex academic creature,
enduring five secular school days – Monday through to Friday – before having a
weekend schedule of showing up at Islamic School, (i.e. makaranta).

Here are Muslim
children and youth who MIRACULOUSLY (caps mine) blend two alien educational systems,
(for emphasis) systems that are miles apart, attend school hardly with any
breaks, an undoubtedly complex situation it has been and still is for many
Muslim children, a harsh reality; I call it.

Ordinarily, our
educational system is supposed to run for five school days as above indicated,
the concept of breaking school after five days was primarily to allow students
to have rest, in some cases to attend church services and prepare for another
five days schedule.

Apart from
weekends, students have national holidays; midterm breaks (usually a maximum of
three days) and vacations (long/short) as periods off mainstream academic work.

Off mainstream
academics for the simple reason that these periods have a certain element of
academics drafted into them by way of classes, which are to a large extent by
choice except for one which comes with a coercive effect, sadly so.

Saturday
classes like all other extra class sessions would most certainly have been
mooted on the premise of giving students a certain measure of academic aid
especially so with a very loaded curriculum as above reiterated.

What set out as
an academic helping hand to those who needed it is turning out to be
institutionalized as most schools clandestinely and surreptitiously hide behind
Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) to force children to show up for sixth school
day.

All the better
for public schools, who can barely flout the Ghana Education Services’
directive of no classes, the private school operators seem to be having a field
day, passing a caveat that these classes fees are even drafted into school
fees.

The question that
bugs the mind of many here is: if a teacher failed to impart into a child
within five school days, what real significance would the sixth and
conventionally informal school day do?

Indeed, what
this concept especially in the Junior and Senior High Schools have succeeded in
doing over the period and in some instances for that matter has been for
teachers to defer particular lessons to the Saturday class, threatening
students who dared to absent themselves.

Then again for
most private institutions, the concept has everything to do with the little
currencies (50p and above) that is demanded from students for the services of
the very busy and sacrificial teacher who could have other better things doing
I guess.

In all of this
the Muslim child is left to choose between Scylla and Charybdis, (i.e. between
the rock and a hard place) relative to whether he attends the sixth school day
or heads for the Islamic school.

It is at all
not funny when young siblings return from school with reports that they had
received varied degrees of punishments from lashes to being asked out of
particular lessons for the simple reason of not attending Saturday classes.

A subtle form
of this guerilla class sessions is of tertiary institutions and how lecturers
do consultancy with the time they are paid to lecture students then turn around
to ask that these students come to class at very odd times of the day: at dawn
and or deep into the night.

A PROGRESSIVE
WAY OUT

As progressive
Muslims, a blanket call for an end to Saturday classes isn’t the way to go as
is not the use of force to get children to abandon classes for makaranta, in
fact the latter would mean double jeopardy for the young Muslim who is left
wandering psychologically and wondering what step to take.

How do we help
young Muslims I guess is a question to ask: get them at a very young age to
appreciate the need for attending makaranta and as best as possible do this
conscientization effort with parents who stand as major power brokers in which
path a child eventually treks relative to the above topic.

When push comes
to shove either of these options should come to play: that they attend Islamic
school subsequent to which they would be given school lessons on particular
subject areas they were most likely to have missed.

The reverse
case is possible, that they go to school and are back just in time to be taught
their Islamic lessons, this ultimately means one thing; sacrifice on the part
of the students especially, parents and we Islamic school teachers. After all
it is only for the greater good that we all make sacrifices.

As Muslim
students (myself included) trudge along the academic path, we are faced with
way too many hurdles, some to be scaled at personal levels, others with
parental help and several others with the communal and religious strength: a
typical case in point is the Saturday Classes dilemma, which has left us with
none but a strategic outlook to the issue.

TANGENTIAL
ISSUES & CONCLUSION

Whatever stops
Muslims from calling for Friday school if not scrapped to be cut at least to a
half day in order to afford young Muslims the opportunity to honour their
weekly Jum’ah salat; remains a mystery to some of us.

We are
better-off as Muslims heeding the admonishment of the Almighty, when he said in
the Qur’an that we should hold on fast to his rope and not to disunite, like
the many other issues whose answers have eluded Muslims in Ghana, therein unity
lies that answer.

To quote the
word of Hajj Zagoon-Sayeed Haruna in his book; A Case of Social Re-engineering
for the Ghanaian Muslim Youth, “The worst enemy that confronts the Ghanaian
Muslim Ummah today is disunity, and the most wanted commodity for the community
is unity. Islam is unity and unity is Islam.” page 49.

Very well said
and right on point by the very learned sheikh, whose book is a must read and is
up for a review after we have concluded what is an interesting piece of
literature by all standards. May Allah bless efforts of Muslims the world over
at expanding the frontiers of this great faith.

Thanks for
taking time to read through our (Confidence Muslim Youth Association) thoughts
and we look forward feverishly to sharing a discourse platform either via email
on facebook or any such platforms.

© Abdur Rahman
Shaban Alfa (General Secretary of CMYA)
Personal email: alfarsenal@yahoo.com
Group email: confimya@yahoo.com, confimya@gmail.com
Facebook name:
Confidence Muslim Youth Association