History was made at Olabisi Onabanjo University when the Nigeria Association of Teachers of Arabic and Islamic Studies (NATAIS) held its 37th Annual National Conference from Tuesday, 19th November, to Friday, 22nd November, 2019 at the OGD Lecture Theatre, Main Campus of the University in Ago-Iwoye.
The Association which was formally established in August, 1974 at the Faculty of Arts, Bayero University, Kano, with the aims to bring together all teachers of Arabic and Islamic studies in Nigerian Institutions of learning, also placed emphasis on the need to encourage and support scholarly research in Arabic and Islamic Studies and most importantly, to organize seminars, conferences, symposia and workshops from time to time on various aspects of Arabic and Islamic Studies. According to the National Secretary of the Association, Dr. Abubakar K. Hassan, it was the latter part of the association’s objectives that brought them to Olabisi Onabanjo University to expand the frontier of knowledge in Arabic and Islamic Studies.
Welcoming participants to the Annual National Conference, the Vice-Chancellor, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Professor Ganiyu Olatunji Olatunde expressed his happiness on the decision of NATAIS to select OOU as the host institution for the conference, more so, at a time he was presiding over the affairs of the institution as the Chief Executive.
“I am equally happy that the decision to host this great event favoured Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye at a time that I am priviledged to be the Chief Executive”.
The Vice-Chancellor noted that teachers at various levels of education played the most significant roles in nation building because of the advantaged position they occupy in human capital development, which according to him, formed the hub around which the economy of every nation revolves. He, therefore, charged the participants as “teachers of Arabic and Islamic Studies in the various climes to constantly see to it that the objectives of this great Association are selflessly pursued both for her growth and the overall development of our dear nation”.
The Vice-chancellor commended the organizers of the conference for choosing the theme “Repositioning Qu’ranic Education in Nigeria: Arabic and Islamic Studies Perspectives”, which he described “as very appropriate and timely”. Professor Ganiyu Olatunde observed that the theme was painstakingly drawn in consonance with the great vision, mission and core objectives of NATAIS.
Thereafter, he congratulated individuals that were slated for awards in the course of the conference. Said the Vice-Chancellor, “the grace of Allah upon your past efforts has earned you this honour and I want to encourage you not to rest on your oars, but continue to strive harder in supporting his noble course, especially, through the pursuance of ideals of this great Association”.
In his goodwill message to the participants of the conference, the Honourable Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, on behalf of his ministry expressed his profound gratitude to the government of Ogun State, the Vice-Chancellor, Olabisi Onabanjo University, and members of the University Community for hosting the conference.
“I wish to express my profound gratitude to the Government of Ogun State, Vice-Chancellor of Olabisi Onabanjo University, lecturers and students for hosting this conference” said, the Minister who was ably represented by Professor Shasiu Abdulahi.
Malam Adamu stated that the impressive turn out of Arabic and Islamic Teachers at Olabisi Onabanjo University for the National Conference was a confirmation of the commitment of all stakeholders towards the growth of Arabic and Islamic Education in Nigeria. He added that the huge presence of the participants also affirmed the steady progress being made in strengthening partnership and at addressing the varied challenges of the nation’s educational system, particularly, Arabic and Islamic Education. He commended the Association for its dogged commitment not only to the repositioning of Arabic and Islamic Education but also to the restoration of the glory of Arabic and Islamic Teachers in the country.
The Minister informed the participants that his ministry was committed to the overall development of Arabic and slamic Education in Nigeria. To buttress this, he reminded the gathering of the establishment of the National Arabic Language Village in Borno by the Federal Ministry of Education with the mandate of applying different strategies to encourage and boost the study of Arabic Language in the country. Malam Adamu Adamu added that his ministry had built over 150 Almajiri/Tsangaya schools and produced special education curriculum in all the subjects for the Almajiris.
According to the Honourable Minister of Education, the Federal Government would continue to provide equitable access to educational opportunities for all Nigerians in all parts of the country. As part of these measures, Malam Adamu stated that the Federal Ministry of Education has established the National Board for Arabic and Islamic Studies (NBAIS). He said that the Board was saddled with the responsibility of the conduct of Senior Arabic and Islamic Certificate Examination in order to pave way for Arabic and Islamic students to secure admission into tertiary institutions.
In his own goodwill message to members of NATAIS, the Baba Adinni of Yorubaland, Edo and Delta states, Chief Sarafa Tunji Isola urged the association to look into “violent and wayward doctrines espoused by particular segments among our teeming youths”. He, therefore advised the national body of NATAIS to collaborate with other relevant and prominent muslim organizations by leading the way in standardizing Islamic teaching and preaching in Nigeria. He stated that “as Islamic scholars, we cannot leave the nurturing and upbringing of the country to foreign and nonsensical ideas. We have to stamp it out anywhere it presents itself”.
Chief Sarafa Tunji Isola stressed that “the goal must be to stop the scourge of religious violence that grips the North-Eastern region of the country”. He, therefore charged members of the association to pursue greater unity as it is a major challenge that the Ummah was struggling with. “The division across the country leads to a scenario where members of the same Islamic faith will not pray in mosques that have members who are not of the same group”, said Chief Isola.
He noted that NATAIS as an association was a forum where Islamic Scholars could come together in-spite of their unique backgrounds to achieve great and wondrous goals. According to him, the position which NATAIS found itself in directing the affairs of the Muslim Ummah gave her an advantage when it comes to addressing the many issues being faced by muslims by mainly providing education and enlightenment to them.
Chief Isola warned the participants that “unless we come together, we will not be able to tackle the challenges that always slow down progress for the generality of the muslims in Nigeria and beyond”. He remarked further that “if we are not united, we will continue to suffer gross injustice and neglect within the entirety of the populace”.
Presenting the Lead Paper entitled “Repositioning Qur’anic Education in zNigeria: Arabic and Islamic Studies Perspective”, Professor Salisu Shehu of the Department of Education, Bayero University, Kano examined the state of Arabic and Islamic Education in Nigeria with particular reference to Qur’anic Education and the increasingly controversial Almajiri phenomenon. Professor Shehu also assessed the impacts of educational policies of colonial imperialists on Islamic educational system. He also highlighted the existing educational situation in Nigeria before and after the coming of the Europeans.
Thereafter, Professor Salisu Shehu recommended that a baseline study should be conducted to determine the location, size, staff strengths, facilities and problems of Qur’anic schools. He also suggested that Northern State governments should support and promote existing integrated schools, in terms of infrastructural development, staff recruitment, training and development.
He added that vocational education that would provide skills related to occupations like carpentry, welding, farming etc. should be introduced to adolescents and adults attending Qur’anic schools.
According to him, proprietors and teachers of the integrated model Qur’anic schools needed to be trained on basic teaching methods, administrative skills, school management and child management. Most importantly, Professor Salisu Shehu called for the routine supervision and inspection of Qur’anic schools to ensure the success of the project.
The highlight of the programme was the presentation of awards to three eminent Nigerians who have distinguished themselves in the service to humanity and contributed immensely to the development of Arabic and Islamic Studies in Nigeria. The awardees were Professor Sulaiman Mohammed Jamiu, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Kwara State University, Dr. Shehu Ahmed Rufai, a multi-linguist whose contributions to Arabic Education in the Northern Nigeria are unprecedented and Brigadier General Shehu Garba Mustapha, an accomplished military officer whose contributions to Arabic/Islamic education and peaceful co-existence are unparalleled.
This event witnessed the presence of religion scholars across all faiths, most especially, islamic scholars, Arabic teachers, top government functionaries, royal fathers, eminent and distinguished personalities from all over Nigeria.