Not many People especially in Nigeria are aware that the first university in the world was established over 1,000 years ago by a Muslim woman. It is easy to conclude that if this fact is common knowledge, girl child education in Northern Nigeria, would not be so dismally diminished.
Though Primary education is not only free but compulsory in Nigeria, UNICEF places the population of out-of-school children at between 10.5-13.2million.
69% of that figure are located in northern Nigeria and in the North East and North West where statistics are very grim for the girl child. More than 47% of the girl child population are out of school.
Though there is no verifiable or authentic statistics of female children out of school in the northeast where terrorism has displaced many families and with insurgents targeting females in schools, it is agreed generally that two in every three female children of school age don’t have access to early education.
Hajia Rafat Salami, a renowned gender activist and Journalist, is one of the many Nigerian women advocating for the education of the girl child in Nigeria.
While she agrees that the Boko Haram insurgency has devastated the region and set back the early gains of advocates in the cause to ensure education for the girl child in Nigeria, she also notes that cultural practices and ignorance about Islam have done a lot to push back whatever mileage was covered before Boko Haram began preaching against western education.
“It is ignorance that the Islamic religion is against education. Actually, the fact is, Islam encourages both men and women to learn and seek knowledge – according to one prophetic tradition, from the cradle to the grave
“The first revelation that came to prophet Muhammed was about education. The angel Gabriel asked him to “Read” the prophet replied ‘I cannot read”. Our prophet was “unlettered” but through Angel Gabriel, Allah taught him “that which he did not know”.
Therefore, the prophet throughout his lifetime was a teacher, he memorized the Quran and he taught it.
He also did not exclude women. There was no time he excluded women.
“I challenge anyone who says otherwise to show me where it is written in the Holy Quran that a girl child should not be educated” Hajia Rafat says
“Acquire knowledge and impart it in people’ Prophet Muhammad instructed”
Hajia Rafat would want the world to note that the first university ever established in the world was established by a Muslim woman. “Her name was Fatima al-Fihri who was a Muslim woman from Tunisia and she founded the first known university more than 1,000 years ago: the University of al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco. (Guinness World Records) acknowledges it as the oldest existing and continually operating educational institution in the world.”
MORE ABOUT FATIMA AL-FIHRI
According to Wikipedia, Fatima Al-Fihri was born around 800AD in the town of Kairouan in present day Tunisia.
She and her sister, Maryam were well educated and studied Islamic jurisprudence Figh and Hadith, or records of Prophet Muhammed. At her wedding, her father left his wealth to both Fatima and her sister.
Fatima was to go on to acquire land to build a Mosque which took 18yrs to complete; she gave all Glory to Allah and then proceeded to build the world’s first university.
For Hajia Salami, the lesson in the story of the great Fatima is that there is no Islamic edict restricting educating the girl child.