Working Paper


Curricula that Respond to Local Needs: Analysing Community Support for Islamic and Quranic Schools in Northern Nigeria


Involving local communities in school management is seen to be crucial to improving the quality of education in state schools in developing countries; yet school-based management committees remain dormant in most such contexts. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with a rich network of community-supported Islamic and Quranic schools in the state of Kano in northern Nigeria—a sub-Saharan African region with very low education indicators, low economic growth, and political and social instability—this paper shows how making school curricula responsive to local value systems and economic opportunities is key to building a strong sense of community ownership of schools. Under community-based school management committees, control over more substantive educational issues—such as the content of school curricula and the nature of aspirations and concepts of a good life that it promotes among the students—remains firmly in the hands of the government education authorities, who on occasion also draw on examples from other countries and expertise offered by international development agencies when considering what should be covered. The paper shows that, as in the case of the urban areas, rural communities or those in less-developed urban centres lose trust in state schools when the low quality of education provided results in a failure to secure formal-sector employment. But the problem is compounded in these communities, because while state schools fail to deliver on the promise of formal-sector employment, the curriculum does promote a concept of a good life that is strongly associated with formal-sector employment and urban living, which remains out of reach for most; it also promotes liberal values, which in the local communities' perception are associated with Western societies and challenge traditional values and authority structures. The outcomes of such state schooling, in the experience of rural communities, are frustrated young people, unhappy with the prospect of taking up traditional jobs, and disrespectful of parents and of traditional authority structures. The case of community support for Islamic and Quranic schools in northern Nigeria thus highlights the need to consider the production of localised curricula and to adjust concepts of a good life to local contexts and economic opportunities, as opposed to adopting a standardised national curriculum which promotes aspirations that are out of reach.


Bano, M. 2022. Curricula that Respond to Local Needs: Analysing Community Support for Islamic and Quranic Schools in Northern Nigeria. RISE Working Paper Series. 22/103.