| +234 (0)8.147.616.463

Searching for Knowledge and Recognition, Traditional Qur’anic Students (almajirai) in Kano by Hannah Hoechner

Hannah Hoechner investigates an educational practice that is widespread in Muslim West Africa. ‘Traditional’ Qur’anic schools, whose students live with their teacher and earn their own livelihood (often through begging), have become the subject of much public concern and anxiety. Hannah Hoechner explores the experience of such Qur’anic students (pl. almajirai; sg. almajiri) in Kano State in northern Nigeria.

The almajirai have attracted attention in the context of increased attempts to universalise primary education and of growing concerns about child welfare. They have also been rightly or wrongly associated with Islamic radicalisation, militancy, and the periodic riots that have blighted many northern Nigerian cities. The current spate of Boko Haram violence in northern Nigeria has carried such modes of thinking to the extreme. The Qur’anic schools are described as a ‘ticking time bomb’ and a ‘threat’ to national security.

Despite the concern and controversy sparked by the almajirai, there is a dearth of research engaging directly and in depth with the constituencies of the ‘traditional’ Qur’anic schooling system. That the existing literature does not contribute to a better understanding of the system is a particularly severe shortcoming, given the enthusiasm with which speculative narratives are constructed in some sections of the media. Such narratives craft their own realities, as people act upon their stereotypes.

Hannah Hoechner’s research aims to fill the gap in knowledge about almajirai. She explores the processes through which children become almajirai and what they learn while they are living as almajirai. She also engages with the (overwhelmingly negative) representations of the system and asks how young people living as almajirai position themselves with respect to such representations.

Hannah Hoechner combines observation and semi-structured interviews with the use of participatory research methods. During her MPhil research, almajirai took pictures with disposable cameras. Hoechner then used these photographs as entry points for group conversations. Also, almajirai conducted interviews amongst themselves and recorded messages with a tape-recorder, interviews which she then transcribed and translated. During her DPhil research, Hoechner carried out a participatory documentary film project about the almajiri system. With the support of the Goethe Institute Kano, nine almajirai from three different Qur’anic schools in Kano State were trained to write the film script, handle the camera, do most of the acting, and give the stage directions. The film offers insights into the almajirai’s views and the experiences they have while living in ‘traditional’ Qur’anic schools in Kano. It is available online at:

IFRA Special Research Issue vol. 2


Biodun Ogunyemi and Kolawole Raheem Perceived Relevance of Human Rights and Peace Education in Post-Military Nigeria

Emmanuel O. Ojo
Mechanisms for Conflict Management in Plural and Divided Societies: the Nigerian Experience

David Uchenna Enweremadu
The struggle against Corruption in Nigeria: the Role of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (ICPC) under the Fourth Republic

Rasheed Olaniyi
Approaching the Study of Yoruba Diaspora in Northern Nigeria in the 20th Century

Ismail Bala Garba
Short Takes on New Nigerian Poetry from the Niger Delta

Ismail Bala Garba
Complexly Intertwined’: Poetry and Politics

Ismail Bala Garba
Historiography and Historicality

Saheed Aderinto
Britain, Leftist Nationalists, and the Transfer of Power in Nigeria, 1945-1965

Full text available online on OpenEdition Books:

Afrobeat! Fela and the Imagined Continent

by Sola Olorunyomi, 2005

In Afrobeat! A popular artist, a counter-hegemonic activist of the hardest grain, meets his most cerebral, disquisitional interpreter.

  • ODIA OFEIMUN, Leading African poet and former President, Association of Nigerian Authors.
    This is not just another addition to a growing Fela scholarship but a fascinating and frequently insightful study. It is both a celebration of Fela’s uncommon virtuosity and an exploration of his mystique.
  • NIYI OSUNDARE, Poet and Professor of English, University of New Orleans.
    A Major contribution to Fela scholarship in particular, and African popular culture studies in general; it explores Afrobeat as musical practice and cultural politics.
  • TEJUMOLA OLANIYAN, Associate Professor of English, University of Virginia.
    An original effort. Like Fela’s life, this account of it is not only a wild ride but a magical African musical mystery tour.
  • DAVID COPLAN, Professor of Social Anthropology University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.

Full text available online on OpenEdition Books:

IFRA Special Research Issue Vol. 1


Osisioma Nwolise
Terrorism: what is to be done about an emerging threat to democracy, good governance, development, and security of nations in the 21st century?

Isaac Olawale Albert
Terror as a political weapon: reflections on the bomb explosions in Abacha’s Nigeria

Paul Osifodunrin
Escapee criminals and crime control in colonial southwestern Nigeria, 1861-1945

Gani Yoroms
The second Liberian peace process and the problem of post conflict peace building in West Africa: some contending issues and interests

Asonzeh F.-K. Ukah
Globalisation of Pentecostalism in Africa: evidence from the Redeemed Christian church of God (Rccg), Nigeria

Gafar .T. Ijaiya and Raji A. Bello
Demand for modern health care services and the incidence of poverty in Nigeria: a case study of Ilorin Metropolis

Rasheed Olaniyi
Chief D.O. Sanyaolu 1896-1960: A Yoruba merchant prince in Metropolitan Kano

Full text available online on OpenEdition Books:

Community Vigilantes in Metropolitan Kano 1985-2005

by Rasheed Olaniyi, 2005

Kano is a city where a multi-layered form of community policing was established in the era of the rollback of the state in social provisioning in the midst of ever-increasing armed banditry and crime. Between 1985 and 2005, vigilante groups were established in almost all the neighbourhoods of Kano with the support of the traditional authority and community leaders. However, government interference, political instrumentalisation and inadequate support undermined its critical rote. Part of the rationale for the Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC) in Sabongari lies not in the efficacy of such initiative in reducing the incidence of crime but to confer a sense of identity, control of crime and security. The contradiction in PCRC could be located in the pathological fixation of police on corruption, which alienated and depressed the public from providing valuable information for crime control. The activities of vigilante groups and Hisba have reduced the high rate of juvenile delinquency in metropolitan Kano. The litmus test for Hisba in the implementation of Sharia law would be how it could reconcile the social diversity in a multicultural society such as Kano to ensure security and social harmony. The study concludes that the gap between different forms of vigilante groups, conflicting political motivations and the near discordant relations with the police, produced a dysfunctional mechanism for crime control.

Full text available online on OpenEdition Books:

Find us

Institute of African Studies
University of Ibadan
Ibadan, Oyo State
+234 (0)8.147.616.463