Access to bilingual education especially in English-Arabic is not an easy guarantee for many children in the Gambia. With the exception of few private schools, many others are either conventionally dominated or focused only on Arabic education forcing parents to choose either the English or the Arabic education system for their children. As a result, many children receive only one-sided education system.
To end this situation, Al-Furqan Institute of Bakau established in 2015 is seeking support from donors for the construction of a multi-faced bilingual Islamic institute that will give children the chance to high quality education in both English and Arabic and the memorisation of the holy Quran.
Al Furqan aims to invest in future generations by creating impacts on their early lives to help them into brighter futures.
It is founded by Kebba Wadda, a gambian who returned to the country with his family after many years working in Leeds, U.K.
Mr. Wadda told The Standard, that his inspiration to return to the country to set up an Islamic institute was inspired by Mufti Mustapha of Leeds who delivered a moving lecture after a Zuhr prayer at the Leeds Islamic Centre on the life of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) touching on three characteristics of his life among them his ability to motivate people.
“A few weeks later, another scholar, Sheikh Zahir Mahmood was invited to Leeds Bangladeshi Centre to give a talk on the topic, ‘Live your life with a vision’. I walked away from his lecture with a seed sown in me that the Muslim Ummah is not necessarily in need of eloquent speakers but men of action. From then on, I would go to work and just be jotting down ideas and plans I had for my country, The Gambia. Top on my list was a school and a hospital, even though I wasn’t a university graduate or had any medical background, but a simple post office worker. I had plans of outreach projects, micro-finances to alleviate poverty and even a benefit system for my homeland,” Wadda said.
Two years later, Kebba applied for a voluntary return and came to Gambia with his wife and children in August 2014 and were given 2000 pounds each by the U.K. government.
“For a lot of people, family and friends included, my decision wasn’t rational. It meant forfeiting our chances of securing British passports and other benefits but I simply didn’t want my children to grow up in the U.K., get caught up in the vicious life cycle of the West and maybe lose their culture or ‘deen’, so I stuck to my guns.”
The couple invested 12000 pounds of their resettlement money to start Al-Furqan Institute in January 2015. He established the Institute in a land he inherited from his late father.
Under the slogan of ‘buy three for the price of one’ which means a conventional, Islamic and Quranic memorization school combination, the Institute started its primary school with eight students with grades 1 to 4. An evening Quran studies called Maktab was also introduced to strengthen the Quranic studies of the students and also give an opportunity to studnets attending other schools to learn the Quran.
However, the Institute was completely dependent on loans and donations to sustain its operations.
“We ran the school at a loss for over 2 years but we were able to sustain operations from our little savings and through loans from family and friends,” Kebba Wadda recalled.
He said the Institute is very proud of its accomplishments seven years into its establishment and also grateful for the support it has received so far especially from the Bakau community.
From 2015 to this year, Al Furqan was able to produce 8 hafidths and ten students who have memorized more than 15 juzz of the Quran. Besides that, they have more than 15 students memorizing 2 pages of the Quran daily.
Al Furqan also extended its bilingual school from Nursery to Year 10 enrolling 350 students and set up an international school affiliated with Cambridge University and inclusion into the AMAANA, NAT, GABECCE and Cambridge exams.
It also introduced a monthly school magazine compiled by students and ISLAMIC classes for the adults and the elderly.
Future- new land acquired
With support from the Bakau community and the Gambia Government, Al Furqan has been finally allocated a land measuring 150 meters by 130 meters after a 5 years strife. It is about a mile away from the Institute’s currently congested located.
“Our current location is very cramped with hardly any space for the children to play, and due to the number of classes and students we have, we were forced to build vertically,” Wadda lamented.
He explained that massive funds are needed by the Institute to build new structures in its newly allocated land.
“We are kindly asking government and other humanitarian and philanthropic organisations to participate and support us reach our goals. With this project you will not only be sponsoring a school, but the only Bilingual Islamic school in The Gambia where students can memorise the Quran. The target of the school is for all the students to finish memorizing the Holy Quran by Year 6 and if not, by Year 8 latest. In addition to this, students will also learn conventional education and can grow up to be doctors, engineers, accountants etc without their options only limited to being Quranic or Islamic studies teachers.”
Wadda said due the scarcity of space at its current location, parents of hundreds of prospective students are refused entry because of the limited space, which ‘forces them to send their children to conventional schools because there is no other option for them.’
“Our system encourages students to grow, and from a young age they are exposed to calling out the azaan (the call to prayer), leading prayers, giving sermons, participating in debates, giving their opinions on how to effect changes. This is all done with the hope that it will gear them towards being patriotic Muslims and citizens, ready to make a positive difference in society. We do our utmost for students to speak Arabic (Fusha) so that they can understand the message of the Quran,” he said.
He explained that school engages in series of outdoor lessons and reminders where specific times are dedicated to teach vital morals to children in safeguarding them from the vices of society- virtual world.
Director Wadda averred that the vision of Al Furqan Institute (AFI) is to be standard bearers in the educational sector and to produce outstanding students who will not only have a positive impact on society but on the environment as well.
“We are soliciting the assistance, generosity of people worldwide to help us build this school, otherwise, all our aspirations will remain a dream. With this project, you will not only be contributing towards the Islamic education and national development of The Gambia, but investing for the hereafter in the form of continuous charity “Sadaqah tul Jariyah. It would be the first eco-friendly school in The Gambia and the only Islamic eco-friendly school in Africa. It will cost £700,000 to realise our objectives,” Wadda disclosed.
“I would like to thank His Excellency, President Adama Barrow, for his kind and timely intervention, the Honourable Minster of Local Government and Lands, Mr Abba Sanyang, for being just and fair, the Director of Parks and Wildlife, Mr Muhammad Gassama, for being a man of sincerity and principles, to my family, friends, well-wishers, students and their parents for assisting us to get this plot of land. We would not be here today without their prayers and support.”
Interested donors can contact Al Furqan on (+220) 7149250.
The school’s account details;
Bank: Access Bank
Name: Al Furqan Lower Basic School
Account No: 0050010001841