Advisory work and longitudinal studies

Masooda Bano's work frequently involves collaborating with development agencies and she has been a long-term adviser on the Islamic school reform programme funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) as part of its education sector support programme in Nigeria. This eight-year programme is one of the largest educational programmes funded by DFID, with a total budget of over £100 million. The interventions she has helped to design have been adopted by the state governments of Kano, Kaduna and Jigawa in northern Nigeria.

Northern Nigeria’s large Muslim population presents a dilemma for development planners working in the schooling sector there. Officially, the region has one of the lowest literacy rates; yet over 90% of the school-age population attends some form of Islamic or Quranic school. As a result, development interventions aimed at improving state or private schools can only have a limited reach. Since 2008  Masooda Bano has been involved in trialing interventions with Quranic and Islamic schools in the northern Nigerian states of Kano, Kaduna and Jigawa that enable children to benefit from a modern education in addition to their Islamic one. The interventions have been tied to survey and longitudinal studies which further enhance our understanding of why Islamic education appeals to these communities.

Model 1: Tsangaya Schools Interventional and Longitudinal Study (Kano)

The first intervention she helped to trial was with Tsangaya (Quranic) schools. These schools are for boys only, and focus purely on learning to read, memorise and write the Quran; most children live with the malam (head of the school). Under this programme, a community school was established to cover clusters of every five Tsangaya schools in selected areas of Kano. Permission was secured from the malams for children in their Tsangayas to attend the modern, community schools. The intervention is tied to a longitudinal study which aims to understand what factors facilitate transition to middle school within the target population.

Model 2: Islamiyya School Intervention and Longitudinal Study (Pakistan and Nigeria)

To what extent does religious education actually make its recipients opt for different life choices? To answer this question, a longitudinal study is being carried out with female students between the ages of 16 and 20 who are enrolled in madrasas/Islamiyya schools or in secular colleges. In Pakistan, the study is being carried out in the province of Punjab. In Nigeria, it is tied to Islamiyya schools in Kano, where an intervention similar to the one described above for Tsangaya schools is being implemented. The first round of data collection took place in 2012 and follow-up surveys are planned with the same population every five years. A questionnaire has been developed for the girls pursuing these two different types of education. It is designed to measure their socio-economic background; levels of religiosity; future aspirations; and desired level of material prosperity.

Model 3: Loans for Mothers in Islamiyya Schools (Kano)

The third intervention aims at improving female attendance at Islamiyya schools in Kano by providing skills training and micro-credit to the mothers of students enrolled in the programme. This intervention hopes to improve educational opportunities for young girls while also providing economic opportunities for their mothers, who are often keen to enhance the household income but rarely have the training or the possibility to secure formal employment.

These interventions have been directly informed by Masooda Bano's academic research interests in the apparently disconnected fields of Islamic education and aid effectiveness. As she argued in an interview, 'Making these interventions work requires a conceptual understanding of the place of education in Islam while also being familiar with the workings of development institutions. What has to be understood is that the local community is not against modern education per se; rather, it opposes modern education that threatens its traditional value systems. In such a context, interventions that offer incremental change— such as moving towards integrated education rather than arguing for an outright substitution of modern for Islamic education — are far more likely to be effective in meeting the primary development target of achieving education for all.'