Transformations in Islamic Education in Ghana

by David Owusu-Ansah

The interviews and images in this collection focus on responses to secular education for Muslim children in Ghana. These contemporary conversations are situated within a historical context that influences the tone and content of debates around secular education.
From the 15th to early 19th century, West Africa was home to a number of highly respected Muslim clerics, appreciated for both their religious services and their educational skills. During the height of the Asante kingdom, these clerics were an important resource and the trade brought into the region via Muslim traders was of significant economic and social value. But when European expansions from the coastal provinces led to the drawing of firm colonial boundaries into which modern countries emerged, Muslims became the religious minority in the Gold Coast (modern-day Ghana).
Under these new conditions, the Islamic literacy that gained Muslim clerics historic influence became increasingly irrelevant except for religious purposes. For this reason, a strong sense of mistrust and suspicion was developed toward Western knowledge acquisition and institutions, which was exacerbated by the late introduction of secular education to Muslim-dominated Northern Territories of the Gold Coast. Reservations about secular education remained even after Ghanaian independence and it was not until the late 1980s that the Muslim community embraced Ghana's national secular curriculum.

Examine a Photo
Two female students at the Azariyya Islamic Education School.
Explore the Collection
Browse images and interviews on transformations in Islamic education in Ghana.
Listen to an Interview
Mamuna Bintu al-Shaban teaches at the Azariyya Islamic School and describes the benefits of secular education.