Bringing education to West Africa's Youth
With the Bilal Ibn Rabah Colleges and the Sankore Institutes, Ihsan strives to transform environmental hardships into a life-changing opportunity by preparing West Africa’s youth for a life of faith, learning, and service. We also also strive to revive & develop West Africa’s traditional schools which were once credited for high levels of mass literacy and scholarship.
Help bring education to those that need it most!
OUR EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS
Fifty years after securing their independence, West African countries are still struggling to achieve the dream of universal access to education. Major cities and towns in West Africa have been receiving growing numbers of migrants from the rural areas. Wars, that generally destroy the few existing schools, exacerbate the difficulty of providing education for urban youth. Masses of uneducated and jobless young people are a recipe for strife. Ihsan intends to transform a challenge into an opportunity by preparing West Africa’s urban youth for a life of faith, learning and service.
Rural children of West Africa have even less access to education than children in towns and cities. This is due to the smaller number of schools in rural areas; poor parents’ inability to send their children to school; and in some cases, the fear among parents that their children will lose their culture in modern schools.
Ihsan Foundation is building modern schools in rural West Africa that are respectful of local culture. The foundation also strives to revive and develop West Africa’s traditional schools which in the past were credited for high levels of mass literacy and scholarship in the region.
Bilal Ibn Rabah Colleges: Background
Fifty years after gaining independence, West African countries are still struggling to achieve the dream of universal access to education. Major towns in West Africa have been receiving growing numbers of migrants from the rural areas. Wars, which sometimes destroy the few existing schools, exacerbate the difficulty of providing an education for urban youth. Masses of uneducated and jobless young people are a recipe for strife. With the Bilal Ibn Rabah Colleges, Ihsan intends to transform a challenge into an opportunity by preparing West Africa’s urban youth for a life of faith, learning and service.
Bilal Ibn Rabah College: Calabatown Campus, Western Sierra Leone
The first Bilal Ibn Rabah campus is located at Calabatown, a suburb of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.
The project, started in 1996, was interrupted by the war in Sierra Leone and subsequent funding shortages. The first floor of the building was completed in 2005. Currently 150 students are enrolled in the foundational program of the Institute of Arabic and Islamic Sciences. The complex is also serving as a center for ibada, relief and community development.
When the upper floor is completed the following programs and institutions will be launched:
- an Institute of Professional Studies
- a research library
- an Institute of Arabic and Islamic Sciences.
The library will also archive ancient and decaying manuscripts, mostly in Arabic and in local languages using the Arabic language script. Much of Sierra Leone's indigenous scholarship is in danger of being forever lost if the manuscripts are not collected and restored promptly.
The Bilal Ibn Rabah orphanage is located on the same campus, thus allowing the orphans to grow up in the midst of the community.
Bilal Ibn Rabah College: Mayenkeneh Campus
Like Calabatown, Mayenkeneh is also a suburb of Freetown. This campus will complement the programs of the Bilal Ibn Rabah College of Calabatown, which is located in the middle of town and faces space constraints.
When completed, the Mayenkeneh campus will include a secondary school, a masjid, as well as student and faculty housing and the Institute of Professional Studies. The latter will offer courses in Education, Accounting, Business Administration and Information Technology.
The first building of this project, sponsored by the Houston Muslim community, has been completed. The complex now houses the Ihsan Academy, a junior secondary school, and the Ihsan Community School of Mayenkeneh, a primary school.
With the availability of funds, a new complex will be built to house the senior secondary and post-secondary school programs mentioned above. The current building will then serve as a primary school for approximately 500 students. There is also the need to build apartments for faculty, as well as a student dormitory and a campus masjid.
Bilal Ibn Rabah College, Bo, Southern Sierra Leone
Bo is Sierra Leone’s second biggest city. It is a very beautiful town, and the college land is close to hills and the confluence of two rivers. It is located near the highway that leads to the town of Kenema in Eastern Sierra Leone.
This project began with the donation of one acre of land by a very generous resident of Bo. This same donor has promised another acre of land for the building of a masjid or Islamic center (including a masjid). On the other side of the Atlantic, the generous Muslim community of Memphis raised the donations necessary to fund the building. The Bo community has welcomed this project with great joy.
The ground floor of the complex is almost ready to welcome the first batch of students.
When completed, the institution will include a secondary school, a college, a masjid, as well as student and faculty housing. Programs to be run in the college include Arabic and Islamic Sciences, Education, Languages and Humanities, Nursing, Accounting, Business Administration, Information Technology, Agricultural Science and Building Sciences. A student population of 2,000 is anticipated.
Bilal Ibn Rabah College, Kenema Town, Eastern Sierra Leone
Construction of Masjid Khadija, the first phase of the college located in Kenema, the capital of Sierra Leone’s Eastern province, is in progress. When completed it will serve as a place for ibada, mass literacy, and will also house a traditional school. The teaching masjid is expected to be completed in 2007. The complex is already serving as a center for ibada, Koranic studies, and community development.
When the facilities for the college are completed the following programs will be launched: Arabic and Islamic Sciences, Education, Languages and Humanities, Nursing, Accounting, Business Administration, Information Technology, Agricultural Science and Building Sciences. A student population of 500 is anticipated.
A big dream: can Ihsan have a successful college in every major urban center in West Africa by 2030? Yes, you can help make this dream a reality!
SANKORE INSTITUTE: Introduction
Rural scholarly enclaves played a great role in the advancement of scholarship and cultural life in medieval West Africa. These centers of learning also served to develop indigenous scholarship in Arabic and in local West African languages, using the Arabic script.
The Quran-based schools could once be found in all villages of Muslim West Africa. Some of these schools, not only gave a basic spiritual and moral education, but also assured that many villages had a very high rate of functional literacy. Local languages became written languages of business, correspondence, etc. Some schools developed into major centers of scholarship. The vast number of West African book manuscripts that charities such as the Timbuktu Foundation are attempting to collect and preserve, are a testimony to this imperiled legacy of West African scholarship and literacy. The Sankore University masjid of medieval Timbuktu was one of the major centers of scholarship in the medieval Muslim world.
West Africa’s tradition of scholarship has declined for a variety of reasons. For one, it does not provide prospects of social mobility and advancement in the modern world. Unfortunately, modern schools are slow in coming to fill the vacuum. They are also much more expensive to establish and maintain. Many communities in rural West Africa, therefore, have no access to formal education.
The Sankore College of Northern Sierra Leone is the model for a network of institutions in the region, which will combine the strengths of two educational systems: the traditional West African and the modern.
The buildings to house the foundational phase of this college have been completed. This includes a masjid, a community literacy program and a faculty residence. Twenty-five orphans temporarily live in one of the faculty apartments.
Sankore has now launched its Teachers Training Institute. Upon graduation, Sankore teachers are expected to minimize the shortage of teachers in the rural areas.
When completed, Sankore College will include an Institute of Traditional Islamic Sciences, a Secondary School, and a program of Languages and Humanities. Its Institute of Professional Studies will offer courses in Farming, Business Administration, Information Technology, Nursing, Accounting and Building Sciences. A student population of 1,000 is anticipated.
The Masjid Abdullah Community in collaboration with the Masjid El-Hidaya Community of Atlanta are funding the building of a complex to hosue the Sankore Primary School & the Sankore Secondary School. Ihsan expects to launch a primary school in September 2007.
Hidaya Institute, Northern Sierra Leone
The Atlanta Community is building this feeder institution for the Sankore College across the river from Sankore, so that young children of Yelesanda and nearby villages no longer must risk their lives by crossing the river.
- A program of Arabic and traditional Islamic Sciences
- A Secondary School
- A program of Mass Literacy and Community Development
Sankore Institute, Futa, Republic of Guinea
The Sankore Institute, which is the first phase of the Sankore College in Guinea, welcomed its first batch of students in 2007. Please find more details in the section below entitled, “Ihsan’s Expanding Vision".
Ihsan Community Schools Project
Many children in rural West African villages have no access to school. By establishing small community-run schools, Ihsan seeks to combat the high rates of illiteracy.
Ihsan currently runs two community schools, one at Mayenkeneh in Western Sierra Leone and another at Magbothah in Northern Sierra Leone. Both are primary schools.
Without financial assistance many West African children will not have a modern education. To address this problem, Ihsan launched a scholarship program in 2006. An average of $30 a month is what it takes to educate a child in West Africa. Donors have the option to establish correspondence with their beneficiaries if they like.