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UNESCO/ISESCO promotes Arabic script writing of Quran

Nov 11, 2010, 11:42 AM

The use of Arabic/koranic script to write in the native African languages has been in use by Islamic scholars in The Gambia and many other African countries since time immemorial.

However, the practice had its set back simply because it was not standardized. Thus scholars were using the koranic scripts in writing with different meanings and interpretations. The difference that resulted from the liberal use of the Arabic scripts by non-Arabic speakers resulted in the need for a standardised script to ease communication and promote understanding in communication among people. This was the main reason why there was a need for standardisation and harmonisation of the Quranic Script in writing Muslim peoples languages.

The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO), the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the Institute for Studies and Research on Arabization (ISRA) in Rabat, Morocco, developed a system for transcribing the languages of the Muslim peoples in the Quranic Script. It was then possible to transcribe twenty-one (21) languages in West and East Africa.

A commission of phoneticians and phonologists belonging to these institutions proposed a set of signs (characters) to transcribe these languages. It has decided then that the sounds of African languages that are identical to those of Arabic be transcribed with the characters of the Arabic alphabet. With regard to African sounds that have no Arabic equivalents, the commission has proposed some signs (adjusted Arabic characters) to represent them.

It is against this backdrop that within the framework of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation - ISESCO’s Action Plan and Budget for the years 2010-2012 activities in the Gambia. The organisation, in cooperation with the Gambia National Commission for UNESCO –NATCOM, recently embarked on a supervision mission of five ISESCO literacy centres in the Gambia in partnership with the World Islamic Call Society-WICS.

In 2001 ISESCO, in collaboration with NATCOM, embarked on training of staff of the Madrassa Unit of the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MOSBSE) on the Koranic standardised Script which is currently piloted in The Gambia and Niger.  Reading, writing, arithmetic, pupils and teachers books have been developed in Wolof using the standardised koranic script. The Al-ahdari has also been translated by Gambian experts in Wolof.

ISESCO has financed the establishment of five literacy centres in the Greater Banjul area, Sambakala and Fass Chaho villages. Some 550 pupil’s books and 200 teacher’s guides have been provided to the centres which are existing daras.

Joint supervisory mission comprising ISESCO and NATCOM staff are embarked upon annually to monitor the progress of the centres.

Last week the education expert at ISESCO, Dr. Seydou Cisse, was accompanied by staff of the National Commission to conduct this year’s mission to the five Literacy centres: King Fahad Mosque, Banjul, Pipeline Mosque,

Kairaba Avenue
, Muamar Al Ghadafi Mosque (currently in Ibo Town), Sambaka Village, NBR, and Fass Omar Chaho, in the North Bank Region.

The mission discovered that the communities where the Centres are situated are actively involved in the literacy classes. The instructors hailed the efforts of ISESCO and NATCOM for the initiative as learning has become easier.

However, active participation in one centre was lacking as the people are rather too busy with farming and therefore do not have the time for literacy classes. They prefer to send their children to the farms and Daras. Time seems to be a major constraint meaning that they were only free at night and during that time the place becomes too dark for any learning to occur.  The mission has promised to work with the community to address the problem.

In order to encourage teachers, it was recommended that a form of monthly remuneration be allocated. Most of these teachers have been volunteering for four years without any form of payment or incentive.