Managing A Private Conventional Islamic School (PCIS): A Tripartite Obligation

A private conventional Islamic school (PCIS) is a school below the tertiary level, offering a combination of conventional, Arabic and Islamic types of education. By simply establishing a school with a mandate to provide the above types of education, the school management has, ipso facto, assumed responsibilities in three distinct but interconnected ways; hence, the tripartite obligation.

In an earlier article titled; “Education Quality Assurance Policy: An Imperative for Private Conventional Islamic Schools in Nigeria”,  https://www.mouthpiecengr.com/2020/03/education-quality-assurance-policy.html?m=1#more, I had attempted to define the tripartite obligation of PCIS by saying;

“The tripartite obligation is in the form of legal, religious and moral obligations. Legal obligation can be seen from the contractual relationship that exists between the PCIS and parents/guardians, where the PCIS as a party, must keep their contractual promise to the other party i.e parents/guardians…..the religious obligation rests heavily on them too, as Islamic education of the Muslim children was the primary motive for establishing faith-based institutions of learning. While the moral obligation presupposes that they should live up to their appellation as Islamic schools.”

The nuances of the tripartite obligation require some elaboration to drive home the import of the present discussion.

Legal Obligation

In order to frame the legal relationship between the parents and PCIS, it is imperative to identify the legal traditions that may be relevant in the contract involving both parties. There are three distinct legal systems in Nigeria, namely; the Common law, Islamic law and Customary law. Although, the co-existence of the three systems of law reflects the concept of legal pluralism, this writer holds, otherwise, that the term “African Heritage Laws” is more appropriate to describe and contextualize the legal traditions of the African people. This thesis, finds further support in the fact that, the law guiding the practice of traditional education, Islamic education and conventional (western) education (a component of the Triple African Heritage, represented by the concept of balanced education) is African Customary law, Islamic law and Common law respectively.

Of the above three legal systems, it is only customary law that is less formalized. Therefore, in framing the legal relationship – and given that the dominant type of education is Islamic education – our focus will, primarily, center on Islamic law. Under Islamic commercial law, the contract that defines the type of relationship that exists between parents and schools is Ijārah (the contract of Hiring or Lease). There are, however, two types of Ijārah, namely; Ijārah al a‘yān (Contract of Lease) and Ijārah al manāfi‘ (Contract of Hiring). The former relates to the services rendered by human beings, while the latter involves usufruct of assets and properties. By electing to register their wards in a PCIS of their choice, parents have, legally, hire the school to educate their wards; hence, Ijārah al manāfi‘ is the contract that defines the relationship between both parties. In that case, the parents are the employer (musta’jir) and the school is the employee (ajīr). Ijārah is the commonest of all types of Islamic contracts and one that we make use of, on a daily basis, whether consciously or otherwise.

An Ijārah contract may be formed orally without recourse to the need to have it in writing and this is the common practice in most schools. Payments are, however, documented either by asking parents to provide bank teller or e-receipt generated through virtual platforms as proof of payment. The bulk of other important information is conveyed through notices, text messages and more recently online platforms such as email, WhatsApp etc.

While the above has sustained many schools for years, a written Parent-School Ijārah contract would be a better alternative. The advantage of such contract is that it defines the legal obligation between the parties, as all terms agreed by parties (such as admission policy, health and safety, transportation, assessment policy etc.), are reduced into writing in clear and unambiguous expression. Without a written Parent-School Ijārah contract, it is difficult to measure, in the actual sense, the extent of the obligations of each party to the contract. Meanwhile, such an agreement also has the potency to, among other benefits, address the usual face-off in disputed claims of varied nature that – more often than not – arise between parents and school management. To allay the fears of school owners in the process of formulating a Parent-School Ijārah contract, the school management may seek the expertise of a Muslim lawyer, who is learned in Islamic law, for proper guidance. Parents are unlikely to object to terms of such contract, provided they are fair and reasonable.

School business, across the world, has attained this significant status, as parents are willing to know the extent of their rights and duties in their capacity as the sponsors of their children’s education. The time has come for schools in Nigeria, particularly PCIS, to take full advantage of this initiative to make a difference! At another level, a school proprietor may also initiate School-Staff Ijarah contract for all categories of staff. Where a Parent-School Ijārah contract (whether orally or in writing) is executed, each party is under a legal obligation to fulfill his contractual promise.
“O you who have believed! Fulfill all contracts.” [Qur’an 5 (al Mā’idah): 5]

Religious Obligation

Amānah (Trust), among other Islamic concepts, seems to be the most phenomenal to explain the religious obligation on the part of the management of PCIS. Where there is trust, justice will prevail and where is there is justice, lasting peace will become a reality. The Almighty had enjoined Muslims thus:
“O you who have believed! Betray not Allāh and the Messenger, nor betray your trusts while you know the consequence.” [Qur’an 8 (al Anfāl): 27]

The above implies that parents, by virtue of registering their ward(s) in a PCIS, have entrusted them, into the hands of the school management (represented, in this context, by the principal or head-teacher), all through the duration of school’s official hours for business. The school management, therefore, has a burden to discharge on a daily basis, as far as the care, safety and education of the wards (now their pupils or students) are c0ncerned.

These responsibilities also trickle down to the teaching and non-teaching staff. Failure to meet up this obligation, either deliberately or negligently, may qualify as an abuse of trust reposed in the school management by the parents and this may, in appropriate case, attract the punishment of Allāh.

Other instances to portray abuse of trust may include incessant, indiscriminate or trump-up charges, meant to meet up a school’s financial obligation, not connected, in any way, to the educational needs of pupils/students. A stern warning has been handed down in this respect;
“O you who have believed! Do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly but only in lawful business by mutual consent. And do not kill yourselves nor kill one another. Surely, Allāh is to you ever Merciful. And whoever does that in aggression and injustice – then We shall cast him into a Fire, and that, for Allāh, is always easy.” [Qur’an 4 (an Nisā): 29-30]

Moral Obligation

The laborious effort of the school management, in striving to achieve the stated mission and vision of their PCIS, is one good way to illustrate the moral obligation. Moral obligation could also be seen as the frantic efforts made towards meeting up the legal and religious obligation. This will, necessarily, include taking full responsibility and demonstrating a positive attitude to official duties and other tasks – not official but are geared towards the realization of the overall objectives of establishing the PCIS in the first place. Invariably, this calls for huge sacrifice on the part of all; the proprietor, principal and/or head teacher, all teaching and non-teaching staff.

It is good practice to reward such sacrifices too, at the end of every session, as it is being done in some PCIS where staff are handsomely rewarded with Hajj or Umrah, cars, salary increment, bonuses, promotions and other fringe benefits. Since it is axiomatic that man is naturally created to love a benevolent person and dislike an evil person, such rewards would, certainly, have ripple effect on the overall growth and development of the school. In the education parlance, reward and its positive effect are represented by the concept of reinforcement and motivation. It is the responsibility of the school management to identify the kind of organizational behaviour that should be rewarded. One such way is to consider and reward, accordingly, only behaviors that are relevant to the school’s organizational objectives.

Idris Alao is a holder of Bachelors of Arts Education Degree in Islamic Religious Studies Education from the prestigious citadel of academic excellence, the Lagos State University. He is an Edupreneur and Professional Teacher, registered with the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN). He bagged LL.B Degree in Common and Islamic Law from the most-sought-after Nigerian University, the University of Ilorin, Ilorin, and was called to the Nigerian Bar as Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. He possessed the expertise in practical approaches to achieving a robust combination of Conventional, Arabic and Islamic types of education. He is also a Certified Translator in Arabic-English-Arabic language clusters and a member of the Nigerian Association of Educational Administration and Planning (NAEAP), Commonwealth Council of Educational Management (CCEAM), Nigerian Institute of Translators & Interpreters (NITI) and Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). [email protected]

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