Adamu Iliyasu Interview


ICIT: The purpose of this interview is to provide a real-life snapshot of how an emerging leader in the global Islamic movement is positively contributing to the community. In this interview, we will hear from brother Adamu Iliyasu a respected contributor to community efforts made in Bauchi Nigeria.

Brother Adamu, please tell me a bit about yourself and the idea of using the ShuraForAll tool at all grade levels in Nigeria. Do feel free to also detail what the process has been like. My understanding is that your team has chosen two Nigerian private schools as starting sites for using the ShuraForAll tool.

Adamu Iliyasu: Okay. My name is Adamu Iliyasu from Bauchi State in Nigeria. I got the opportunity to work with ShuraForAll and that's been a tremendous benefit. It is something new and something that really came on board when the community that we are in actually needed something like that.

So the process started not with two schools, but with about five. Eventually we screened down to two schools and had several meetings with school administration and teachers. After that, we had to select students that would participate in the pretest, which is the part before we go into the full program. So, the pretest started with 9 students per school and the 9 students were divided into three groups of three students per group.

Each group has a teacher assigned to it, to help the group and teach them how to conduct learning through using shura. We had to pass through some levels before we reached where we are right now. And it was a journey that was exciting and challenging at the same time. It has been really good to know and to see how this particular ShuraForAll tool has benefit. So, the students, teachers, and school administration, and even us as a training team, get to learn a lot and get exposed to the nature of using shura to solve problems.

We have a big opportunity to help the Muslim community and the general community to start using shura to solve their own problems. The tool is designed to guide any person that's part of the shura to actually contribute. For the schools it was a bit of a challenge because the school system isn't designed to have something like the ShuraForAll tool to help with teaching students.

So yeah, we had to take some things down and add up some things to help students and teachers participate. And we had to bring the level of difficulty to where the students and the teachers could understand. We are still trying to fix some things I can say.

The schools are still having some difficulties in some areas and we are seeing improvement in some areas. The pretest has been very, very useful to the students. They're excited using something new. They've never believed that such a thing actually works. Instead of the school system that encouraged them to compete with each other, they see that this platform actually teaches them how to work as a team. So, it was something new.

Some of the unknowns were a bit much for the students. The teachers had to be trained first. I think we had three sessions with the teachers. We also had to help teachers understand how to train their own students. So it has been a long process, but, Insha Allah, it will work. We think using shura is going to help a lot of schools and students learn how to solve their own problems or their community problems. We think even parents and teachers will do better in their communities, Insha Allah.

ICIT: Thank you very much. What have been your observations and experiences with teacher needs in these private school settings?

Adamu Iliyasu: At the beginning because it wasn't what they're familiar with, we saw after a brief introduction and some guidance, they began to understand the picture of what the shura brings to them. And they see it as a tool that might actually help them improve their own understanding and their work. It's not a usual method that our schools use, but it's something that the private school can adapt to because the private schools here are quite more organized than our government schools.

So that was why we started from the private schools because we think we are going to have more participation from them than government schools because of structure. The large number of students in government schools cannot actually allow us to comfortably pretest. So we had to start with private schools.

And some private schools from the beginning had accepted and some, not so. Some schools had difficulty accepting something that they didn’t already know about. But these two private schools were willing to try to learn something new. Now we are moving at a normal rate.

ICIT: All right. What have been your observations and experiences with student needs in these private school settings?

Adamu Iliyasu: Students in private schools actually have bit different backgrounds than students in most schools and because of that, they have different needs and different views about how things are going. So, the approach of using shura in their academic activities gave them an understanding and they became excited.

Using the internet, using tablets and laptops to do some school activities also helped. It's not that it's new to them, but they've never actually used these devices for something like this. The schools and because of the nature of their communities, don't really have the equipment for many students to use the technology in their academic activities.

The students are actually beginning to embrace it quite well. And we are hoping that the students will see how it is going to be useful for them academically.

ICIT: That's great. What do you see as a main benefit from the learning through using shura program and explain why you think it is so important?

Adamu Iliyasu: Yeah, it's quite important because communities sometime step back when it comes to using technology to benefit them. The social media aspect of the technology doesn’t actually have much to do with academics.

So, the benefit that comes with ShuraForAll or using ShuraForAll is not just telling the students or the participants that there is a tool that you can use to solve problems. No, it actually brought a lot more by using the internet in a way that they actually did not think it can be used like that. So there are huge benefits to students and participants that are involved.

I can remember when we started showing them how the website works. They were quite excited to see that. The school curriculums and the subjects had been uploaded. Some of them would say yeah, I know this, I know that I've seen this in my books and now I'm seeing it on the internet.

So it is a good thing for them. They saw something that makes them want to know more. That it's not just for them to just learn how to use it. But how technology and shura can be used to help them help themselves and others and family members and their own community. So there is a huge benefit.

We are trying to bring on board a lot of people that can see a lot of benefits on other fields, not just education but other aspect of businesses and social life to see how they actually use shura to help bring huge benefits. We're working on that right now.

ICIT: That is so good to hear brother Adamu. With children, sometimes they just kind of, like you said, they kind of get wrapped up into social media. And to be able to look past that and see that in their academic settings, those are wonderful things to read or to hear about. The next question I have for you is have you run into any unexpected roadblocks with the ShuraForAll tool and what have you done to try to overcome these roadblocks?

Adamu Iliyasu: Okay. The first roadblock we encountered was when we decided to give schools a pretest to see how ShuraForAll can be used by them in education. We found out that curriculums of subjects that had already been uploaded to the tool were only written for the U.S.

And the method of using objectives to organize school work has not been taught. We saw that this was going to be a bit of a problem. So working with brother Khalil and others we documented the Nigerian curriculums and uploaded them to the ShuraForAll tool.

I'm telling you, we couldn't get a soft copy of these curriculums anywhere in any schools. Even in the ministry of education we had to spend months trying to find who will give us a soft copy of Nigerian curriculums so that we can upload it. But we couldn’t find it so we had to use book manuals that were only available as printed copies.

Then we made copies of them. After that we scanned them to turn them into soft copies. Next we had to make some edits and send the results to brother Khalil. He would call us back again, telling us that we have to change the whole format into objectives and action steps. And we're supposed to use an action word to start each action step. All of this proved be a very difficult situation at that moment, but we saw the importance and so we just had to push.

Another thing that came up is we know our people and we understand that sometimes people don't handle devices or handle almost everything that doesn't belong to them. So, when we're thinking of buying computers for the teachers and laptops and tablets for the students, we had to make some rules to help guide their proper use.

Even the internet connection I'm telling you it was a problem at the beginning because the students were given tablets and free internet. At first, they're all visiting Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. I had to install family link on all the devices to block them from using unnecessary sites.

Then after a few days some students would say my Instagram is not working. So, I visited the schools with the team to make some emphasis. These devices are meant for you to learn using shura, not for social media. I think even after five visits the students still are trying to do social media.

Sometimes the monthly internet data usage limit would get exhausted in 20 days and sometimes less. So we had to speak with the teachers. We explained that they should not use the routers to connect any other devices apart from what they're supposed to connect to. And they're supposed to use the tablet only when they are working on a shura activity. And that is twice in a week so that the data can reach the end of the month.

At the beginning we decided to subscribe for a whole year, but we couldn't because of the expense. Apart from that, we had difficulty during the training, especially with the teachers. They thought we are there to judge the normal way of teaching. I told them no, that's not it.

I think that are still some of them that don't understand what we're trying to help them to use the tool to solve problems themselves. And they're supposed to teach the students how they can handle a problem together as a group. So there are similar challenges that we came through, but I think these were some of the major challenges we faced.

There are a lot of challenges, but we are approaching the programs and solving them one by one. And I think we have gone far.

ICIT: Alhamdulillah. That's very good. Because it sounds like there's sort of a cultural change that's happening in terms of the usual model where the teacher just tells the student and the student just does something. It's more like an active engagement in the classroom.

Yeah, that's good and engagement on many levels, because like you said, you redirected the energies that they might put into social media and put them into academic and more cognitive based activities and opportunities for them.

The next question I have for you is how do you think this tool, the ShuraForAll tool, will impact parents and guardians? And what is their role in this whole learning process?

Adamu Iliyasu: Well, for the teachers and guidance counselors and administrators, right now we are planning on having a discussion and at the same time, introducing shura in general for this category of people. Because if they understand the importance of shura, then they can work with their children and others in the community.

Parents wanted to know if they had to pay something. We explained that it is free. We also explained that shura can be used in a lot of settings beside school.

Now they are gradually understanding the idea of using shura in general. We had to explain that other activities happen on the ShuraForAll tool and some shuras are ongoing. Although some parents are still having difficulty understanding how to use shura, that’s okay.

When this whole thing started, we also had some problems with understanding what shura is, but brother Khalil showed us a lot of ways to use it in our communities. And right now, we are applying it to our daily lives and I've seen improvements. So, we want the parents and guardians and administrators to understand this also. It's not going to be easy because a lot of parents, even when invited actually don't participate, or they don't come.

For those who are getting a good understanding, they have said they are ready and their children are ready to continue. There are some schools that are on standby and want to know when they can be added to the program. We have already selected two schools for the pretest and depending on the outcome, we intend to add more schools.

We just need to show all of them the benefits that they could to achieve.

ICIT: I'm so glad to hear about that brother. Too often, we have a lack of engagement with parents, or we have limited engagement because like you said, they have other pressing opportunities that are kind of vying for their attention. But when you demonstrate that this tool will develop and benefit their children, parents inevitably want their children to be part of using it.

Adamu Iliyasu: Of course we had to add the parents to the shura their children are participating in. They can see what their children are doing.

ICIT: So, you invited them to the classrooms? At what point did they get to see how it works? Can you tell me more about that?

Adamu Iliyasu: Yes, there was a session that we had where we invited the parents to the school. They were sent an email invitation by the ShuraForAll tool as each shura was being set up. Some of the parents accepted and now they can see what their children are doing as information is entered.

Now the parents can see that their children are doing something that is good for them. They now know that their children are not just given tablets to do whatever they want.

And we had some reports that some students are telling the parents what the parents could have been doing to support the program. And the parents are developing a lot of interest.

ICIT: That's good to hear. Okay. Brother Adamu, Jazakh Allahu khair, for your expertise, passion, time and thoughts. I appreciate the work you and your team are doing in Nigeria. Have a blessed day. Our prayers are with you all.

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