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Sawadogo, Augustin (2023) Muslim Education Between Adab and Employability: The Ecoles Franco-Arabes (EFAs) in Burkina Faso. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis investigates the complexities, dilemma and potential of French-Arabic schools in Burkina Faso under the name of Ecoles Franco-Arabes (EFAs) which provide schooling for more than 8% percent of school children nationally. However, on one hand, EFAs’ values and certificates are not officially recognised because they are not “French” enough. On the other hand, while a few EFAs wholeheartedly embrace French and are doing better than some public schools in State certificate exams, most EFAs neglect or reject French, as a strategy for Arabic to be officially recognised or simply because French is considered a neo-colonial or anti-Islamic language. More importantly, most research participants said they consider EFA the better choice between traditional Qur’anic schooling and secular education. To analyse the possible causes of this situation and the educational potential of EFAs, this research was conducted in fifteen schools in five of the seven most EFA populated regions of the country over a period of eight months. Research activities included in-depth interviews in four languages including Moore, Diula, French and Arabic, field observation, participation in teaching and various activities, and a thorough analysis of the schools’ teaching programs in Arabic. The data and analysis show that, unlike in the most recent literature, EFAs consider their value not as prioritising technological progress, though this is not excluded, but as combatting “non-Islamic” (i.e. French) ideologies trying to control the Muslim mind. As such, EFAs try to instil what they consider adab or good conduct or choices of educational contents that must be both “Islamic” and contemporary at the same time. This led to a diversity of viewpoints in interpreting the concept EFA, teaching practices, schools’ regulations and life, and motivations in joining EFAs. Added to this are the tensions surrounding the lack of recognition of the school certificates, tensions between the parties involved with EFAs including parents, school owners, learners, foreign sponsors and education authorities. Therefore, this thesis argues that EFAs are in an adab (good conduct/choice) dilemma of how to keep an authentic Islamic profile while embracing French as a necessity to meet both the “Islamic” and formal educational needs of their Muslim constituents who must also be good Burkinabe citizens. By analysing these complexities, dilemmas, and what EFAs consider to be their values and challenges, the thesis also argues that the schools can play a significant role in religion and development because most research participants considered the EFA educational concept as a bridge between traditional Qur’anic and secular education. Moreover, considering that 60% of Burkinabe are Muslims, the importance of identity politics and the increase and rural nature of EFAs, the schools are here to stay and may have great potential. This includes improving on the low literacy rate, promoting social cohesion against current and future socio-religious and political tensions, and spreading their spirit of entrepreneurialism against that of elite and bureaucracy of formal education. However, this can only become a reality if educational reforms understand and take into account these complexities, priorities and dilemmas of EFAs by giving them a sense of belonging in the socio-professional space.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Shabnum Tejani and Jörg Haustein
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2023 15:56
Funders: Other

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