Usmanu Danfodiyo University: 3 Decades of Teaching and Research in Islamic Economics
In 1985, the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto hosted an international conference on Islamic economics, setting an important landmark in teaching and research in the subject in Nigeria. As part of efforts aimed at assessing progress and challenges over the ensuing decades, the IIIT, Kano and Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto organized a seminar on the theme “Three decades of teaching and research in Islamic Economics at Usmanu Danfodiyo University: The journey so far and challenges for sustainability”.
Teaching and research in Islamic economics began in the 1980’s after the hosting by the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto of an international conference on Islamic Economics. In the early phase of this effort, the university sent some of its staff for postgraduate studies in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, who returned to Sokoto to undertake a review of undergraduate curriculum, allowing the department to establish a premier position in the teaching of Islamic Economics in the country.
As research and teaching activities in Islamic economics gathered momentum especially in the 1990’s, a review of postgraduate curriculum was undertaken, permitting the University to further develop expertise through postgraduate research and teaching activities. Soon, a flurry of publications followed, including books, articles in local and international journals as well as pamphlets. However, owing to a variety of challenges including brain drain, constraints limiting additional curriculum review, and paucity of research funds, the tempo of publications seen in the first two decades of teaching the subject had begun to decline although the number of students receiving tuition has continued to grow.
The seminar paid tribute to individuals and organizations that played pivotal roles in the development of the subject in Nigeria, who also ensured that other departments and faculties in the University have pursued the development of the discipline.
It was noted that the establishment of JAIZ Bank PLC in Nigeria owes its success in part to the pioneering efforts of this university in the promotion of teaching and research in Islamic economics.
Other challenges faced by staff involved in teaching the subject include a palpable absence of collaboration between academic staff and practitioners in the banking and related sectors of the economy, inadequate knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence, the shariah and methodological issues. They also include apathy and even resistance by skeptics who often interpret the process as islamization of knowledge.
The impact of these challenges is glaring, including the clear absence of Nigeria (for more than thirty years) in the list of countries whose nationals have won the coveted prize in Islamic Economics. International best practices from other countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia show that this university has a lot to learn from those countries in order for it to restore the glory of premiership in teaching and research in Islamic economics in Nigeria.
A number of recommendations were made, notably boosting research, especially in Nigeria, to demonstrate how Islamic economics could help address some societal problems such as poverty and unemployment in the country. In addition, the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto should review its agreements with international funding agencies so that part of the funding constraints mentioned above could be overcome. Also, engagement with international bodies on matters of relevance to the field would significantly overcome the challenges. The IIIT in particular should do more, not only in propagating the subject in other universities in the country but also fostering capacity building for participating departments and universities.
It was recommended that gender issues should also be promoted since women occupy a central position in the society. Staff involved in the teaching of Islamic economics courses need to intensify efforts to create and sustain awareness among the general public about the relevance of Islamic Economics. It was suggested that a feedback from alumni of the university will help the department improve the content of the syllabus as well as incorporate newer delivery methods based on the practical experience of the students working in other sectors of the economy. Finally, the teaching faculty should be boosted through recruitment and training of staff with deeper knowledge of Islamic research methodology, jurisprudence and shariah.
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