Scapegoating the usual suspects? Pandemic control and the securitization of Qur’anic education in northern Nigeria

Hannah Hoechner (Lead Author), Sadisu Salisu Idris

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While insights into the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on ‘formal’ schooling are still patchy, even less is known about its impacts on ‘non-formal’ education systems, including institutions of Islamic learning. This paper explores the nexus between pandemic control and the securitization of Qur’anic education in northern Nigeria, that is, the framing of Qur’anic schools, teachers, and students as security threats necessitating tough responses. Security concerns have long dominated perceptions of Qur’anic schools in this region plagued by sectarian and interreligious violence. Their students have often been cast as future hoodlums and easy recruits for radical groups. This paper argues that security framings have proven highly adaptable in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Qur’anic students have been depicted as vectors of disease even as epidemiological evidence remains scarce. This paper explores how perceptions of Qur’anic students as dangerous legitimized forced school clearances and student deportations. Drastic interventions have also bolstered perceptions of COVID-19 as a hoax and plot by politicians to further their own agendas. Data for this paper come from fourteen verbal ‘diaries’ recorded in Kano from April-June 2020, nine interviews with Qur’anic teachers and students affected by school clearances, and our analysis of Nigerian newspaper reporting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-135
Number of pages18
JournalJournal on Education in Emergencies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

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