Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Zaouia (Arabic زاوية "corner"), also spelled zawiya or zawiyah, is a Maghrebi and West African term for an Islamic religious school cum monastery, roughly corresponding to the Eastern term "madrassa". In precolonial times, these were the primary sources for education in the area, and taught basic literacy to a large proportion of children even in quite remote mountainous areas - leading to a 40% literacy rate in Algeria in 1830, for instance, which was actually higher than after the French left! Their curriculum began with memorization of the Arabic alphabet and the later, shorter suras of the Qur'an; if a student was sufficiently interested or apt, it progressed to law (fiqh), theology, Arabic grammar (usually taught with al-Ajurrumi 's famous summary), mathematics (mainly as it pertained to inheritance law), and sometimes astronomy. These are still operational throughout the Maghreb, and continue to be a major educational resource in the Sahel of West Africa, from Mauritania to Nigeria.
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