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UNICEF study on UP madrasas clears doubts, reveals startling facts

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 09:09:57 PM, Kulsum Mustafa

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Lucknow: Contrary to popular belief and projections that madrasas are hubs for training Islamic fanatics, a recent study actually reveals the secular nature of these institutions. Madrasa Islamiya Arabia Alim-Ul-Ulum in Devgaon of Barabanki district of the Uttar Pradesh, India, not only has a sizeable number of Hindu children among its students but while the Muslim children are taught Urdu and Arabic these children are taught Sanskrit.


In true spirit of secularism the teachers share the values of both religions with all children. The Hindu kids prefer the madrasa to the nearby primary school. These startling revelations are made in a study conducted by the BETI Foundation, Lucknow, with support from UNICEF, Uttar Pradesh. The research was undertaken to understand the role of religious minority institutions and how they can be brought into the mainstream. The study was done in five madrasas of Deva block in Barabanki district, which is just half an hour drive from the state capital Lucknow.


The madrasas included Madrasa Emdadul Ulum, of Peend village; Madrasa Varsiya Jamia Hayat-Ul-Ulum, Khewali village, Madrasa Islamiya Arabia Alim-Ul-Ulum, in Devgaon village, Madrasa Arabia Sirajul Ulum in Bilauli village and Madrasa Ansakal Ulum situated in Rariya village.


All the five madrasas are running with the total support of the community and receive no financial aid from the government or any other agency. The expenses of the madrasas, including day-to-day management is done through donations made by the community and fees charged from students. Out of the five, three madrasas are already teaching other subjects besides the religious education.


These five madrasas are managed by 16 mudarris (teachers). Three have only one teacher; one has two and one has 11 teachers, all below 30 years. Forty four per cent are female teachers. But no formal training has been provided to these mudarris.


No time table is followed and no lesson plan is maintained by the mudarris. Every six months a written and verbal evaluation is conducted.


A revealing fact was the lack of hygiene in the madrasas. Four out of five madrasas have one toilet each. The classrooms were not well kept and had cobwebs and dust. Also the rooms are not decorated with any learning materials.


Sehba Hussain of BETI Foundation explained that her team used three research tools while doing the research. These included observations, focused group discussions: with madrasa committee, students, parents/guardians and teachers and lastly interviews with mudarris/ teacher.


Unlike the popular conception that madrasas are not open to modern education it was observed that most of the staff and students are forward looking and realize the great importance of modern education.


The madrasa management committee’s members seemed unhappy that the certificates issued by their institutions are not recognized by the government as they do not meet the requirements of the U.P. Board.

They also complained that the students of madrasas are often harassed and suspected on the pretext of gathering information.

The honorarium of the teachers was between Rs 1000 to Rs 2000 per month. Though the earnings were insufficient, the staff did not complain about it. However they said their work was their sacred duty and essential for the development of religious sentiments and progress of their community so they will continue.


“This madrasa provides a wholesome environment for children. This is vital for right growth of mind and body. I find it the most interesting study and one that will help clear a lot of doubts,’ said Mr Vinoba Gautam, UNICEF education specialist.


He has visited the madrasa several times and UNICEF has been regularly sending reading material for the students translated into both Hindi and Urdu.


The research certainly helps clear a lot of misconceptions about madrasa studies and also removes some cobwebs that cover our vision. (TCN)










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