The government spending on improving education at madrasas has dropped drastically after the States were asked to pitch in with funding, said a parliamentary panel, slamming the “disturbing trend” which hurts children from the most educationally backward communities.
After the change in funding ratios, only 15% of allocated money was used last year. With just over a month left in this financial year, only about half the funds had been spent. The Centre intends to hike allocations more than 80% next year, despite the low utilisations in the last two years.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development, which submitted its report on demand for grants in 2020-21 to the Rajya Sabha last week, expressed concern that the School Education department has not used the allocated funds for providing education to madrasas over the past three years. “This is a disturbing trend and needs to be rectified,” the panel said.
Madrasas are minority institutions, usually run by a local mosque using community donations. Traditionally, they have focussed on Islamic theology and teaching and “largely ignored the growth of scientific knowledge and technology in modern education”, according to a 2018 study by the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA). This is one of the reasons why the Muslim community has among the lowest levels of literacy and high rates of school drop-outs.
Over the last decade, the Centre has run the Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrasas (SPQEM) to encourage these religious schools to introduce modern academic subjects such as Science, Mathematics, Social Studies and Hindi and English languages, as well as vocational training for older students. It provides funds for hiring qualified teachers and building modern infrastructure. So far, over 21,000 madrasas have benefited from financial assistance to the tune of ₹1,138 crore, according to the NIEPA study.
Over the last three years, the Centre’s annual budget has allocated ₹120 crore for the scheme. In 2017-18, ₹108 crore was spent, with the remaining ₹12 crore allocated to the northeastern States where there was no demand for the scheme, according to the panel.
In 2018-19, funding for the larger component of the scheme was changed from a 100% Central grant into a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with a 60:40 split between Central and State funding. The change “led to procedural delays in the submission of proposals by State/UTs and subsequent shortfall in releases”, the Centre told the parliamentary panel. Only ₹18.25 crore was actually spent that year.
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In 2019-20, the expenditure under the scheme was ₹63.57 crore as on February 10, 2019, just above half of the allocated amount. With over a month to go, the Centre hoped that the final expenditure would be higher, it told the panel.
The scheme’s funding will grow 83% in 2020-21, with the budgetary allocation being hiked to ₹220 crore. In fact, the projected financial outlays for the next two years are even higher, rising to ₹250 crore in 2021-22 and ₹280 crore in 2022-23.
By 2023, the scheme will be providing assistance to 9,000 madrasas, paying salaries to 27,000 teachers in modern subjects. About 250-300 institutions will get infrastructure funding, the Centre told the panel, adding that the School Education Department was setting up a Project Monitoring System to keep a tab on scheme projects.