A Bidar institution takes a big step towards madrasa reform

Shaheen Education Society has started hiring science, mathematics and language teachers to teach in madrasas across the country

June 16, 2023 02:00 am | Updated 05:58 pm IST - Belagavi

Students of Hifz Plus in Shaheen College in Bidar.

Students of Hifz Plus in Shaheen College in Bidar. | Photo Credit: T. Gopichand

Among the most contentious issues in India today is the management of madrasas and their effect on society. It is also a highly divisive subject in public discourse. While some intellectuals and leaders have been demanding reforms by making their management transparent and inclusive, others have been demanding that they be altogether closed down.

On two earlier occasions, the Karnataka government announced its intent to reform madrasas. The State government set up a committee in 2001. But its recommendations were not implemented properly.

Another idea was mooted by the State government in 2008. The proposal did not move further either. Some Union ministers have made statements on reform, but concrete measures have been very few.

Also read: Madrasa reform attempts in Karnataka

However, there have been some private efforts that are encouraging. Prominent among them is the one by Bidar-based Allama Iqbal Education Society which is supported by Hyderabad-based Moulana Azad National Urdu University (MAANUU).

Teachers appointed

AIE Society, which runs the Shaheen Group of Education Institutions, has begun the process of appointing 500 language, science, and mathematics teachers for 50 madrasas across the country. These teachers will be paid by the Shaheen Group for a period of 18 months, after which the madrasas are expected to retain them using their own resources. They are calling this initiative “Madrasa Plus”. It is an 18-month programme specially designed for dropouts or those who have never been to school.

How does it reform the madrasa system? “It is an attempt at bringing the madrasas into the mainstream system of education by mainstreaming the students,’‘ said Abdul Quadeer, Shaheen group chairman. “We hope to reach out to 10,000 madrasa students through modern education systems and processes in the first phase,’‘ he said.

“Some of the criticism against the existing madrasa system is valid. The focus of these institutions is narrow as it is centred around religion, rituals, spiritual text, and allied subjects. Their students are not exposed to subjects like mathematics, sciences, and the local language.

For example, most madrasa graduates of Karnataka will be excellent in Arabic texts and Urdu calligraphy but will be very poor in Kannada. What we are doing though Madrasa Plus is to supplement their system of education by providing additional teachers in routine academic subjects,’‘ he said.

In the job market

Due to the narrow focus of the madrasa system of education, most of their graduates find it difficult to find jobs. “It is said that a madrasa graduate comes out only to start another madrasa. We want to tell the world that these students are no less than students of other schools. In fact, they can be better, as they have got used to hard work and strict discipline. They will also face challenges of life easily as they have studied under trying conditions like getting up before sunrise, doing all their chores by themselves, cooking, physical exercise and healthy habits,’‘ he said. “It is our attempt at social empowerment of the downtrodden communities via quality education,’’ Dr. Qadeer said.

Shaheen group organised examinations for post-graduates in these disciplines at various places and appointed them after a written examination and personality test. Maulana Azad National Urdu University, provided academic support.

A team led by Mohammad Aslam Parvez, a scientist who has been editing a science magazine in Urdu for over three decades, oversaw the exercise. Prof. Parvez later addressed the selected teachers and spoke at an international seminar aimed at Madrassa reform through Madrassa Plus.

Support for 18 months

As many as 500 teachers were hired for salaries ranging from ₹15,000 to ₹30,000, along with food allowance. Salaries and other academic administrative costs will be covered by the Shaheen Group of Institutions for the first 18 months.

A madrasa graduate is called Hafiz, as he or she can recite the Quran by heart. Under Madrasa Plus, a Hafiz is provided with an opportunity to enter mainstream schools and pass Class X. The project of providing modern education to madrasa students aims primarily to integrate the madrasa-educated students into mainstream education. Bridge courses and personalized teaching classes will be held to provide basic education to students and to help them acquire the required basic academic skills and educational qualifications.

The response from madrasas management committees to this initiative has been very encouraging. “They are taking an overwhelming interest in the project. We have been inundated with calls from several states after we announced the scheme,” said Dr. Quadeer. We made some enquiries and put some conditions before deciding to support them. They have assured us that apart from the disciplined teaching - learning process, they will provide quality residential facilities and food.

Hafiz-Plus programme

Since 2012, it has been running the Hafiz Plus program with several batches of madrasa students who have never been to school or who dropped out. This has attracted global attention. Most of the students admitted to classes IX and X have passed out of class XII. A significant number have qualified for CET or NEET in the last 11 years. Examples include Muzaffar Ansari, from West Bengal, and Mohammad Omar, from Bihar, who got admitted to the programme when they were 20 years old. They are both medical graduates now.

The programme provides students with an “Academic Intensive Care Unit” (AICU) and aims to bring them back into mainstream education. It is aimed at those boys and girls in the age group of 14–18 years. They are admitted to class IX and trained for a few months before they appear for the Class X examination under the National Institute of Open Schooling Board.

The programme is interesting because of the unique method of teaching it employs. Only six boys or girls are taught by a teacher. Each student undergoes rigorous coaching in science, mathematics and languages for nearly six months before he can appear for a high school-level examination. They are given several mock tests to help them overcome the fear of examinations. There are daily and weekly tests. Teachers grade homework daily. The programme has seen results at around 100% most of the years. Haifz Plus was such an unprecedented success that the model was followed by some institutions in other states.

Beyond expectations

Teachers say the madrasa students have performed beyond their expectations. “We were surprised at the competence and grasping power of madrasa graduates. Invariably, they are curious about new subjects like science and mathematics. All that is because they are used to rote learning methods of consuming voluminous books from which they can quote verbatim,’‘ says Mehr Sultana, who supervises the Hafiz Plus programme.

Every year, a significant number of Hafiz students get admitted to professional courses. This year, 19 Hifz plus students from Shaheen have cleared the NEET entrance test.

Abu Sufiyan, was among the first to get a medical seat. A Madrassa graduate, he joined the Hifr Ul Quran Plus scheme and cleared his Class X and Class XII examinations with good marks. He studied MBBS at Raichur Institute of Medical Sciences. He says that joining a mainstream college after spending most of his childhood in a madrasa was overwhelming.

“I give credit to both my madrasa training and the coaching at the Shaheen centre for my success. I feel grateful when young madrasa students tell me that someone like me has inspired them to think of mainstream schooling after they pass out,” he said.

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