MAINSTREAM EDUCATION TO THE CHILDREN OF *MADARASSAS

Mass Education has been working with the poorer sections of the Muslim community for the past 10 years. It is focusing mainly on issues related poor Muslim women and Child Laborers.

Mass Education feels we have to focus on the following two main areas / issues to achieve Child labour free Muslim community in the long run, where underprivileged Muslim children will join other children and enjoy their equal right to childhood as other children in the society:

  • Mainstreaming of Madrassa Education
  • Enrollment  of the drop out children through Back to School Programme

The specific objectives of Mass Education to work in these two areas were:

  • To eliminate assault on child labour and child trafficking in the Muslim Community.
  • To eliminate the child labour issues in the Muslim Community by main streaming the drop out children particularly the girls.
  • Integration of child rights sensitivity in all development planning and programmes.
  • To inculcate respect for child rights among the family members and the society at large.
  • To eliminate girl child labour in domestic sector.
  • Motivate the community leaders and the representatives of PRIs to take responsibility of ensuring that the children are retain in the schools.

                                                                
We have explained here below about the two activities Mass Education is undertaking to achieve above objectives:
                                                           
Mainstreaming of Madarassa Education: 1500 Madrassa students got the opportunity to study mainstream subjects.

There are thousands of Madrassass (schools) run by Muslim Community through out the   country to impart religious / spiritual education to the Muslim students. The   children who are studying in the Madrassas are supposed to become religious / spiritual teachers like Moulivis or Khajis. These Madrassas are maintained with the funds collected from the voluntary donors of the community. Most of these Madarassas are having residential facility.

A rapid sample survey of these Madrassas conducted by Mass Education, in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh, indicated that most of the students are from the resource less poor Muslim families like daily wage earners, maid servants, rickshaw pullers, auto drivers, drivers, petty venders etc. These poor parents prefer Madrassas because free accommodation and food are provided. They survey also  revealed that the well-to-do Muslim families do not send their children to these Madrassas, they rather prefer mainstream schools because they know pretty well that Madrassa education is not helpful to build up prospective  careers for their children in this modern competitive society. They know pretty well that that good formal academic qualification, communication skills in English language and computer knowledge are essential for any student to get a good livelihood.

The future as well as the rights of the innocent children of Madrassas is restricted because Madrassas teach only Quran in Arabic language. The Arabic is an alien language in India. The Madrassas generally do not teach either local language, national languages like Hindi, English or other essential subjects like Mathematics, Science or Social Studies. As a result the students of Madrassas will have no option to choose their future career but to become Moulvis (religious teachers) whether they like it or not when come out it. It would be too late for them by the time they realize, when they are grown up, that their future personal development or career options are restricted.

Mass Education has been trying to convince the Management Committees of Madrassas (MCMs) to teach mainstream subjects along with religious teachings to the students. But there was no good response from them. Then Mass Education realized that it can take the advantage of the government sponsored Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) programme to introduce mainstream subjects into Madarassas.

Under the SSA programme, Education Department can provide financial assistance to the Madrassas to appoint teachers to teach subjects like English, mathematics, science and social studies. Mass Education informed the MCMs to make use of this opportunity and introduce essential mainstream subjects. Initially the response from the Muslim Community leaders and particularly the MCMs was not very encouraging. Some MCMs  thought if SSA programme is taken, the government might interfere in the management of the Madarassas  and  a few   MCMs , said they are interested but not having sufficient financial resources to appoint additional teachers to teach mainstream subjects. Mass Education staff met the MCMs several times and convinced them that the government will give financial support unconditionally, so the question of interference will not arise.

As a result of our painstaking campaign the Management Committees of 29 Madarassas have come forward to restructure their curriculum and introduce mainstream subjects like English, Science, social studies along with their regular courses. 62 teachers are appointed in these 29 schools with support from the government. The SSA is also providing small financial support to buy education materials. We are also assisting these Madrassas to get Mid Day Meal Programme.

About 1500 children both boys and girls now got the opportunity to learn mainstream subjects. Now they have the option to enter into mainstream education, if they want to in future.