Madarsas Deserve Dynamism and Transparency
The Chief of All India Organisation of Imams and Mosques, Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi recently raised some very pertinent points in the context of the educational backwardness of Muslims.
In spite of numerous claims by governments, little improvement is visible in real and practical terms. Citing an instance of a fellow imam requesting him to fill in his immigration form, Imam Ilyasi drew attention to a very relevant point in the context: Education in Madarsa.
If a considerable number of imams are neither literate nor educated, the young of the community are bound to suffer. If the estimate of around 7 lakh Madarsa is acceptable, the number of children with a very conservative average of around 30 would mean over 2 crore children. While no nation can ignore the education of even a single child in the 21st century, this certainly is a very large number. Any deficiency in their education deserves not only a community response but also a national response.
These children are to be covered under the Right to Education Act that came in force with effect from April 01, 2010. At present Madarsa pass outs just cannot hope to fit in any job in the work force except, of course, becoming Imams. Even there they would remain deficient as their exposure is highly limited to restricted curricula and limited canvas in which the pedagogy and content remains as rigid and out of tune with times.
In fact Madarsas have preferred to remain an exclusive zone to scholars and academics from outside the community who could probably have contributed in infusing some dynamism in their functioning.
Anyone who visits a couple of these without any prior notions could easily locate the causes for the lack of transparency and unwillingness to change. Poor infrastructure, teachers with limited exposures, learning and training, if any, and an environment that focuses more on archaic concepts of discipline world greet the visitor.
One rarely finds any evidence of an environment that nurtures natural traits and talents of children. The teaching methods remain age-old and willingness to ‘learn new and more’ is, exceptions apart, totally missing amongst the teachers. There own motivation levels are low. They require better conditions that include comparable emoluments; job security and opportunity to look beyond the prescribed boundaries.
Total learning and teaching environment generates little hope and confidence amongst the young children for future. No dreams. No encouragement to think big and achieve big. As they grow all that they realise are the limitations imposed on their future.
Enlightened individuals amongst the community do realise the negative consequences of this restraining impact on the learners. They, however, are unwilling to articulate their viewpoints explicitly and forcefully lest they are ostracised.
Most of those managing Madarsa are not opening up to external support being apprehensive of the government taking over the control of Madarsa at some stage! Howsoever, unfounded these presumptions be, steps must be taken, again by the community and the governments, to assure them that support to Madarsas needs to viewed in terms of the requirements of the current times and not as an effort for intrusion in what has been guaranteed by the Constitution of India.
Madarsas could provide excellent opportunity to let children learn the officially prescribed curricula and also the Dini Talim. Simultaneously, if the traditionally acquired skills are also honed further and upgraded along with new skills being imparted; the entire environment would get catalysed.
Secular education would uplift the morale of the learner and enhance his/her self confidence. Subsequently, skill acquisition, with a slight support from the government and the community could impact the economic status of the family. So far, most of the schemes of vocational education and skill training have not reached the strata of the community that needs these most. Government scheme largely remain submerged in procedural details, procedural delays and bureaucratic apathy.
A large number of artisans and skilled workers from the community have been rendered jobless after the GATT and incursion of Chinese goods in Indian markets in huge quantity. Even the elected representatives have cared least on such matters. It is not easy to talk about education of their children when the family bread winner has lost the very source of a meager earning that he/she could fetch utilising the traditional skills.
With lakhs of ‘job lost’ due to ‘impact globalisation’ Muslim families have suffered dislocation and destabilisation in recent years without any one caring for them or creating alternative opportunities.
Comparisons with other communities in educational attainments do not have much relevance and meanings as these do not help the community in any substantial measure. On the contrary, these invariably increase inter-community tensions. The fact remains that there are several general problems common to the poor sections of Indian population irrespective of their religions.
This is the group that depends on the government schools and Madarsas and is unable to afford the luxury of private high-fee charging schools. In addition to general deficiencies that have become synonym with the government schools, there are certain concerns specific only to Madarsas which form a significant sector of schools. Though it may not be the only reason, but strong community action on a sustained basis has given an advantage to the Christian community in education. They have not given up their religiosity in education but the transparency has been found acceptable by everyone.
Education must remain dynamic as it has to respond to changing contexts continuously. Simultaneously, it has to equip individuals to analyse the change, reject the contextually unacceptable and integrate only that which appear conducive to the progress of the community and the nation. Education is not imparted to maintain status quo. Traces of this dynamic aspect are visible in Madarsas also in their willingness to accept secular education as well.
All those communities imparting education about their religions have to tell children that equality of all religions is a settled fact and any contrary perception would not be conducive to social cohesion and religious harmony in the global village which is a reality of the current times. Equal respect for other religions is the key value to be internalised by every Indian child in initial years. If that is genuinely accepted by all faiths and their institutions, far more socially cohesive and religiously conducive conditions would get created in the country and also globally. The evolution of modern education everywhere has traversed the path that began from religious education. The significance of religious education or education about religions has never been in doubt anywhere. Madarsas are fulfilling a great need, for greater impact and broader acceptability. These need to open up, discuss their plus points professionally and project a picture of dynamic institutions willing to open up the entire world to their products.
By JS Rajput