The Ministry of Minority Affairs (MoMA) has drafted a “3Ts programme” to boost reforms in madrasas. The 3Ts stand for “teachers, tiffin and toilets”. These are the services that the Centre will provide to madrasas that are willing to seek government aid. The concept of 3Ts aims at improving the quality and number of teachers available to impart mainstream education in madrasas, along with introducing mid-day meals and constructing toilets under the “Swachha Vidyalaya” initiative. However, according to experts, these reforms need more thought and research in implementation.
The ministry formed a high-level committee to prepare a study in collaboration with the Maulana Azad Education Foundation, an autonomous organisation under MoMA. Following a meeting of the committee, a report was submitted in March 2017 for improving “mainstream education” in about one lakh madrasas, with the help of 3Ts.
According to the three-year report card of MoMA published last week, work has already started in various madrasas under the 3Ts initiative.
The report, titled “Improvement of Madrasa Education System with Government’s Grant-In-Aids Scheme”, lists 17 points on tentative measures that the government can take to improve the quality of mainstream education in madrasas. These include adopting the “Hifzul Quran Plus” programme of Shaheen Institutions across madrasas in the country to help a young hafiz (someone who has memorised the Quran completely) acquire modern education.
Shaheen Institutions are a group of privately-run educational institutions based out of Karnataka’s Bidar that impart Islamic education along with mainstream education to their students, including coaching for competitive examinations.
Syed Babar Ashraf, who filed the report, told The Sunday Guardian, “For six-seven-year-old children to memorise the Quran shows their mental capability and intelligence. These children are not dumb. They have the potential to acquire every kind of education. However, because they dedicate three-four years of their lives to memorise the Quran, they tend to move away from mainstream, modern education, which is important for them if they want to become doctors and engineers in future. The ‘Hifzul Quran Plus’ curriculum was started by Shaheen Institutions, but it should be made available to all madrasas. It is an ideal solution for a Muslim child to absorb Islamic teachings to become a better human being and also learn the modern languages and sciences to contribute to the economy.”
Though the suggestion on “Hifzul Quran Plus” has received a positive response, the idea to introduce mid-day meals for students in madrasas has not got the instant support of social reformers working for the Muslim cause. As Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood, president of Zakat Foundation of India, said, “There is good intention here, but a madrasa is a place where children not only come to educate themselves, but also to live. No madrasa runs without a three-times-a-day meal service, which is financed by people in the community. Madrasas do not face any shortage of food.”
However, Syed Babar Ashraf countered, “Yes, madrasas do not lack food, but the caretakers of madrasas have to run from pillar to the post and put in a lot of time and effort to collect donations to ensure the smooth functioning of madrasas. Mid-day meals will provide them relief and encourage children in the neighbourhood to start coming to madrasas.”
Among other important reforms that will be introduced by the ministry are opening of online teacher training centres to provide efficient teachers to madrasas, making the Class 1-Class 12 curricula mandatory in madrasas, introducing “smart classes” and online courses for journalism, translation and communication studies and holding periodic meetings to discuss the status of work completed on the ground.
Dr Mahmood of Zakat Foundation said, “An important reform needed is to bridge the distrust between the government and madrasa managers. A number of policies and schemes have been made and scrapped, because madrasa members see these as the government’s way of interfering with the madrasas’ functioning.”
The report emphasises, “There should be no interference of government agencies in the matters of the madrasas.”
Ashraf said, “We are aware of this huge challenge. For now, the beneficiaries of these reform proposals will only be those madrasas that have the infrastructure to meet the requirements. We hope to inspire other madrasas to join us gradually.”