The Maharashtra government recently de-recognized madrasas as schools and directed the district’s administration to declare madrasa-goers as “out-of-school children.”
Principal secretary of minority affairs department, Jayashree Mukherjee, sent the letter in question to principal secretary of school education and sports department, Nand Kumar, informing him of a massive survey that had been planned to identify out-of-school children in the state so they could be brought into mainstream education.
Dilip Kamble, minister of state for minority affairs, reiterated the content of Mukherjee’s letter.
“My department has taken the decision. We want these children to take formal education. They must join mainstream education,” he insisted.
He explained that the survey would help the state determine exactly how many children go to madrasas. While these children would not be forced to attend regular schools as yet, Kamble said that his ministry would take some more time to decide the next course of action.
According to data that was published by the state directorate of minorities in 2013, there are as many as 1,889 madrasas imparting education to at least 1.48 lakh students in the Indian state of Maharashtra. These students are usually admitted to their madrasas at the age of 10 and taught subjects like Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Mathematics and Science for seven years. After that, they are free to decide whether they want to continue with the same madrasas and complete their post graduation within five years.
Muslim leaders in the state as well as those involved with the functioning of madrasas were obviously offended by the letter.
“We were called by the government for a meeting on June 7 in which we were told that the survey would be conducted. However, it wasn't mentioned that madrassa students would be considered out of school. I am surprised that the government, which declares crores of rupees for the madrassas, can nullify their existence in education,” said Gani Ajarekar, president of Muslim Boarding Kolhapur.
In Kolhapur alone, there are as many as 13 madrasas catering to approximately 1,800 children.
Aslam Sayyad, head of a madrasa that was established in 1952, explained that his institution and others offer students formal education as well.
“Less than 1% Muslim children enroll in madrassas. We require such education for the religious requirements of our community. Many of our students have gone on to achieve success in various fields, ranging from government service to education. Considering these children out of school is wrong. We will not accept it,” Sayyad said.
Congress politician Amin Patel said that he would protest against the Bhartiya Janata Party-led state government for dismissing madrasa-goers as out-of-school children, since many of them, despite having access to religious education only, go on to study at secular institutions and crack civil services examinations as well.
Maulana Athar Ali, general secretary of Madrassa Darul Uloom Mohammadiya, said, “I was in the meeting called by the state government officials to discuss the campaign and had suggested that madrasa students be considered in-school children. These institutions don't impart modern education, but are certainly educational institutions.”
In 2013, the former Congress-led state government had announced scholarships for students of 200 madrasas who wanted to continue with mainstream education. In keeping with that scholarship, 600 students attending ninth and tenth grades were given a yearly amount of Rs 4,000 each while those attending eleventh and twelfth grades were given Rs 5,000 each.
Photo Credits: Financial Times