What's in a name? As they say — plenty. The madrasa modernisation programme of the 11th Five Year Plan, which continues the initiative of the Ninth Plan, will now wrap around itself a new cover.
“There is an element of affront in the suggestion that a community needs to be modernised. HRD minister Arjun Singh feels it would be better if the programme is instead called Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrasas,” says director, Minority Cell, Hamidullah Bhat.
The naming follows a study by Hamdard Education Society which examined the impact of the modernisation programme in Uttar Pradesh as a sample and identified the programme’s weaknesses — delayed payment to teachers, limited reach of the programme, untrained teachers — and referred it to the National Monitoring Committee on Minority Education.
So far, the madrasa uplift project has begun in 16 states. Surprisingly, Delhi, the Capital, has not come under its purview. “Delhi madrasas are modern enough,” says a member of the expert group formed by committee to study the programme.
Maulana Wali Rahmani of Munger, one of the 60-70 chairpersons of countrywide madrasa boards consulted by the Monitoring Committee says there is no clear thinking about what modernisation means.
“To some, it’s a question of logic and philosophy. Others feel things will open up by introduction of mathematics and hard sciences,” he says.
Jamal Kidwai, the young director of Aman Trust, and a progressive voice, says: “What the government means by modernisation is mainly tech-talk and introduction of English. The drive for modernisation cannot be government-driven. The spirit of reform must come from within the ulemas who must address issues of purdah, give maintenance to women. All this is more important than by giving crores to madrasas to install computers."