Muslims have reacted cautiously to the Rs 100 crore budgetary allocation by the Narendra Modi government to initiate reforms in the madrasa education system.
The allocation is in line with the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) promise in the Lok Sabha election manifesto to initiate the national madrasa modernisation programme.
The BJP poll document had put emphasis on strengthening and modernising minority educational systems and institutions, dovetailing them with modern requirements.
Though Lucknow Eidgah Imam Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahli welcomed the allocation as "a good beginning", he said the final picture would emerge only after formulation of the relevant policy by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
"Upgradation of madrasas is necessary," Khalid Rashid said, adding it should not be confined to installation of computers.
All computer-related facilities should be provided to the students. However, he said there should not be any interference in the religious syllabus of these institutions. He also made it clear that "there is no question of changing the curriculum".
Zafaryab Jilani, senior executive committee member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), told HT, "Managerial interference would not be tolerated."
He said the community would like to see "the motive behind the move" and added the AIMPLB had opposed the UPA's madrasa modernisation plan as it had involved interference.
Commenting on the issue, an educationist from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Rizwan Hussain, wrote on the social media, "But what do we mean by madrasa 'modernisation'? If it is going to be a repeat of the UPA's 'tustikaran' (appeasement), then much of this support will go waste on provision of only infrastructure cosmetics, without actually modernising madrasa education. Modernisation of madrasas' education needs curricular updating."
The madrasa modernisation programme was on the previous UPA government's agenda as well and considerable work had already been done under the "scheme to provide quality education in madrasas (SPQEM)". However, only government-aided madrasas had been brought under its ambit.
The need for reforms was felt as the education system in the madrasas had so far been confined to the centuries-old Dars-e-Nizami. But the Union human resource development (HRD) ministry has now set the ball rolling to strengthen capacities in at least the aided madrasas for teaching formal subjects like science, mathematics, language and social studies.
Under the SPQEM, there was a provision for teachers' training, lab facilities, science/mathematics kits for primary and upper primary level madrasas and strengthening of libraries and book banks. There is also plan for linkage of madrasas with national institute for open schooling (NIOS) as accredited centres for providing formal education, which will enable students of these madrasas to get certification for classes 5, 8, 10 and 12.
Nearly 7000 aided madrasas in UP have been brought under the SPQEM.