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Not mere Islamic schools: Where madrasas give a lesson beyond religion

punjab Updated: Feb 11, 2016 16:20 IST
Aishwarya S Iyer

Students singing the National Anthem during Republic Day celebrations at the Gobindpura madrasa in Chandigarh.(HT Photo)

Madrasas in Chandigarh are breaking the stereotype that they belong to a particular community and education being offered by them is about religion only. Not only a number of students and teachers at the three Chandigarh madrasas are non-Muslims, the subjects being taught at these institutions are as diverse as in any other government school.

Sunita Devi, 30, a housewife, born and brought up in a Hindu family in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, moved to Manimajra 10 years ago after she got married to Sushil Kumar. The couple wants to give good education to their six-year-old daughter, Mansi, who has been enrolled at a madrasa nearby.

“I have heard good things about the schooling here. I want our daughter well-educated and it doesn’t matter where does she get it from. Mansi is being taught mathematics, Hindi, science, English, social studies…everything,” says Sunita, who herself had quit schooling after Class 5.

“As of now, Mansi doesn’t want to study Urdu and Arabic, but if one day she decides to, it is entirely up to her,” says Sunita, adding that learning languages is a sign of academic proficiency the more you know the better it is.

Chandigarh has three madrasas at Manimajra, Gobindpura and Sector 45. All festivals and occasions, such as Independence Day, Republic Day, Diwali, Holi, Eid, are celebrated and students are taken out on field trips on regular basis.

Non-Muslim teachers in majority

Asha, 45, has been a teacher at the Gobindpura madrasa for 16 years and her decision had raised many eyebrows. “It is as good teaching in a madrasa as it is in any other normal school,” she says smilingly. She says student-teacher ratio is good and each class comprises about 15 students. There are separate teachers for different subjects. School principal Shameem Ahmed says out of seven teachers, four are Hindus.

At the Sector-45 madrasa too, there are 10 teachers of which 6 are Hindus, says school principal Waseem Akram.

Kapil Dev, who teaches at the Manimajra madrasa, says, “There are nine teachers here, of which three are non-Muslims.”

Charts put charts up by students during Shivratri celebrations at the Gobindpura madrasa. (HT Photo)

There are 270 students at the Manimajra madrasa, of which 12 are non-Muslims. At the Gobindpura madrasa, there are 120 students and seven are non-Muslims. There are two non-Muslim students at the Sector-45 madrasa out of 200 students enrolled.

Maulana Imran, head of the Manimajra madrasa, says students are allowed to choose to study what they want. “We had a student called Jeet Singh a few years ago, who was proficient in Urdu even as his father didn’t approve it. He is now studying in a government senior secondary school,” he says.

The founder of the Gobinpura madrasa that had come into existence in 1978, Shameem Ahmed, says, “Education is not a business for us. If people feel they shouldn’t send their kids to a madrasa, it’s okay, we want children to be educated.”

The Urdu connection

Madrasas are first choice for Muslim parents who want their kids to know Urdu and Arabic.

Abdul, whose four kids study at the Sector-45 madrasa, says, “Urdu and Arabic are most important to me. I want my children to know how to read the Quran, as that is one text, the relevance of which will never cease. I am a pious man and this is a priority for me as a father.”

Mohammad Sadiq, a parent whose five children study at the Sector-45 madrasa, says, “Not only do my children learn Urdu and Arabic here, they also learn science, English and other subjects. This is what I wanted.”

“We feel the culture is not percolating down to our kids. All we want is the government to include Arabic and Urdu in government schools as optional languages,” says Shameem Ahmed.

The curriculum

Madrasas are not affiliated to any board but they use CBSE textbooks to teach. They have exams twice a year — in September and March.

Imran says, “We go by the CBSE syllabus. This is important because we want the kids to get admission in government schools after studying till Class 8 here.”

Class 4 students from Gobindpura madrasa on a class trip to an amusement park. (HT Photo)

Ahmed says at one point of time education in madrasas was only till Class 5. “I pushed hard to make it till Class 8 and put my foot down. Finally, in 1995, they agreed,” he says. “Maulvis don’t approve of putting posters and charts on the madrasa walls, but we do what is good for kids,” Ahmed says.

Life after madrasa

Imran says he sends a list of students who have passed out from Class 8 to the director school education (DSE) annually, who forwards it to the principals of government schools.

19-year-old Rehmat Ali, who studied till Class 8 at the Manimajra madrasa, says, “I had to take a written test, appear in an interview and produce relevant documents to get admission in Class 9 at the Government Senior Secondary School.” “Imran sir has to hop around to help students get admissions. He even talked to the DPI for us,” Ali said.

Mohammad Shahbuddin, who was Rehmat Ali’s senior at the Manimajra madrasa, couldn’t get admission in any government school due to lack of documents. Now, he teaches Arabic at a madrasa in Patiala.

“I tried to get Shahabuddin admitted in Class 9, but he didn’t have the birth certificate. The schools ask for documentation and sometimes children don’t have it,” Imran said.