Akhter Hameed Khan Resource center organized a Public Forum on December 30, 2010 to share and discuss a case study on “Madrassa Education in two Union Councils of District Shikarpur”. Public forum is a regular event that brings together people from different walks of life and initiate deliberations on critical issues affecting the society based on empirical studies.
The forum was chaired by Dr. Mumtaz Ahmad, Director General, Iqbal Institute of Research and Development (IRD) at International Islamic University and a Professor of Political Science at Hampton University. He is currently the President of South Asian Muslim Studies Association (SAMSA), an affiliate of the Association of Asian Studies (AAS) and Vice- President of Centre for Islam and Public Policy (CIPP), Washington, D.C. He has recently completed a three- year comprehensive study of the madrasa education in Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The panelists included Dr. Javed Hasan Aly and Allama G. A. Haq Chishti. Dr. Javed Hasan has more than 40 years experience in public policy, public sector management and the education sector. Till recently he chaired the Planning Commission’s Working Group on Basic to College Education, preparing guidelines for the next five year plan (2010-2015). Allama GA Haq Chishti has served as a Research Scholar at International Islamic University, Islamabad, headed Madrassah Ghusia Mehria Golra Sharif and authored numerous works on Sufism.
Mr. Fayyaz Baqir, Director AHKRC welcomed the participants of the forum and briefed them on the Madrassa study. Comparing the government schools with Madrassa and Mosque teaching facilities he said that the Schools in Dakhan and Zarkhail Union Councils of District Shikarpur are located at an average distance of 0.75km but most of them are not functional despite the recruitment of teachers and construction of buildings. Government of Sindh approached National Rural Support Programme and Sindh Rural Support Organization to conduct a case study in order to analyze the state of education in Shikarpur which is one of the poorest districts of Sindh province. Comparison of education imparted through schools and madrassas in Union Councils Dakhan and Zarkhail has provided interesting insights about provision of basic and primary education to low income communities..
The area under study consists of 14 revenue villages and 95 settlements in two Union Councils (UCs) Both UCs consist of 4610 households having a total population of 23056 persons. In these Union Councils, there are 15 Madarsas, which are providing Islamic education in both Arabic and Sindhi medium. The quality of religious education in remote areas of upper Sindh is below satisfactory level. The reason behind this is the lack of proper funding, untrained teachers, law and order situation and low literacy rate of those village populations.
These Madarsas were established during 1970s in the far- flung and remote areas of district Shikarpur. The main focus of these religious institutions is to teach recitation of Quran, spread Islamic education and teach people to live a religious and pious life. These religious schools provide education to both boys and girls. The enrollment of male students is higher than that of female students. The resident students are restricted to male students only. Female students mostly attend the Mosque Madarsas in the evening shifts.
Shah Abdul Latif University, Khaipur offers the degrees of “Sanat-ul-Faragh and Sanat-ul-Aalmiya” which are equivalent to B.A (Bachelor of Arts). These degree holder can receive Masters degree after passing examination for three additional papers; English, Pakistan Studies and Islamic culture. Students holding this degree are eligible to apply for teaching jobs in Arabic and Islamic culture.
Dr. Javed Hasan Aly said that the Dars e Nizami based curriculum taught in majority of the Madarsas is 300 to1000 years old. The pedagogy of Madarsas is ideological and authoritarian which may lead to intolerance and extremism. He expressed the need of introducing reforms in madrasa education so that these institutions inculcate pluralistic values, tolerance and progressive thinking among their students. He said that Muslim scholarship changed the focus of human enquiry from God to man. It was a very significant contribution. Keeping I line with this tradition Madrassa education should shift focus from Naqli (knowledge based on imitating the tradition) to Aqli (knowledge based on the spirit of free inquiry) knowledge. This has not happened because state has failed in performing its regulatory duty.
Allama GA Haq Chishti pointed out the class differences in the education system is the key problem of our society. Muslim heritage was greatly damaged during the colonial period. Muslim intolerance was a reaction to the colonial intolerance. He was optimistic about bringing reforms in both religious and secular institutions and merging of both types of school.
The Forum was then opened for discussion and comments. Dr. Mohammad Hanif Joint Secretary, Ministry of Education agreed that He said that Dars e Nizami was developed in 1740 and there is general agreement that this curriculum should be revised. Contrary to the general impression the 80% content of the curriculum has already changed. As part of the drive to bring Madrass education to the mainstream University Grants Commission 1982 equated Shahadat al Alamiya with M.A. for echng Arabic and Islamic Studies.
He talked about the incentives given by the Government to the Madaris for improvement of education. There are about 20,000 Madaris out of which 19,366 are registered. There are 5 Madrassa Federations based on the denominations followed by them. There is only one non-denominational Federation led by Jama’at e Islaimi. All these Forums have constituted a joint forum Ittehad Tanzeem ul Madaris. All the Madaris under the umbrella of Ittehad Tanzeem ul Madaris have shown the desire to teach the subjects prescribed for government schools and requested recognition of their Board by the Ministry of education. An agreement has been signed in this regard.
Madrassa Reform project has been allocated a budget of Rs. 5.75 Billion. Initially 8000 Madaris were to be examined under the project however during the course of 4 years only 507 were vetted. These Madaris are ready and the agreement needs to be fully enforced.
In the end the Chief Guest Dr. Mumtaz Ahmad was invited to share his remarks. He talked about his interest in this area of study as in 1975 he was first invited to join Islam and Social Change project at the University of Chicago which was led by Dr. Fazalur Rehman. The study covered 6 Muslim countries of the world. Later he conducted three extensive studies in Bangladesh and two in Pakistan.
Dr. Ahmad refuted the argument of Madarsas not imparting advance education. According to him Madarsas were not created for general education rather their function is to keep the integrity of the Islamic tradition. This is true for all the seminaries, Muslim, Jewish or Christian. These seminaries cannot be vanguard of social change and modernization. General education system bears the responsibility for promoting creativity, innovation and inculcating the spirit of doubt and inquiry in the young minds. The general education institutions has so far failed to promote a uniform system of education and our education system has split into private, elite private, public and elite public institutions.
Finally he said that education reform is integrally and fundamentally related with redistribution of economic, social and political powers. Such reforms cannot be undertaken in isolation from the power structure. Our state has failed in performing its duties. Madrassa reforms started in year 2000 due to inflow of USAID funds. It was meant to set up Madrassahs along the Pak Afghan border for Afgha immigrants. It had many flaws and strengthened the intolerant mindset. There is no moral and political commitment on the part of Government to reform. There are 2-3 million students being taught at Madrassas. Without political commitment of the Government to reform nothing can happen. Madrassas have not been studied realistically. Most of the reporters and experts on Madrassahs never set their foot inside Madrassas. They fabricate the facts, distort the picture and misrepresent reality. Most of the data presented by ICG is fabricated and full of lies. For serious Madrassa reform we need continued dialogue and consistent commitment. It is refreshing to know that AHKRC has conducted an empirical study on Madrassas and tried to find the facts.