Madrassa Education System & Need of Hour; ‘Adapt Improvise Overcome’

When systematic reforms in educational sector are talked about, these madrassas are left aside despite the worrisome fact that currently there are 35,000 madrassas operating in the country.

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By Muhammad Bilal Awan

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” These words are from the one of most revolutionary leaders of all time, Nelson Mandela. It is of another debate that in which situation or in what context these words were said, but for the issue that is being discussed in this article, surely these words will act as a unit of measure. Madrassas or Islamic Seminaries dates back to 11th century. Being prestigious institutions back then, which not only catered the need of establishment of religion by producing a number of great religious scholars, a number of renown Muslim scientists, are also found to have their education & learning deeply rooted in the Islamic seminaries of their times. Over time, as we have seen in history, the demise of Muslims occurred mainly when the education system was deteriorated.

Back in 1947, at the time of independence, there were hardly 200 madrassas. This number, however grew outrageously from 900 to over 8000 registered seminaries, in addition to 25000 unregistered ones, during the span of “Afghan Jihad”. It is of no doubt, those seminaries were not only being heavily funded by the America in struggle for power, but also the curriculum was especially ‘designed’ to produce active jihadis for the Soviet Afghan War in order to hinder the expansion of Soviet Union. And when the said objectives were achieved, those madrassas were not only left unchecked, but with the controversial subject of funding by international forces such as Iran or KSA, they became labs for experimenting the regional & sectarian agenda of the said funders, coupled with the ‘Jihadi’ curriculum, became breeding grounds for extremists. Nonetheless, anti-Pakistani forces especially India, sought a loophole out of this, and the madrassas which were to provide religious education, became brainwashing units to generate a mindset of intolerance, sectarianism, and radical extremism. Thus, once a peace-loving nation became a chaos driven society. Pakistan being an unfortunate victim, has suffered gravely in the war of others but the blame for all of this, rests with us as much with anyone else.

One crucial point discussed and agreed upon in National Action Plan, was to restructure the curriculum of madrassas in order to counter the rising graph of extremism. But the political forces are betrothed in a perpetual combat for power and national issues of indispensable nature such as educational reforms. When systematic reforms in educational sector, including schools, colleges and universities across the country, are talked about, somewhat these madrassas are left aside despite the worrisome fact that currently there are 35000 madrassas operating in the country which have over 3.5 Million students enrolled there. Despite of being a nuclear power, Pakistan is an economically struggling country. Around 40% of total population rests below the line of poverty, thus poverty becomes a main contributing factor in parent’s decision to admit their children in madrassas as they are only option available which can feed and house their students.

Recently CJP, during a hearing, gave a statement that there should be uniformity in syllabus across the country. Furthermore, he stated, that article 25 in constitution of Pakistan declares it the responsibility of state to provide free education to the children from 5 to 16 years of age. If the state cannot bear this responsibility than this clause is no more than just a “show-off”. The Premier Imran Khan, in his other revolutionary promises also vowed to bring educational reforms and in recent, circulating rumors about these reforms also indicated major changes madrassas education system. These rumors made their way and in National Assembly, it was discussed that necessary steps regarding madrassas and their education system should be taken thus with proactive approach, raising the educational standards will inculcate a wider thinking paradigm & provide better employment opportunities for the madrassa students. Instead, Mollana Fazlur Rehman along with his companions vowed to resist this change, labeling it as “western agenda” which in real will be a grave threat to their own very political existence as they fuel a specific mentality there, which votes for them & thus becoming a political force, they bargain with the ruling governments for the ministries, yet the deprived students from those seminaries just stays in a rat-race. While some other religious scholars just hesitated over this as they fear these vicissitudes might contrast with Islamic values. Such genuine concerns should be dealt with supportive attitude. The current education system has only created social division and if not addressed right now, will further create adversative consequences. The madrassa student is filled with west-phobia & narcissism along with fuel of radical sectarianism, thus instead of being a building block in the structure of society, generally just spreads the militant agenda. The world is prevailing in educational infrastructure, knowledge cities are being developed. Quran teaches to ponder, explore the wide universe, gather knowledge, promote justice, equality, & peace. Yet the madrassa student holds a hostile position towards not only the people from other nations or religion, but also from other sects.

The brainwashing nurseries have already twisted the true values of peace loving religion, Islam & only with the help of the religious scholars, this can be amended. This would require a more forthright approach as it remains as a shared responsibility to elevate & improve our educational system to make our nation face the world more confidently and as a nation succeed collectively by being an asset, not a liability. In this regard government should take three immediate steps. Firstly, the whole curriculum should be revised, in order to avoid the students from becoming militants. Educational standards should be upgraded in addition with professional training of the teaching staff. Secondly, Along with Quranic teachings in addition with Hadith & Fiqah, modern subjects should be incorporated in the syllabus, such as mathematics, accounting, marketing, IT, physics, finance, chemistry, to broaden their horizon of knowledge. Third, these seminaries should be equipped with vocational skills, so that the poverty ridden madrassa students can enhance their skill set and prepare them to work in various jobs. In addition to this, the funding system for the madrassas should be scrutinized in order to cut the hands of militant and banned organizations. With taking such steps, only then our nation will be able to foster and stand in align with developed nations.