Kolkata | February 22, 2006 2:35:38 PM IST
If you think Madrassas are all about imparting religious education to Muslim students only, think again, especially if you are in West Bengal. For here, the Madrassas have entirely different story to tell.
From computers to English, and Science to Bengali, 40,000 Hindus learn it all along with Muslim students. Adding to it is the fact that many non-Muslim teachers are part of the faculty in these Madrassas in the State.
Transcending the barriers of caste, creed and religion, these Madrassas impart education to students from socially and economically backward sections.
Taking a distinctive route from the conventional methods of education, these Madrassas are training students with different cultural backgrounds, like students learn in any general school elsewhere in the country.
Students of these 508 Madrassas in the State are taught in a co-educational system. They follow the curriculum alike education board in West Bengal. Arabic is taught as an additional subject besides Bengali, English, History, Geography, Science and even computers.
I like to study Arabic. I have very good friends here. I eat and play with them. I like it very much, said Birendra Kumar Sau.
Teachers working here feel religion is not a hindrance and it is just to earn a living that they have preferred to teach at Madrassas.
I am teaching because I wanted to work, be independent. There was no issue choosing between a Madrassa or a school for teaching. I wanted a job and I came here as a teacher. Thats why the Madrassa factor did not figure. It was just another educational institution, said Namita Mitra, a teacher, Akra Girls Madrassa.
The feeling of teaching or learning under one national umbrella leaves behind any thought of being associated with different religious belief.
Culturally there are no differences because basically we are all Indians. There is no separate Hindu, Muslim or Christian ambience its an Indian ambience. If I go into a Hindu situation or an Islamic situation, it still remains and Indian situation, so there is no alienation. I do not find any problem, added Mitra.
The distinctive educational system stands high as a paradigm of communal harmony. Teachers and students exchange views and knowledge irrespective of any feeling ill will. The food is shared commonly, study together and participate in various activities.
The Madrassa education system here is a symbol of communal harmony. Earlier, I used to work in a school and had a different opinion about Madrassa. But now I find no differences. Here too, the Hindu-Muslim teachers work together as they did in the school. We participate in classes, picnics together, we share each others food, eat from the same lunch boxes. Students also do the same. One cannot identify whether a teacher or a student is a Hindu or a Muslim, said Parveen Arjumand Bano, Headmistress, Akra Girls Madrassa.
For most of the Hindu students, the papers in Arabic and Islamic studies dont pose a problem because they are allowed to answer in Bengali. In fact, Hindu students even do better than the Muslim students in these papers.
Festivals like Saraswati Puja and Milad-ul-Nabi are celebrated in the Madrassas together by Hindus and Muslims. Students also participate in cultural fests organised by other schools and even those that are being run by Ramkrishna Mission, a Hindu organisation.
Meanwhile, the West Bengal Board of Madrassa Education takes pride for being the premiere body which varies from all the Madrassa in its approach towards education.
Our units are of five types. First, it is open for all the students irrespective of their religions. It is a socialised education. There are Hindu teachers and selection of the members of the Managing Committee is done in a democratic way where teachers and guardians participate. Moreover, the enrolment of girls is more than usually in other places. There is provision for co-education system which one will not find anywhere in India, said Dr. Abdus Sattar, President of West Bengal Board of Madrassa Education.
The standard X certificates are equivalent to those given out in other Government schools.
Moreover, the West Bengal Board of Madrassa Education holds the distinction of being one-of-its kind that is a member of the Council of Boards of School Education in India and is recognized by the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT).
The Madrassas in Bengal have also earned a name for themselves for being the only institution in the country to carry out polio eradication and immunization programme in collaboration with the United Nations International Childrens Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
According to State-wide statistics, 12 per cent of the about 3.29 lakh students in West Bengals Madrassas are Hindus but in some areas like in Jalpaiguri, Nadia, North 24 Parganas more than 25-50 per cent students are Hindus.
Madrassas are provided a budgetary support of rupees 125 crores from the Government of West Bengal for development.
In near future, the West Bengal Madrassas are planning to introduce vocational training courses, programs to reduce drop out rates and introduction of sex education. (ANI)