Pakistan madrassa reforms in tatters
Islamabad, July 17: The government has virtually shelved a US-aided, multi-million dollar plan to reform madrassas considered nurseries of terrorism, as it has failed to garner the support of clerics.
The government initiated the project in 2002 in a bid to introduce a more secular curriculum in madrassas.
The project sought to introduce computer skills, science, social studies and English into the overwhelmingly religious curriculum at thousands of madrassas across the country.
Utility: "We had a huge budget of Rs 5,759 million ($71 million) to provide madrassa students with formal education but we could not utilise it," Education Ministry spokesman Atiqur Rehman said.
"The Interior Ministry held talks with various madrassas... but many of them refused to accept the government's intervention," said Mufti Gulzar Ahmed Naeemi, a senior official of the mainstream Sunni clerics alliance, Jamaat Ahl-e-Sunnat.
As a result, the government has failed to meet the target of reforming around 8,000 religious schools within five years.
"We reached 507 madrassas only, spending Rs 333 million and the rest of the [money] – Rs 5,426 million has lapsed," Rehman said.
According to government records, there are at least 15,148 madrassas in Pakistan with more than two million students – around five percent of the 34 million children in formal education.
But officials suspect many more remain unregistered, becoming the only source of education for thousands of impoverished children across the country.
A majority of the madrassas get the required funds from local businessmen and traders, along with religious foundations, charities and Pakistanis living abroad.
The Education Ministry says it introduced the "latest computer technology" to 30 madrassas and paid the salaries of 950 teachers on a three-year scheme.
Expiry: "We will pay these teachers until June 30 in 2010 and then this project will be closed because no more madrassas are being included in the reform project," the ministry spokesman said.
Teachers who participated in the scheme are desperately worried about the future of their pupils if their new lessons are scrapped.
"This programme must be continued. The madrassa students are getting real benefits out of it and are entering the field of formal education and computer technology," one of the teachers said. "I'm paid 3,000 rupees by the government for this job. My contract ends on June 30 in 2010 but I plan to continue this duty. This is really national service," he said.
In Rawalpindi, Syed Haseenuddin Shah recalled one of his students who switched from religious studies to computer science and ended up with a degree.
"There are so many students following him who regularly attend computer classes in the madrassa," Shah said.
Some analysts believe the government's military onslaught against the Taliban could improve prospects for reviving plans to reshape the role of madrassas.
"Any effort by the government at this point will show they are determined to curb terrorism by all ways and means," defence analyst Talat Masood said, calling on Islamabad to re-launch the programme and provide free education. afpYour Comments
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Talimi Basta to promote street kids schooling
Karachi: Non-governmental organization Teachers' Resource Center's "Talimi Basta" prepared in consultation with psychologists has been proving very helpful in promoting education, particularly amongst little students of street schools and street children.
During a survey on Thursday it was learnt that although several street schools are functioning in backward areas of the city, particularly in the limits of Layari, Malir, Keamari and Baldia Towns, but no remarkable development could be achieved so far to get all children of very poor parents enrolled at them.
The TRC views that old conventional teaching system could not bear fruits and as a result a large number of children do not take interest in getting admission to next classes after passing primary class while a number of them used to leave school at the time when they are students of one or two class.
To create interest and zeal amongst children aged three to six year for getting education and attending their classes regularly, the NGO, in consultation with psychologists and under latest research, has formulated a school bag named as 'Talimi Basta'- the educational kit.
The Talimi Basta contains educational training materials-20 number cards, 15 cello fan cards, 146 cut pieces of pictures, 146 color cards, 12 story books in Urdu, 11 story books in English, 35 ABC cards, 26 Alphabets cards, 10 digits cards, five picture puzzles, 10 cards of Urdu words, 10 cards of English words, 150 pearls, 75 buttons, one magnifying glass, one magnet and 76 cards showing pictures of different species of animals and plants, vegetables, fruits, vehicles and domestic articles. TCR has to bear Rs3750 to prepare a Talimi Basta.
Advisor to Sindh Chief Minister Ms. Sharmila Faruqui who along with experts of TCR visited a street school located in Baghdadi, Lyari Town yesterday and distributed Talimi Basta among 30 children aged three to six year, told PPI on Thursday that Talimi Basta prepared under latest child psychology research has been proving fruitful as the learning skills improved in children who were given Talimi Basta at different schools so far.
She further said that to expand the range of the project to more street schools and government and private schools, philanthropists and other NGOs would have to contribute to it as only one NGO could not distribute this costly kit among all students at street schools of the city.
She recalled that she had given Talimi Busta to students at schools in Karachi Jail and Edhi Center. She was of the view that no education could be promoted until you create a zeal amongst little children aged three to seven year for learning education, which is impossible without adopting latest education learning system like that of European countries.
She noted that knowledge of language, mathematics and science is base of a better education and Talimi Basta carters needs of little children in this connection. The Nation
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