Keeping up with the culture of teaching Urdu and Arabic to Muslim students, the three madrasas in the city continue to provide free education to students despite going through a financial crisis every academic year.
The three madrasas in Chandigarh — Madrasa Eizahal-Uloom Mujahidi, Manimajra; Madrasa Shirajul-Uloom, Gobindpura; and Arobia Faizal Islam, Sector 45 — have a total of 700 students enrolled.
The Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrasa (SPQEM) formulated under the National Policy in Education (NPE) of the central government, traditional minority institutions like madrasas and maktabs are to be provided with financial assistance for improvement in infrastructure and introduction of newer subjects.
The three madrasas in the city already teach five major subjects to students from nursery to Class VIII and provide them with the option to study Urdu or Arabic. However, these madrasas lack proper infrastructure owing to shortage of funds.
“Traditionally, madrasas used to impart only religious education, but now they have modernised themselves after having recognised the need to educate students. However, the main reason why Muslim parents continue sending their children to madrasas is for learning Urdu and Arabic,” said Maulana Imran, the principal of the madrasa in Manimajra.
These city madrasas now also welcome girl students. At the madrasa in Sector 45, there are more girls enrolled than boys at present. Students from non-Islamic backgrounds also study in these madrasas and are also given an option to study Urdu and Arabic.
These madrasas that used to earlier function as only religious institutions now provide quality education to students, but are struggling with financial instability. The madrasas charge minimal fees from their students and often teach them for free.
Owing to the lack of funds from the Centre, the madrasas now completely rely on financial donations from members of the society.
“There are a few Hindus and Muslims who realise that we are are in dire need of money and keep contributing willingly. At times, we approach certain philanthropists for funds, but there is always a financial instability owing to the lack of funds from the Centre,” Maulana Imraan said.
According to the SPQEM, which aims to provide better opportunities to students, these madrasas are eligible to get a one-time assistance of Rs 50,000 for strengthening of teaching material and establishment of libraries, followed by an annual grant of Rs 5000.
Financial assistance of Rs 1,00,000 for establishment of science and computer labs is also enlisted under the scheme along with provision of vocational training to children studying in madrasas to enhance their opportunities of entering the job market.
Even though the three madrasas are registered under the National Institute of Open Learning (NIOS), they have not received any financial assistance through SPQEM yet. The scheme is to be implemented and monitored by the state governments. However, officials from the UT education department refused to comment on the issue.
Under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA), however, the children of these madrasas are provided mid-day meals, some books and stationery items. The salaries of the appointed teachers also come from SSA, but no other financial assistance is however provided.
“This year, no books have arrived for the students so far. Not all the teachers get paid under the SSA. We appoint the Urdu and Arabic teachers on our own and manage their salaries from our expenses,” said Shameem Ahmed, the principal of the madrasa in Gobindpura.
“We have approached the government time and again and have even met with the home secretary with our demands, but nothing has been done in all these years. The reason why we continue running these madrasas is because we want our children to learn Urdu and Arabic. If the government cannot fund madrasa education, they should at least introduce these subjects in government schools,” Shameem said.
Despite a grim financial state, these madrasas continue to function in the city with the number of enrolled students only increasing every year.
The madrasas have also started providing students with diploma programmes in computer education, which is offered by CTOS. Ramesh Kumar from Meerut, whose son studies at the Gobindpura Madrasa, said: “My son gets good education at the madrasa. The teachers pay attention to the students and do the best they can with their limited resources. My son gets to study in a conducive environment there and I have no plans of shifting him to a government school.”
Maulana Imran said the madrasas that now provide education till Class VIII, used to earlier function till Class V only.
“Many times, students drop out of studies after they are done with their education here. Therefore, if provided with the right amount of financial assistance, we would extend the madrasa education till Class X in the future.”