India: Co-education ban in madrassas

India Today
The ban on co- education for girls in madrassas from class XI will virtually bring to a halt the education of 25,000 girls in Uttar Pradesh.
The order of the Uttar Pradesh Board of Madrassa Education (UPBME), banning co-education in madrassas in the state, has evoked no response from the ministry of human resource and development (HRD).
Union Minister of state for HRD M.A.A. Fatmi, who looks after minority education, said on Wednesday, "We cannot keep track of what is happening in every state. It is for the UP government to answer."

"In the future, if the government sets up madrassas, it will see to it that there are separate madrassas for girls. What can we do about these girls till then," he added.

UPBME chairman Haji Rizwanul Haq's ban on co- education for girls in madrassas from class XI will virtually bring to a halt the education of 25,000 girls in UP. The board comes under the UP state minority welfare board and there are 1,900 madrassas under it. But, of these, only 170 madrassas are for girls, a number highly inadequate to accommodate all the girls.

Also, the government's data on the Muslim community's enrolment in schools, compiled by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, confirms that Muslims are the most educationally backward community in the country.

The HRD Ministry has an entire department devoted to minority education and is working on an elaborate programme for madrassa modernisation. The ministry has been allocated Rs 625 crore in the 11th Five- Year Plan for this purpose and professes to be aiming to "monitor and raise awareness about education programmes for the Muslim community". While the HRD ministry talks of "modernisation of madrassas" and its schemes of introducing maths and science and increasing the honorarium of teachers there, it is reluctant to focus on core issues - the denial of education to girls in co-ed madrassas.

A ministry insider says, "We fund the state madrassa boards but nothing beyond that. If we bring about a central madrassa board in the future, then maybe we will look into such issues." Shantha Sinha, chairperson of the national commission for protection of child rights, described the step taken by the UP government as "unfortunate". "Girls certainly cannot be denied access to education. Before they take such a policy decision, they have to see girls' education is not disrupted by such moves. They have to work out a way. If need be, we can take it up with the state government to ensure the education of these girls is not disrupted," said Sinha.

5 February 2009

By: Kavita Chowdhury

Source: India Today