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Madressahs galore

Updated Mar 19, 2017 12:25pm

OVER the years, one of the state’s many sins of omission that have had a direct bearing on where Pakistan finds itself today is its neglect of the education sector.

A recent survey by Islamabad’s capital administration illustrates the extent to which other actors have filled this vacuum. According to its findings, educational institutions in the city number 348 — not counting higher secondary schools, which are generally considered inter-colleges — a figure exceeded by the number of madressahs which currently stands at 374. And that is not all. Of the seminaries, more than half — 205 — are unregistered. That in itself offers an indication of the enormous latitude given to religious organisations to set up these institutions and the lack of oversight by the government.

Add to this the information that the federal government has opened not a single new school in the city during the past four years, during which time a number of madressahs have come up in Islamabad, and one can see the entire dismal picture in a nutshell. This shocking dereliction of duty in the education sector is not localised but extends to the rest of Pakistan as well.

Religious leaders, Maulana Fazlur Rehman being the most vocal among them of late, bristle at the suggestion that madressahs are to blame for faith-based violence. It is undoubtedly true that all madressahs do not promote extremism per se, let alone violent extremism, but it is equally a fact that by their very definition, they offer a conservative education that often fosters undesirable ideological divisions.

The abysmal budgetary allocation to the education sector, growing income inequality and the government’s indifference to how it impacts access to institutes of learning by the poor, are a boon for the madressahs. For low-income households, the option is either to send their children to free but substandard government schools or to better quality private schools — even the most modest of which charge fees that are beyond the means of a large family.

Madressahs offer the perfect formula; free board and lodging, coupled with education of at least an acceptable quality. The geo-tagging of madressahs on a provincial level has revealed an alarming growth of these institutions, many of them unregistered.

The government has for too long outsourced the critical task of educating the population to religious organisations. Now that the disastrous results are before us, the state must pick up the gauntlet without further delay.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2017

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Comments (17) Closed

asif Ali
Mar 19, 2017 08:16am

What is come out?

Mar 19, 2017 08:17am

Governments at all levels (municipal, provincial, federal) and civic organizations sleeping, unconcerned and uncaring. What an abysmal situation. What to do? Does anyone, anybody, have a solution? I am a middle class person but I am willing to do a little financial sacrifice--i.e. make a donation if it will help educate our children, at least some of them.

ATtique ur Rahman
Mar 19, 2017 08:17am

Madrassas are private sector entities. Due to public sector failure in all fields and especially the education, the vacuum is being filled by private sector. The mushroom growth of private English medium schools in Islamabad is another reality.

Amir ali khan
Mar 19, 2017 11:42am

Please don't disturb the government , it's busy in ' saving ' democracy .

Mar 19, 2017 12:55pm

In Finland, private schools are illegal. Even the rich and powerful must send their kids to the same schools as the poorest parent. This makes sure the public schools work.

In Finland, when you move to a new place, you never ask "where are the good schools?". All schools are guaranteed to be equally good.

Mar 19, 2017 01:03pm

@Daadeejee Edhi Foundation runs schools in poor neighborhoods.

Mar 19, 2017 01:25pm

@ATtique ur Rahman .......Well said! In addition to your thoughts if I may add that: Looking at the thriving "business"of private educational institutions ,I think Federal and Provincial governments have stopped spending on education. Two most vital sectors (education and health)seem to have been handed over to heartless capitalists.They ironically hire /exploit the most talented people (teachers and doctors) with no job security,insurance and legal rights in our country.Abolish and nationalize private institutions till our nation matures morally and intellectually.

Mar 19, 2017 01:41pm

its not only education. security, health, transport, sanitation, you name a thing it is privatized, without any govt checks and oversight

Nasir, London
Mar 19, 2017 03:46pm

The Satate must pick up the gauntlet without further delay, the last line of the editorial sums up the precarious situation of education system in the country. Education is every body's right and it is the duty of the Government educating the masses. Why the government is ignoring the most important aspect of good Nationhood that makes a country prosperous and strong and responsible.

Abdul Rehman
Mar 19, 2017 05:00pm

@JA-Australia : Why look at Finland?. Look at the South Indian states like Karnataka, AP, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in Education. They are among the top in the world..

jalaluddin s. Hussain
Mar 19, 2017 09:17pm

The following excerpt from the above editorial, makes a lot of sense: they offer a conservative education that often fosters undesirable ideological divisions. "

Pakistan government's action in the field Education promotion is highly deplorable.

Mar 19, 2017 09:27pm

@Abdul Rehman-I am staying in Bangalore and private schools and colleges are thriving here. Even there are some madressahs also running, funded by Saudis. In my native state West Bengal, Govt. schools are majority and there quality of education is not that bad.

No postmodern
Mar 19, 2017 10:01pm

"but it is equally a fact that by their very definition, they offer a conservative education that often fosters undesirable ideological divisions."

Why not have an intellectual discourse and decide whether it's the right education or not. If it's correct/true/right education, then who cares if it's conservative.

Mar 19, 2017 10:35pm

The issue is primarily of high birth rate in the lower class. They neither can't feed their extra children nor can they afford to send them to private schools.

Mar 20, 2017 01:12am

PM should take notice and make a committee

Mar 20, 2017 06:48am

@Abdul Rehman Don't know much about the South Indian states, but if they provide quality education free to all, then that is a good model because it is more culturally relevant to Pakistan. The important point is that the quality of education available to the poorest children should be the same as for the richest business owners and politicians. Politicians should not be allowed to send their kids to private or foreign schools (until university level).

faith first folks
Mar 20, 2017 09:15am

Parents shouldn't have the kids they can't provide for. Governments can't even provide the services they can afford. The free funds you receive from outside actually cost more. Media should discuss these matters more often.

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