By Ahmad Tariq
Pakistan has recently decided to mainstream its more than 30,000 religious schools known as madrassas. Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan had announced to implement uniform syllabus in schools and madrassas. According to DGISPR, Major General Asif Ghafoor these autonomous religious schools would be brought under state control. Under the reform agenda, modern science subjects will be included in the syllabus, whereas hate speech will be excluded from their existing curriculum.
The announcement was much needed and an important step for independent observers like me who have been advocating madarssa reforms in Pakistan for years. There is a general perception that madrassas produce extremism which possesses a threat to the security and peace of the state and to the world as well.
I can completely understand that madrassas reform is a thorny issue in Pakistan, as extremists operating these so called schools. These madrassas are also blamed for radicalization of youngsters and Pakistan is facing immense global pressure to act against militancy on its soil. However, Pakistan is also trying hard to get out of the grey list of Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The foreign investment has also been affected in Pakistan, because of this grey listing by FATF, which ultimately leads to economic crisis amidst rising inflation and unemployment. It means that, if Pakistan needs to grow economically, change in madrassas’ syllabus is necessary.
Just to find out whether PTI government has taken steps to reforms in madrassas’ syllabus or not, I had visited religious educational institute in Lahore (Jamia Ashrafia). In Jamia Ashrafia, I met different teachers who were part of the meetings- held between government officials and madrassas’ teachers regarding reforms in syllabus. One of the teachers revealed that less than 10 meetings have been held in last 17 months, which suggests that Government is also non-serious in these education reforms. Apart from government interest, I asked about their (Madrassas’ teachers) interest regarding much needed change in syllabus.
I was surprised that they also don’t want change in syllabus, here’s the conversation which held between me and one of the teachers there (I can’t disclose his name as it was a promise):
Q: What’s your thought about uniform syllabus in the whole country?
Ans: Well, personally I don’t want this change in syllabus because in my opinion the subjects of modern sciences and the education of Islam are two completely things, they can’t be same and they should never be.
Q: Why Madrassas don’t produce intellectual minds like other educational institutes?
Ans: Because, it’s not the responsibility of madrassas to produce such minds and people, we only produce Islamic scholars.
Q: Don’t you think if this change in syllabus occurs, then madrassas will also produce such intellectual minds and these people could get top jobs, ultimately this change will support your students financially?
Ans; This is not the way we portray things, you are actually trying to say, should madrassas produce Molvi-Engineer or Molvi-Doctor. (He answered me in a taunting way)
Q: Will this change in madrassas syllabus ever occurred?
Ans: No, I don’t think so, it will be occurred because it’s a very long process and no one is serious regarding this change…
So, here is the conversation which held between me and the teacher of Jamia Ashrafia. Apart from my meeting with different teachers, I also met students there, and unfortunately they also don’t want any change in syllabus, it seems that their brains have been washed by their so called teachers.
In conclusion, I would like to say that it is extremely important for PTI government to reform its religious schools as most of them produce hate and extremism, but on the other hand, unfortunately I personally think that the syllabus of madrassas will not be changed until Imran Khan is prime minister. Even after that, it will never be changed and the reasons are obvious.
I urges PM Khan to take emergency steps and make these reforms possible, otherwise these so called Molvi(es) will destroy the future of 2.2 Million madrassa’s students.
Ahmad Tariq is a freelance journalist