Students of stand-alone madrasas face prospect of a drop year as the institutions have remained shut since the lockdown last year

Published : April 08, 2021 18:01 IST

Students at a madrasa. Photo: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Most madrasas complete their academic year a little before Ramzan (due to start around mid-April), and start their session shortly after Eid-ul-Fitr. Last year, madrasas had just about managed to complete their academic cycle before the lockdown was imposed a month before the onset of Ramzan. Since then, most single, stand-alone madrasas have stayed shut, and their students face the prospect of a zero year or drop year because unlike public schools most madrasas failed to provide online classes.

Most madrasa students are either first generation learners or hail from financially enfeebled backgrounds. Many are dependent on the madrasas for their two meals a day and indeed support for their books and stationery. Their parents usually have no access to smart phones either. When the lockdown was imposed, most students were caught unawares. Later, when the restrictions began to be relaxed, the madrasas had to make special arrangements to send the students back, as in many cases the parents were not in a position to come and take their children. The students who went back in July-August have not been able to return since.

Many madrasas started opening their portals in January. However, the doors were open only to day scholars as the hostels stayed shut. The attendance at most places was so meager that the madrasas decided to merely revise the earlier portions done than start a fresh syllabus for the year. Now with the fresh spurt in COVID-19 cases, and the experience of last year’s lockdown in mind, they have decided to shut down again.

Essentially, it means the students have not had proper tutorials since March last year. And the students who would have passed out this March-April now have to wait till 2022 to complete their studies. It affects not just the students but also the families as parents often look forward to seeing their son become a Hafiz (one who has memorised the Quran) and picking up a job as an imam somewhere to support the family finances.

Incidentally, in the absence of any kind of support, most single, stand-alone madrasas themselves have had to face financial hardship since the lockdown was imposed. Most are dependent on community funding. That funding has reduced to a trickle. Most have not had money to pay the salaries of their teachers and have been forced to sending their staffers to mosques in the vicinity to request the faithful to donate to keep the madrasas working. These are bleak times for Islamic seminaries and their students.