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Madarsa revamp funds go abegging
- State rejects offer to better unregistered institutions

Calcutta, Feb. 9: A few lakh Muslim children from economically backward families studying in over 3,000 unregistered primary madarsas across the state are being deprived of an opportunity to join mainstream education because of a state policy.

The Centre has offered assistance worth several crores to all states for development of unregistered madarsas. But Bengal has refused its share.

'Our policy on madarsa education involves only recognised institutions. How can we accept assistance from the Centre for institutions which are not covered by our policy' school education minister Kanti Biswas said.

Officials in his department said the state government has rejected the offer despite repeated reminders from the Centre ' the latest came last week ' to accept the grant.

At present, the state spends nearly Rs 125 crore a year for its 508 registered madarsas.

According to the central proposal, the funds may be used for setting up school buildings and other infrastructure, providing free textbooks to students, and for paying salary of Rs 2,000 each to teachers appointed temporarily to teach science and mathematics.

Sources in the education department say the state government's main fear is that these teachers might claim permanent jobs even if the Centre later wishes to stop the assistance in future. This would mean an additional financial burden on the state.

'The proposed funds will definitely be helpful in bringing a large number of children from underprivileged Muslim families under the mainstream education system. But we have to abide by our government's policy,' said Abdus Sattar, president of the madarsa board.

Sections of teachers and academicians associated with madarsa education are resentful of the state's decision.

'All other state governments, including Tripura and Kerala, have accepted the central assistance. There is no reason why the Bengal government cannot accept it,' a senior teacher of a madarsa said.

Another teacher refuted the state's logic regarding the temporary teachers. 'This does not hold much water as temporary teachers are also being appointed by the state government under the Centre's ongoing Sarva Siksha Abhiyan.'

Officials said the central funds aim to enable the state to undertake a comprehensive project to upgrade both infrastructure and academic standards at unregistered madarsas, based mostly in rural areas.

The intention is to provide an opportunity to several lakh poor Muslim pupils to avail primary education on a par with that offered in registered madarsas, where the courses offered till Class X have been modernised and declared equivalent to Madhyamik.

Those passing the senior madarsa examination from the recognised institutions can enrol for higher secondary courses, sources in the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education said.

In contrast, courses offered in the unregistered primary madarsas are based mostly on theology, officials of the state madarsa board said citing a survey it had conducted. As a result, their students cannot join mainstream education after completing the primary-level courses.

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