The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Unicef takes madarsa route to polio drive

Calcutta, April 20: The Unicef has decided to take the help of the state madarsa board to break the barriers that have kept large sections of the minority population in the state away from the pulse polio programme.

Assigned by the Unicef, the West Bengal Board of Madarsa Education will organise camps for madarsa teachers in nine districts — especially those dominated by the minority community — to train them on the need for eradication of polio. After their training, the teachers will go to the villages to motivate unwilling parents.

The nine districts are Malda Murshidabad, North and South Dinajpur, North and South 24 Parganas, Nadia, Burdwan and Birbhum.

“A month ago, the Unicef authorities requested us to undertake a scheme to raise awareness among those who are not keen to participate in the polio immunisation programme,” said board secretary Mohammed Refatullah.

The teachers would explain the necessity of the immunisation programme and also tell the parents the possible health hazards if they did not allow health officials to administer pulse polio drops to their children.

The Unicef has requested the board to conduct the training camps on an emergency basis so that a maximum number of unwilling parents turn up during the next phase of the programme in June.

About 1,000 teachers of 200 junior-high, high and senior madarsa schools, including the headmaster or the headmistress, two science teachers and a member of the faculty preferably teaching Arabic, will be involved in the programme.

“Those teaching Arabic are most preferred by us because they are the ones who are most revered by the people in the rural belts. We hope they (the Arabic teachers) will be able to convince the unwilling parents easily if they personally visit the villages and request common people not to be driven by superstition and stay away from the immunisation programme,” said the board official.

The board will hold a two-day camp on April 25 and 26. The teachers will start touring the villages from the first week of May so that a considerable number of villages are covered by June. The areas to be covered in the first phase include Bhagabangola, Lalgola, Aurangabad, Farakka, and Samserganj.

Besides holding discussions with the parents, the board will also display posters with slogans written in simple language to campaign for full participation in the immunisation programme. Board officials said the Unicef would fully fund the project.

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