Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, November 21st, 2019

Traditional Madressahs to Replace Modern Education


Traditional Madressahs to Replace Modern Education

As the transition period is going on toward a decisive end and the withdrawal of international forces have become certain, the concerns regarding the future of Afghanistan are also increasing. There are many in the country who fear the return of Taliban-like system in the country; if not return of Taliban themselves. Though there have been considerable developments made in the country in different walks of life, the threat of return of conservative lifestyle still remains very much possible.

In fact, the changes have been mostly superficial while the basic system has remained intact. Religious extremism and obsolete tribal values are interwoven in Afghan culture in such a way that it would require very basic social and culture changes to eradicate them or even to minimize them. Even, the flag-carriers of change succumb to these values, which is a very negative sign.

There are reports that the Afghan government has made a deal with the Taliban in accordance to which the insurgents will end attacks on state schools in return for a more conservative religious curriculum and the hiring of Taliban-approved "Mullahs" as teachers.

The deal, which was agreed at the national level with the Afghan education ministry and at the village level by local communities, seems to have some contribution in a fall in the level of violence across much of Afghanistan over the past year.

The education ministry even considers it as a possible forerunner for more comprehensive political negotiations with the Taliban. However, some aid and civil rights groups have raised concerns that such deals could lead to the surrender of hard-won liberties for Afghan children, particularly girls.

If this decision is pursued in the manner it details, it would be very difficult for Afghan children to expect modern education; especially girls would be kept away from schools and the school themselves will be turned into traditional madressahs.

The history of modern education in Afghanistan has not been very rich. Prior to Soviet invasion, the most notable contribution for the growth of education was made my King Zahir Shah (1933-73). He made primary school available to almost half of the children of the country who were under the age of 12.

He also made certain contribution regarding the improvement of secondary education and Kabul University. The second phase of educational development started with the government of People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, which designed many education policies in order to disseminate modern education among the people.

Education was emphasized for both male and female. It was the first occasion when female education was given considerable importance. According to sources, in 1988, women comprised 40 percent of all doctors and 60 percent of all teachers in Kabul University.

Keeping in view the discriminated status of women in our history in mind, these numbers are just extra-ordinary. Further, 440,000 female students were enrolled in different educational institutions and about 80,000 more were enrolled in some sorts of literacy programs and campaigns.

One of the basic reasons of the rise of women participation in education sector was the support of the government by Soviet Union that believed in principles of socialism, not depriving any one of education on the basis of gender. The presence and role of Soviet Union in Afghanistan can always be condemned because of its imperialistic nature but its influence can never be ignored on the development of education sector and the numbers mentioned above favor the argument.

But the civil wars that followed the withdrawal of Soviet regime from Afghanistan proved to be havoc for the education sector. Because of absence of strong government at the center, the situation of peace and order was shattered into thousand pieces.

Various educational institutions were affected by ugly manifestation of violent intentions. And in the mid 90's there were only 650 schools functioning throughout the country. And what could be the number of students who attended the classes during the days of such frequent clashes is not difficult to figure out. But the worst days for the education system of the country were yet to come.

With the rise of Taliban in 1996, the decline of modern education system which was already not in a satisfactory condition, started. Taliban banned the female education and promulgated the madressah system of education.

In almost all the madressahs the curriculum included the Arabic recitation, without translation and further elaboration of the perspective of Quranic Verses. The students were confined to a single approach towards education and that was the Clergy approach, which depended on an extremist interpretation of Islam and Islamic concepts.

Investigation and research were banned strictly, and students called as Talibs were not allowed to question their teachers. Rather, they were asked to blindly follow what the Clergy approach had to offer them. The basic purpose of education was thus non-existent in the so called education systems of Taliban. They were more like training camps for generating cadre for terrorist groups.

With the fall of Taliban regime, the education system in Afghanistan has been able to make important improvements. According to the current estimations, about 45% of males and 13% of females are literate in the country, which is far better than the past, but keeping in view the modern world, it cannot be considered satisfactory enough, as the criteria for being included in the above mentioned number is only being able to read or write a bit.

Further, the number of schools has risen to a considerable rate. Almost 5000 schools have been built but most of them lack proper facilities of education. And with the rise in the number of schools there has been 7-fold rise in the number of teachers as well, but unfortunately, only 22% of them meet the minimum qualification of Grade 14, while only a negligible number has professional teaching training.

Moreover, almost 40,000 students graduate from high school every year and only one-third get admitted in universities, while others run after jobs, as their families can not afford to support them for too long.

Another development that has been made in education sector is the addition of private institutes in the urban areas of the country. They, definitely, seem to have better education methodology regarding modern education but majority of the students can not have access to that education because of the high fees charged by them.

Provided that there have been appreciations of formal educational institutes, a large number of madressahs still exist in the country and people have the inclination to send their children to such madressahs, where they have "Extremism" as the only subject in their syllabus.

In addition, discriminating sentiments against females are very common in most parts of the country. It is still considered not appropriate enough to admit them in schools. Moreover, it is really unfortunate that the government authorities themselves favor madressah and push Afghan children to dark alleys of extremism.

Dilawar Sherzai is the permanent writer of the Daily outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at outlookafghanistan@gmail.com

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