What is the problem with the Muslim Education?

In a series of small posts I will try to explore the feasibility of mosques as schools. I write this article to find a solution to some problems that seems to be invisible to most Muslims. At the same time this article is an attempt to reach out to like minded Muslims who can see the problems, but have not been able to voice their concerns about the current education scenario of Muslims in Mumbai.

In the first part I will put forward some of the problems I have observed:

1: Vacant Spaces:

Many mosques in Mumbai are huge and can accommodate 2 schools. Most of them at least one. However, these huge structures are empty most of the time except on Fridays. Friday afternoon prayers are the only time the mosques seem to be buzzing with activity. In fact, many Imams and Maulanas lament about this in their sermons. The only other activity that may be happening in these mosques other than trustee meetings is the learning of Arabic. Unfortunately, learning of Arabic doesn’t mean learning the beautiful language of the Holy Qur’an, but simply the phonetics of the alphabets that children will learn to mimic with proper pronunciation without understanding a single word of this divine message.

2: Christian Run Schools.

Schools run by christian churches have been known to try to influence students that Christianity is a better religion and Islam is bad. Visits to the church and praying to Jesus are part of daily routine in such schools. There have been incidents where convent schools have gone out of their way to pressurize students fasting in the month of Ramadan to break their fasts either by forcing them to drink water or giving them physical tasks that are exhausting. There have been incidents when christian church run schools have flat refused admission to Muslims children because of their religion and have even offended parents by saying things like “Why educate your child since he is going to grow up to be a terrorist anyway?”

Watch: Parents complaining about Agnes School regarding harassment by school authorities

Read: Indian Express report about the St Agnes School incident

3. Muslim Run Schools:

These are of two types. One – old Urdu medium schools. Urdu maybe the language Muslim grand parents identify as Muslim Language. The fact is that it isn’t. English is a language that gets decent jobs to a vast workforce that steps out of schools and colleges. Knowing Urdu as a language is not bad, but knowing only that language puts students at a disadvantage. Most of the Urdu schools are Government aided and the people in charge of these schools are unwilling to give away that privilege. I will not go into the corruption that may or may not exist to maintain status quo for trustees in charge of these schools, but the same trustees have confessed to me that admissions to Urdu schools is dropping. Parents prefer to send their children to English Medium Schools. Converting the school to English medium is not an option for these schools as one president of an education trust put it – the teachers will be out of work. For some odd number of teachers who are teaching hardly anyone, a vast majority of Muslim children have to seek admission to the next alternative – the Christian run schools.

The second type of Muslim schools are Islamic schools. Most of these newly founded schools are run by opportunistic people who want to cash in on this trend. They rent places to run schools and try to earn profits from well meaning parents who want their children to learn Islam and acquire ‘worldly’ knowledge also. These schools offer nothing more than a couple of periods of Arabic reading practice and a normal English school for which they charge ridiculously high fees which many Muslim parents cannot afford. Some well meaning schools cannot lower their fees since their operating costs are high because of the rent.