By Trideep Lahkar
A day after the madrassa he was studying in was demolished by villagers of Darogar Alga char (sand bar) in Goalpara district of Assam, 10-year-old Abdul Hamid and his classmates stare at an uncertain future.
After completing his primary education up to Class 5 at the Darogar Alga Majar Char Lower Primary School, Hamid’s father got him admitted to the local madrassa for learning theology.
“Our madrassa was demolished yesterday. But our teachers had run away a few days ago after the police came looking for them around 20 days back. Since then, no class has taken place,” Hamid told PTI here.
The Assam Police on Tuesday claimed that people have demolished the madrassa and a house adjacent to it in protest against the alleged use of its premises for ‘jihadi’ activities.
Hamid said all his classmates had left the seminary for their homes after two teachers, allegedly Bangladeshis, disappeared following the arrest of some persons in connection with alleged ‘jehadi’ links.
Ismail Mohammed, another student of the madrassa, said he will have to help his father in farming if he cannot join another institute somewhere else.
“My father cannot afford to send me to a high school for studies. I have only two options — either join another madrassa or help my father in farming,” he added.
Hamid’s father, Somesh Ali, said all parents took their children home after the news of terror links were alleged with the two teachers of the madrassa.
“My son was very good at studies. He even had made a small machine boat using batteries and small pieces of tin during his school days. I got him admitted in the madrassa about four months back,” Ali said.
Asked why he admitted Hamid to a religious course instead of proper general studies despite his scientific knack, he said that the village does not have a high school and the boy would have to travel a lot for higher studies.
“Moreover, he will earn something and will be able to feed himself if one day he becomes an Imam,” the father uttered.
The madrassa which was demolished had around 20 students. They were studying theology by staying in the compound which also houses a mosque. The mosque, however, was not dismantled.
Asked why parents take their children away from general schools and admit them to the madrassa, Habibur Rahman, the only teacher of the Darogar Alga Majar Char Lower Primary School, said there may be more than one reason for this.
“A madrassa offers food and lodging for the students and that helps poor parents. However, I don’t think it is the reason here,” he told PTI sitting under a peepal tree on the school compound.
The Muslim community considers it to be holy if a person’s ‘janaja’ (funeral prayer) is conducted by a family member, especially a son, Rahman said.
“This is one of the main reasons among the less educated Muslim families for sending their children to madrassa education instead of general studies. Two students from Class 1 and 3 were studying in the madrassa after leaving my school,” he added.
The veteran school teacher, who has been serving the institution since 1987, said that he disapproves of the parents’ decision to discontinue school education of the kids for religious studies.
“I told the parents that I will not issue any certificate for their children if they study in a madrassa. Strangely, the parents were fine with it,” Rahman said.
An almost similar experience was shared by Soburuddin, the single teacher of Darogar Alga Majar Char Lower Primary School No 2, regarding two of his students.
“Their parents were adamant in taking their sons away from the school to get admission in the madrassa. I tried to convince them about the benefits and prospects of general education, but they did not listen,” he added.
The two students of his school were studying in Class 3 and 4, Soburuddin said, adding “I did not give any certificate to them”.
Uzir Jamal, a 62-year-old resident of the village, said poor infrastructure of government-run schools is also forcing parents to take their children to madrassas.
“All the five LP schools in the char (sand bar) have students from Class 1 to 5, but there is only one teacher in each of them. Is it possible to impart quality education by a single teacher to five classes at the same time?” asked Jamal.
Apart from teaching, the single teacher of all the schools manages mid-day meal arrangements like shopping and looking after cooking though there are two cooks in each school, he added.
Assam DGP Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta had last week said that there are about 3,000 registered and unregistered madrassas across Assam that are run by four main Muslim organisations.