How The Modi Govt Is Failing Madrasa Teachers Despite Promises Of Modernising Madrasa Education
Over 25,000 teachers under Scheme to Provide Quality Education in Madrasas in U.P. have not received their salary for more than three years.
Ismail Siddiqui has a punishing schedule. He teaches Maths, Hindi and English in Madrasa Islamia Ahl-E-Sunnat in Atrahri in the Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh. He goes to the Madrasa at 8 in the morning and returns home at 2 in the afternoon. From 3 to 7 in the evening, he works as a daily-wage labourer, as he loads and unloads cement from trollies.
“It feels bad to work as a daily labourer after teaching; it does not give a good impression to the students; it affects the student-teacher relation. But I don’t have any other option. I have been doing this for years now; I have to look after my family of five. On some good days, I make Rs 200,” says Ismail.
Ismail, who holds a master’s degree in accounts from Gayatri Pith Post Graduate College, Bahraich, was appointed to teach in the Madrasa in 2013. He has not received his salary for the last 41 months.
“I have seen my father dying in front of my eyes dues to lack of money. My father had a heart attack in 2015 when I admitted him in a hospital in Lucknow, 130 Kilometers away from his home. Doctors suggested open-heart surgery, which required a huge sum of money. I sold my small patch of land and deposited my wife’s jewellery to a pawnbroker in the hopes that when I receive my salary, I will recover them. My father died in 2017, and I’m still waiting for my salary.”
Ismail is one of over 25,000 teachers appointed to provide modern education in Madrasas under Scheme to Provide Quality Education in Madrasas (SPQEM) in Uttar Pradesh, who have not received their salary for more than three years. Non-payment of salaries has forced many Madrasa teachers across the country to take desperate steps to make their ends meet. Teachers take up odd jobs, driving a rickshaw, and working as daily-wage labourers after teaching hours at their respective Madrasas.
There are thousands of madrasa running across the country. In many areas where schools have been able to reach out to the Muslim community, Madrasas are the only option available for the community’s children. While a lot of Madrasas function through private charities, a few of them get little state funding. To be eligible for state funding, they have to be affiliated to Madrasa boards.
SPQEM operates under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, which seeks to bring about qualitative improvement in Madrasas to enable Muslim children to attain standard education. Apart from funding, training, libraries and infrastructure development, it provides honoraria for up to three teachers per Madrasa.
For a graduate teacher, the salary is Rs 6,000 per month and for postgraduate teacher Rs 12,000 per month. To this, the Uttar Pradesh government adds another Rs 2,000 for graduate teachers and Rs 3000 for postgraduate teachers. “Even the state government salary is not being paid on time. It often gets delayed by 4-5 months,” Ismail tells NewsCentral24x7.
Ismail was a district-level runner. He had dreams of joining the Army. “My father was a small tenant farmer. He had struggled all his life to feed us two square meals. He never had extra money to spend on my education. To continue my education, I had run a small biscuit shop. In 2007, I went to Gonda for my Army test, but I was not recruited despite performing exceptionally well. The reason is still unclear to me.”
He adds, “After failing the Army test, I was depressed. I joined a Madrasa to engage myself. Now educating poor children gives me immense joy.”
“But how long will we manage to survive without payment?” he asks.
Ismail’s colleague Dinesh Kumar Arya has the responsibility of looking after seven members of the family. He said, “Everyone knows that I’m a government employee, but I do not have money to afford even chocolate to my little daughter. Non-payment of salary for years has affected my children’s education. I do not know who to blame.”
“To keep my family afloat,” Dinesh says, “I tutor 12 children in the evening and ten in the early morning. But in a rural area, rates are low, sometimes Rs 50 or Rs 100 per students. Life has become difficult.”
Fifty-one-year-old Riyaz Ahmed Khan, who teaches Hindi and Social Science in Madrasa Islamia Riyaz-ul-Uloom in Hussainpoorva, says that despite several protests in Lucknow and Delhi, the government is uninterested in listening. He says, “I have two daughters to marry. I do not know how I’ll manage to do that.”
His madrasa was established decades ago and was “modernised” in 2003. Two teachers teach all the subject to 180 students. He says, “I have given up hopes of getting salaries anytime soon.
Forty-one-year-old Ajaz Ahmed, the president of Islamic Madrasa Adhunikaran Shikshak Association tells NewsCentral24x7, “In 2008-2009, the budget for the scheme was 125 crore.” He said that the United Progressive Alliance government led by Dr Manmohan Singh had increased the budget consistently by Rs 50 crores every year. “In 2015-16, the budget was 375 crores. Suddenly, however, the Bharatiya Janata Party government led by Narendra Modi cut down the budget to 120 crores,” he says, adding, “Even that amount was never released.”
Ajaz further tells NewsCentral24x7, “In U.P. alone, there are almost 8,500 Madrasas in which more than 25,000 teachers are teaching. To pay honoraria in U.P., at least Rs 266 crores is needed.”
“On the one hand, the government has squeezed the funding. And on the other hand, it claims to modernise Madrasas. Isn’t this mockery?”
On June 11, the Modi government had announced with much hype that Madrasas across the country would be connected with mainstream education for the betterment of children studying in madrasas. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the Union Minister for Minority Affairs, had told ANI, “Madarsa in large number across the country. They will be connected with formal education and mainstream education so that those children studying there can also contribute to the development of society.”
He had also said, “Madrasa teachers across the country will be given training from various institutions in mainstream subjects such as Hindi, English, Maths, Science, Computer etc. so that they can impart mainstream education to the madrasa students.”
However, per Ajaz, “The Union minister was talking about training Madrasas teachers in science, maths and other subjects. He should know that already 50,000 trained teachers across the country are teaching in madrasas, whose salaries have not been paid for years.”
He adds that despite having met with Prakash Javadekar, the Union Minister of Human Development Resource Development, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Uttar Pradesh government’s Minority Welfare Minister Laxmi Narayan Singh, all he has ever received are false promises.
Criticising the Centre further, Ajaz says, “The government may have introduced NCERT syllabus in Madrasas, but it hasn’t provided books. Students studying here are from low-income families; they are losing out their education. Neither those who are responsible for shaping the future of children nor are the students are getting anything.”
When NewsCentral24x7 reached out to him, RP Singh, the joint secretary of the Minority Department said, “There is lack of funds in the scheme. Madrasa board have not any role in paying salaries. We are a regulatory body.” On the subject of books, Singh assures that they would be available to the students by the end of August.
When NewsCentral24x7 contacted the BJP office in Lucknow regarding the non-payment of salaries, they refused to comment, with the remark that at present, they would only speak about Article 370.
Dr Manzoor Ali of the Giri Institute of Development Studies, speaking to NewsCentral24x7, says, “The Centre says it has not released the payment citing lack of funds. I would be surprised if any other school’s salary has not been released for this long.”
He further says, “The government has never been interested in modernising Madrasas. If you see the annual budget of 2019, you will notice that the U.P. government has slashed the Minorities Welfare Department’s budget by almost 50 per cent, even though the budget size has risen overall. All these schemes will die naturally due to lack of funds.”
In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said, “Hold Quran in one hand and computer in other“. In 2019 he promised, “Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas, Sab ka Vishwas”. While Modi’s supporters have lapped up promises about no one — not even the minorities — being left behind in his development model, the government has failed to keep its promises. Especially for teachers.