Parents Become Teachers for Madrasa Students in West Bengal

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A question paper is visible in the hand of a parent who is collecting dry rations for the mid-day meal scheme at a madrasa in Malda district. — Photo courtesy: The Telegraph

The novel study model to teach students through parents is “cost-effective” and “inclusive” as students do not have to buy smartphones and laptops to get lessons.

Clarion India

KOLKATA — Amid the coronavirus pandemic, reliance on smartphones for education has grown many-fold. But a stark disparity in the access to the digital technology across the population in the country has left thousands of underprivileged children at a disadvantage.

In order to overcome this limitation, the West Bengal Board of Madrasah Education has come up with an alternative.

Without relying on technology, the students of Islamic seminaries in the state have successfully been able to get the lessons being missed because of closure of madrassas due to the pandemic. The madrasas enrol some six lakh students, including many non-Muslims from Class V to X. The curriculum is same as those of regular schools in West Bengal.

The board has now started an initiative wherein the parents of the students “are being taught how and what to teach to their children at home”, the Telegraph India said in a report. The parents visit the madrasas once in a fortnight to learn the skills of teaching. Interestingly, the primary purpose of the visit is not this but the usual one—to collect the share of dry ration from the mid-day meal scheme for their kids.

The mid-day meal scheme offered a window to the officials of the madrasa board to experiment with ways to make education accessible to the students enrolled in madrasas, most of them from poor backgrounds with limited access to modern technology.

The model follows the traditional way of teaching. According to Telegraph, the board chairperson Sheikh Abu Taher Kamruddin said that the model was “cost-effective” and “inclusive” as students do not have to buy smartphones and laptops to get lessons.

One added advantage of the model is, the teachers feel, the students are likely to spend more time with books than those who have online access to education.

The report said that model sought to give the parents—mostly school dropouts caught in the daily grind of earning a livelihood — a hands-on role in facilitating their children’s learning.

On a particular day, parents of students of up to Class VIII turn up to collect ration. But they spend a couple of hours with teachers who teach them the lessons. Later, they impart those lessons to their children at home over the next 15 days.  The parents of Class IX and X are called separately.

Those parents who are illiterate bring along a literate relative or a friend. In some cases, the teachers just mark the chapters on the book and ask the parents to keep an eye while the child studies.

The initiative has encompassed most of the madrassas in Muslim-dominated districts of Murshidabad and Malda. “We are planning to roll out this model in other districts, too,” board chief Kamruddin said.

The success of the initiative led to the next step. Now the parents are also learning the ways to evaluate the progress of their kids; they are conducting exams at home. The question papers are prepared by teachers and then distributed among the parents who have to just act as invigilators. The answer- sheets are handed back to teachers for evaluation.

The initiative is said to have instilled a greater sense of confidence and trust among the students and parents.

“It’s a pleasant surprise how the exercise has created an interest among the guardians, particularly among those who have been able to teach their children,” Anarul Haq, a headmaster was quoted as saying.

The terminal exams usually held in December are already under way.

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