Madrasa, Duksi or Normal school? Which one is right for your child

Madrasa, Duksi or Normal school? Which one is right for your child

The law says you could. But whether you should or would will be determined by what you expect from your children’s education.

When the Basic Education Act 2013 became operational, for the first time in the history of this country it recognised madrasa schools as part of formal education.

Before then, madrasa and duksi schools were operating on the sidelines of regular schools – most of them opening in odd hours, at odd places with odd expectations.

Then the government started the compulsory Free Primary Education in 2002 and parents who were sending their children to madrasa or duksi schools instead of regular school found themselves at odds with President Mwai Kibaki’s policy on education.

Since madrasa schools were not recognised by law as centres of providing knowledge, parents who preferred the religious institutions to secular schools risked imprisonment or a hefty fine for their action after the enactment for free primary education law.

In 2013 President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into law the Basic Education Act which not only diffused a brewing possibility of conflict between the Muslim community and the government, but also turned a new page in the history of Muslims’ religious form of education.

“The importance of recognition by the law means that now parents can send their children to madrasa or duksi schools without breaking any law,” says sheikh Ibrahim Lethome, a lawyer and consultant on religious issues.

Basic education includes all levels of schools from nursery to technical colleges but excludes universities as institutions of higher learning, says sheikh Lethome.

Even though the law has been in existence for the last six years, the groundwork for formalising madrasa schools are still ongoing as stakeholders try to come up with a curriculum that will guide all madrasa institutions nationally.

“For the recognition to have effect,” says sheikh Lethome, “we must first have a single curriculum as opposed to each madrasa having its own curriculum which has been the case.”

This means that if you are sending your child to madrasa before the unveiling of a single curriculum, you could be outside the protection of the law.

Muslim Education Council (MEC) is the organisation which is tasked with handling all Muslim matters with regard to education and it is already working on a single national curriculum.

Sheikh Ahmed Yusuf, chairman of a committee formed by MEC to develop the curriculum, warns that sending children to madrasa before establishment of curriculum could end badly.

“If the law was enforced today,” says sheikh Yusuf, “all parents of the children who are going to madrasa would be rounded up and put in prison.”

He emphasises on the need and urgency of having the curriculum saying it is something that is not optional but should be done soon.

MEC started its operations in 2014 and by this time it has already developed and handed over to the government a draft Kenya National Madrasa Curriculum which is being evaluated by Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) before it is approved for use.

“We had a stakeholders meeting to finalise the draft of madrasa curriculum and almost 30 organisations were involved,” says Munawar Khan, the chief executive officer of MEC.

The national curriculum is expected to drastically change how madrasa institutions in Kenya are organised and run by introducing a system which will bring these institutions under the same umbrella.

Previously, there was no law governing how madrasa schools are established and run which meant anyone could start a madrasa without giving much attention to the details required to impart any form of knowledge.

“You will find some madrasas held between an alley of two buildings in very poor condition, but you cannot blame the teachers because they are offering a service that was not there,” sheikh Yusuf cites the sorry state of affairs.

“But we are asking the Muslim community to start improving the madrasa infrastructure because when the curriculum comes into effect at some point the government will put its foot down on the minimal requirements of places of learning,” sheikh Yusuf advises.

Sheikh Lethome adds that the importance of recognition by law also means that all madras schools will have to be licensed for the purpose of operation and they will be known where they are.

“Since madrasa schools will offer formal education, issuing formal certificates, you just cannot expect a child to come from anywhere that is not licensed by government as a place of teaching.”

How would the system survive?

As private institutions, madrasa schools should basically live on the income they generate but being religious institutions almost all of them are conflicted between pursuing paradise and profit.

“We charge each child Ksh200 per month but not all parents pay that money,” says ustadh Khalid Hamad Mainallah, the principal of Riruta Muslim madrasa located in Kawangware. The madrasa has about 200 students of whom only an average of 70 students pay per month.

“But we cannot send those who don’t pay the fee home because that wouldn’t be the right thing for a madrasa to do, we are doing God’s work.”

It would be nothing short of miracle for ustadh Khalid to turn his dilapidating five room madrasa school into an institution of quality education and therefore he has been caught into a cycle where things will only get worse if he disregards the profit motive.

Most madrasa school charge an average fee of between KSh50 and KSh300 per child every month, a fee which most times goes unpaid.

“Parents have shown little interest in madrasa schools to the extent that they wouldn’t even pay a fee of KSh200,” says Dr. Hassan Kinyua Omari, a lecturer at University of Nairobi, “but they do everything they can to pay hundreds of thousands of shillings for regular schools.”

If the upcoming Kenya National Madrasa Curriculum is to survive, Muslims will have to invest money into it with the same zeal they show for regular schools.

Dr Kinyua says: “We must give our madrasa schools the first priority if our religious education system is to have any big impact on the community and uplift everybody.”

Things may change with the new system, Dr Kinyua says, because people usually don’t value something that they don’t understand. Lack of a proper system might have resulted in a misconception that madrasa schools deserve what they get – or not.

As efforts for a national curriculum enter their final stage, the question that Muslim community will have to start talking about would be: Could you send you children to madrasa school?

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