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Girls’ madrassas expanding at a dramatic rate

LAHORE: There are more than 1,900 registered madrassas for girls in Pakistan. And the female madrassas are expanding at a dramatic rate, educating almost a quarter of a million girls and providing more than half of the candidates taking the graduate-level examinations every year.

The madrassas are experiencing a boom thanks to the failures of the public education system and an increasing appetite in the lower middle class for traditional Islamic values.

The boom in female madrassas has led to the funding of a project to examine their impact. An Oxford academic, Dr Masooda Bano, has received more than £400,000 from the Economic and Social Research Council to study their appeal and their students.

According to the latest statistics, nearly 236,000 girls are studying in the madrassas. The girls exceed males in academic achievement so that a greater number register for graduate examination. They also have a higher pass rate.

The madrassas charge fees. The number of unregistered madrassas could be much higher. Bano said, “Parents who send their daughters to madrassas are lower middle class. The girls who enter are aged between 16 and 20. Most say it was their choice. There is an emergence of a very conservative value system. Madrassas promote traditional roles for women and students feel confident about their position in society. You cannot associate this phenomena with poverty.”

She says the madrassas give women economic and social opportunities. As part of her research, she will explore the links between the growth of female madrassas and religious militancy. Part of her work will focus on Jamia Hafsa, attached to the Red Mosque in Islamabad.
Source: Daily Times
Date:5/16/2009

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