PAKISTAN - Pakistani parents forced to send children to madrassas

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Schools providing a modern education in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and tribal areas struggle to survive as Islamist trusts running madrassas force parents to send their children to religious schools.


Haji Nadir Khan surveys the ruins of a state school in Pakistan’s north-western Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
“This was one of the rooms they blew up…and this is the other one,” says Khan, entering a bombed-out room open to the elements. “As you can see, the windows were destroyed, the walls were damaged. The blast damaged all of this area. And even the roof fell,” he notes sadly.
Two years ago, Taliban militants attacked this school. Abandoned since the assault, the ruins stand as a constant reminder of the threat to secular education in Pakistan.
Khan donated land to help found this school. He's been pleading with the authorities to rebuild it. But he realises that any such help is unlikely to come.
A few kilometres away, a well-constructed madrassa is humming to the sound of students reciting Koranic verses as they rock back and forth.
With its marbled floor and ambitious expansion plans, this madrassa has seen a dramatic rise in student enrolment ever since it opened its doors in the 1990s. The Jamia Uloom-ul-Islamia school is backed by a well-funded religious group known for its close ties to the Taliban. Students here are taught to memorise the Koran. Critical thinking is shunned in favour of rote learning.
Teaching ‘jihad and violence’
Madrassas have been flourishing in this impoverished South Asian nation ever since then military ruler General Zia ul-Haq introduced an aggressive Islamisation programme in the 1990s.
But a high madrassa-enrolment rate is ... Go on reading on our web site.
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