LAHORE – For Humayun Khan, it was another world when he got a laptop from the government of Punjab province in Pakistan in line with a scheme aimed at providing better technology and research facilities to the students.
“It was unbelievable to me when I was told by my teacher that I am included in the first batch of (madrassah) students who are going to get laptop in line with students of colleges and universities as madrassah students have never been even at the end of the priority list of successive governments,” Humayun told OnIslam.net.
The Punjab government plans to distribute hundreds of thousands of laptops among students of madrassahs (religious schools) across the province.
The move is part of a policy to modernize religious schools and provide better research and technology facilities to the college and university students.
The scheme, which was introduced by the Punjab government, was initially meant for only college and university students.
But the program was extended to madrassahs following a request from Ittehad Tanzim-ul-Madaris Pakistan, a conglomerate of major madrassah boards representing Dubendi, Brelvi, Ahl-e-Hadit, and Shiite schools of thought in the country.
The scheme, which was also adopted by the Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa (KP) province on borders with Afghanistan, is also expected to be extended to Sindh and Balochistan provinces.
Humayun is especially happy as he will be the second after his cousin, a Punjab University student, to have a laptop.
“I simply envied him at that time when he showed me that little wonder. I had no idea that only after two months, I will have it in my hands too,” a jubilant Humayun, who is going to get admission to senior Hadith class in the same madrassah, said.
There are nearly 22,000 madrassahs in Pakistan, of which the majority offers conventional religious education.
Around 13000 madrassahs out of 22,000 are operating in Punjab, the province of 90 million people.
Nearly 12,000 madrassahs are administered by Wifaq-ul-Madaris Pakistan, which represents the Dubendi school of thought.
The remaining 10,000 madrassahs are administered by Tanzeem-ul-Madaris Pakistan (Brelvi school of thought), Tanzeem-ul-Madaris (Shiite), Wifaq-ul-Madaris Al-Salafia (Ahl-e-Hadit), and Rabita-tul-Madaris Pakistan (Jammat-e-Islami).
An estimated 2.2 million students are enrolled by the five madrassah boards across Pakistan.
Pakistanis madrassahs have been dubbed by the Western media as nurseries of the Taliban mainly because of emphasis on religious education, prompting many seminaries to introduce modern and conventional subjects, including computer classes for their students.
Humayun, who wishes to be a scholar of Hadith in the future, thinks that the laptop can help him a lot vis-à-vis his career plans.
“It is a great opportunity for me where I can access to the books and research of scholars from Al-Azhar University, Madinah University, and other institutions of higher (Islamic) learning around the world while sitting in my small room,” an ambitious Hummayun said with a big smile on his short-bearded face.
Humayun’s exuberance over obtaining a laptop is understandable.
Like many others, his madrassah too does not have any proper library and other research facilities.
“My seniors have to go either big madrassahs or public libraries for research, and they still cannot get the desired information due to shortage of relevant books, and time.
“Now, I do not have to scrabble through books for minor information. This (laptop) will help me get the required information within minutes,” he said.
Qari Hanif Jalindhri, the secretary general of Wifaq-ul-madaris Pakistan, the largest madrassah board in the country, has welcomed the scheme to distribute laptops among madrassah students.
“This is a timely decision, and we fully support and welcome that,” Jalindhri, who is also the secretary of union of madrassah boards, told OnIslam.net.
“It will add to our efforts to modernize the structure of madrassahs affiliated with us.“On the one hand, it will give a sense of equality among the madrassah students, and on the other hand, it will equip them with latest technology, and inform them what’s happening in the outside world.”