It takes 15 months to four years to become a Hafiz (one who memorizes the holy Quran) according to the merit of a student, says a mentor at Tannjimul Muslemin Yatim and Hafiz Khana, an orphanage and Islamic school, situated by the famous Hazrat Shah Amanat Shrine in Chittagong. It claims to have mentored thousands of Hafiz since its establishment in 1970.
Here, over 200 students share the same wooden bench for eating, sleeping and studying and all share a single washroom. Orphans and the homeless receive free food, shelter and education here, and can be admitted to another madrassa or high school later. Lessons begin right after fajr (dawn) prayer up to dinner, with two short breaks for supper and chores. Without any playgrounds outside, students usually stay indoors and play games.
According to UN statistics, six million students are enrolled in the madrassa system in Bangladesh, which has the second-largest religious school system in the world. With an illiteracy rate of 48 percent in the country, Bangladesh’s madrassas have provided educational opportunities for the poor, and recently, for girls as well. According to a World Bank study, madrassas have helped to achieve some of UN’s development goals, such as improving equality between boys and girls in schools.
Story and images by Khaula Jamil
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