KUALA LUMPUR: Since early this week the schools where Muslims go to learn the Quran, the tahfiz schools, have been hogging the limelight for the wrong reasons following the tragic death of a student Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gaddaf on April 26.
It is sad that Mohamad Thaqif is said to have been abused by an assistant warden at the school, who had previous criminal record. The 11-year old’s legs were beaten with a hose and punched on his buttocks for unknown reasons. Mohamad Thaqif’s pleas to his parents to take him out from the school fell into deaf hears.
As usual the incident attracted public wrath and never ending commentaries with most blaming the the orthodox religious schools that has been mushrooming everywhere without proper oversight of the authorities.
It is time that these tahfiz school operators throughout the nation come together to reflect on themselves. If all the mudir (headmaster in Arabic) opine that Mohamad Thaqif’s fate has nothing to do with them, believe me they have made a big mistake.
Over the last few years, these tahfiz schools have received bad press due to a number of incidents. Though only a small number of schools were involved, the bad name is shared by all.
Last year a paedophile is said to have lurked in one of the tahfiz schools with a number of students ending up victims. However, the issue went cold. There were other minor incidents in these schools on and off until the latest being the tragedy involving Mohamad Thaqif.
As far as I could recall, these tahfiz schools have always suffered from poor image. Their sub standard facilities, poor regards to safety, prone to fires, operating on charity and only heard of during breaking of fast functions organised by the conglomerates tells that things are not right here.
Only a handful of these tahfiz schools carry on successfully but unfortunately they too are forgotten by those who formulate the country’s education policies.
The so called religious teachers or ustaz from these schools who come to the mosques to deliver talks also come with their standard script “I have brought along something to sell to help the orphanage and the tahfiz school”.
Is this wrong? Morally, no. However, in the context of business management (tahfiz schools are also business entities), it is wrong.
Its time to do something
For the tahfiz schools to survive and avoid tragedies like the one befell Mohamad Thaqif, they have to take proactive steps starting by explaining the management and safety standards of the tahfiz schools in the country.
There has to be a party or organisation representing them, that will shed light on the workings of these tahfiz schools and their true conditions. If they choose to keep things close to their chest, then the society will view that whatever negative things reported by the media on them as being true.
Moreover, by coming out in the open, these schools will receive the attention of the authorities including the ministers.
If these schools choose to ignore and remain silent, they certainly have waisted a golden opportunity here. Hence, if the public continue to view these schools with consternation, those who operate these schools have themselves to blame.
My question is this; can there be an umbrella body to bring together and regulate these schools so that they conform with certain standards in all aspects of operations and safety?
Can there be a policy on tahfiz schools
So far these thafiz schools have been operating independently without the supervision of any authority. However, since the incident involving Mohamad Thaqif the Education Ministry has issued a directive that all private religious schools including tahfiz schools to be registered under the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM).
The move is in fact is in line with National Tahfiz Ediucation Policy (DPTN) proposed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in March.
A general observation clearly indicates the divide between religious schools in the country. Some appear to be well established and managed while others appear poor and run down. Hence, now it’s up to those who are successful in managing these schools to develop the thafiz education sector.
Daily religious schools like Al-Amin, Hira’, Adni, Greenview and others had survived the test of time due to good management . As some have lasted more than 20 years, they must have done somehing right over there.
Though it is sad that Mohamad Thaqif who came to the thafiz school with high hopes of mastering the Quran died tragically, this is the best opportunity to take stock and chart the way forward for the thafiz schools in the nation. Let us show that Mohamad Thaqif did not die in vain.
(This commentary is the personal opinion of the writer) — Bernama