It started as a small experiment six years ago at a madrassa in the Musheerabad locality of Hyderabad. The idea, aimed at school dropouts, was to integrate four hours of regular education with two hours of religious instruction so that the curriculum was more holistic. Today, the model is all set to go mainstream, with the Andhra government encouraging more madrassas to replicate the model created by the CAP Foundation, a Hyderabad-based NGO which is associated with several educational initiatives.
A survey of 2,300 school children and adolescents in Muslim-dominated Musheerabad in ’01 led to CAP sensitising parents about its programmes. It also engaged police attention on child labour, child rights and the role of the police in protecting children at risk. Says project director Gurpreet Bhatia: "We formed a mothers’ committee to actively mobilise children to return to education without which many would end up as domestic help." There was considerable scepticism. But it didn’t take long for Muslim mothers to change their minds. "Initially, we were reluctant," recalls Abida Begum, "but when we saw how the girls from other communities were benefiting, we requested CAP and Musheerabad madrassa members to start the programme in the madrassa as well." Her daughter has completed tenth standard from the madrassa under the CAP programme. She is now pursuing a three-month training in computers at the Musheerabad Madrassa Employability Training Centre. In fact, more than 850 children have been mobilised and mainstreamed in the government schools in the area via the bridge school in the madrassa.