Due to the spread of corona virus, various restrictions have been imposed in various parts of the world, including in our country, since last year. The pandemic has severely affected educational activities. Students in universities, colleges, and schools are forced to stay at home. Online classes are compensating for their academic losses to some extent. Some school children do not benefit much from online classes. But it is still important to continue online classes, rather than shutting down the education system completely. Getting something is better than getting nothing at all. It will somehow help to save an entire year from being wasted. If online classes are suspended and the children are cut off from their education, they will surely lose skills. In the current situation, there is no other solution. Although efforts are being made to save the year from zero through online classes in universities, colleges, and schools, the same facilities of online classes have not yet been arranged in Islamic madrasas. In the current scenario, the madrasas’ administration also should have taken advantage of the new technology and should have used the online classes system to continue educational activities.
Assessing the situation last year, I suggested to the officials of Islamic madrasas to start online classes to stay connected with education. The Nadwatul-Ulama (Lucknow) and the Darul-UloomWaqf Deoband, although very late, have started online classes, followed by some other madrasas. Other madrasas also need to pay attention to this, so that students’ academic year is not totally spoiled.
Madrasa officials who are not enthusiastic about the idea of online classes cite the excuse that most of the madrasas’ students do not have a smartphone. The fact, however, is that more mobile numbers are currently in use than the world’s population, as there are more than 8 billion registered mobile numbers in the world, while the global population is still less than 8 billion. Currently, there are about 4 billion smartphones in the world, which is more than 50% of the world’s population. India, a country of 1300 million or so people, has about 600 million smartphones. This leads us to assume that there are very few households that do not have even a single smartphone. The use of smartphones is increasing day by day and will probably continue to increase. Therefore, to say that most students do not have a smartphone is to deny the ground realities. And even if we accept this, why should those who do have the facilities should be deprived?
Another excuse cited by madrasa officials who are not enthusiastic about online classes is the argument that smartphones supposedly spoil the society. Therefore, they do not urge their students to use smartphones. The question is whether the misuse of smartphones can be prevented by not starting online classes in madrasas. The fact of the matter is that we can no longer stop the new generation from using smartphones. But they can be prevented from the misuse of mobiles to some extent by engaging them in positive, useful online classes.
I urge the officials of all the major madrasas to start online classes in a more systematic way, like universities, colleges and schools, using the new technology. Of course, there may be some difficulties, but we should not be afraid of them. We should always be prepared to face them. Madrasas can start online classes immediately for old students after training the staff members in new technology. Free programmes are available online for online classes which can also be used. If it is difficult to start regular online classes at the moment, at least create a WhatsApp group for each class and make a daily video and upload it to the WhatsApp group so that students can benefit from it at their own convenience. Almost all textbooks are also available for free download on various websites. These textbooks should also be uploaded on the websites of more madrasas so that students can use them at home. I myself started a series of similar online classes at my school Al-Noor Public School in Sambhal (UP). Many children are using these online classes.
There is no doubt that these online classes cannot be a substitute for real, but at the moment, we have no other choice. That is why I urge madrasa administrators to start online classes in the present situation. Just as educational resources have changed drastically in the last decades, in the same way, books will be replaced with laptops, tabs, mobiles, and the Internet in the future. It is good to keep up with the times.