Traditional Islamic schools fear losing their influence

The Jakarta Post, page 3

Having run a madrassa for around 10 years, Rachmawati Rahmat said she always tried to make her student feel comfortable when pursuing Islamic education, such as by adjusting the madrassa’s starting hour to the end of the regular school day on a daily basis.

Rachmawati, a chief adviser to the Sa’adatul Kaffah Foundation that runs the Mawaddah War Rahmah madrassa in Slipi, West Jakarta, said the madrassa had changed the starting hour to 3 p.m. for younger students and 4 p.m. for older ones in 2015 because of “longer school hours.”

With the government adamant about extending the school day again with the academic year beginning in July, Rachmawati said she had no choice but to change the madrassa’s daily schedule for a second time.

A madrassa in Indonesia refers to both non-formal and formal Islamic education. A non-formal madrassa (madrassa diniyah) only teach Islamic studies and is usually attended by students enrolled at public schools after their regular school hours.

According to Religious Affairs Ministry data, there are currently around 70,000 madrasah diniyah in the country. Opposition from madrassas has become a major concern for the government in ensuring a smooth implementation of the five-day school week. The hullabaloo is centered on how the policy could put madrassas in jeopardy, basically because they start after school hours.

Based on the new policy, students will spend eight hours a day at school instead of the current five hours per day on six days a week, but get the weekend off in return.

Muslim factions throughout the country, such as the largest Islamic organization, Nahdatul Uklama (NU), and the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) have urged the government to review the policy in order to save the madrassas.

Only Muhammadiyah, the second-biggest Islamic organization in Indonesia, in which Culture and Education Minister Muhadjir Effendy is a senior member, appears to support the policy.

Despite growing concern, Muhadjir said on Tuesday the madrassas did not have to worry, because the government was currently preparing guidelines ensuring madrassas would not be sidelined in the implementation of the five-day school week.

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