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June 22, 2021

Timely steps

 
June 22, 2021

Last week, after a video clip of a cleric sexually assaulting one of his students went viral, many people called for strict action against the cleric. The incident has also underscored the need for some external oversight on the functioning of thousands of seminaries in the country. Since the government is introducing a Single National Curriculum (SNC), the issues of management of the seminaries in the country should also be deliberated upon to restore people’s trust and to avoid incidents of this nature. It is a known fact that madrassah students mostly come from poor and low-income families. Some of the students stay at madrassah as they live in far-off areas and rarely visit their homes. A few of them are below the age of five. Students of such tender age, who lose contact with their parents, are more vulnerable to harassment and physical abuse. A child who lacks access to his parents at the early stages of his life can’t be taught how to identify his abuser. The long stay at seminaries makes these students feel that the abuse is normal. Also, some students are hesitant to report such incidents due to the common perception that a cleric is beyond suspicion or commiting a sin. Moreover, if reported , the parents shush their child due to social taboos. The authorities must take timely steps to protect children. First, parents should be told not to send their children to madrassah before they turn 15 . Parents should consider sending their children to a teacher, preferably a woman, who lives nearby. The local community can also come together and build a madrassah for local students. This madrassah should be run by trustworthy local people. Also, community leaders should keep a check on the working of these madrassahs.

In today’s digital era, a shift to online learning may also be considered. Distance learning will help a student who live in one corner of the country to attend the class from the comfort of his home. These steps will go a long way in putting an end to cases of child sexual abuse.

Rahman Rasheed

Buner