The Ministry of Federal Education is hard at work in the registration of seminaries and looking to include aspects of contemporary education alongside religious at these institutions. However, the decision to pay the salaries of contemporary teachers at madressahs is both unsustainable and unwise.

At a time when tightening purse strings is the need of the hour, paying salaries to employees of hundreds of seminaries for an indefinite period will only add stress to the government’s limited expenditure. The government can simply not afford the costs of paying for teachers of hundreds of seminaries across the country, not to mention the many logistical costs that will likely prop up alongside in this process.

Rs 1.84 billion has been approved by the federal government for this project, but what the government fails to realise is that setting this precedent from the get-go is not going to encourage seminaries to include contemporary education within their own business model.

By choosing to pay the salaries of teachers that will not impart religious education, the government has already established that this is not the purview of seminaries, even though the objective of this policy is to bring madressahs on board with the idea of providing more holistic education to its students in the long run. This government bailout is a slippery slope, because if salaries are paid for a certain period, any move to remove this support might result in seminaries regressing back to their old models, and blaming the government for failing to include contemporary education as a part of the curriculum.

Under the current model, the seminaries need not worry about the salaries, but recruitment of teachers is still under their purview, which is an added problem. Not only is the government handing over money for teachers to the madressahs, it is also doing so blindly, without any checks or balances of who the money ultimately ends up with.

If clerics within the seminary cannot take over the responsibility of paying for contemporary teachers, why is the government assuming that they will be good recruiters in subjects they have no expertise in? The recruitment process, which subjects the potential teachers will specialise in, the level of education and other concerns of nepotism and transparency are all valid concerns to take into account, yet none of these figure in to this plan by the government to fund seminaries to hire teachers.

The government must choose; either it must look to avoid spending any of its own money in this process – which is the wiser course of action – or at the very least, it must create a system of greater accountability. If money is being spent, certain standards of education must be met. At the moment, the government’s policy caters to neither issue.