Executive Reports

Executive Summary: Key Accomplishments FY 1 and 2

Launched in July 2008, the “Minority Initiative for Learning and Partnership-MILAP) devoted the first two quarters of FY10 toward project start-up and recruitment, selecting the areas in which the organisation should focus on, identifying stakeholders and ensuring their engagement, in order to define and validate project interventions. The third and fourth quarters and FY2 were largely spent in selecting implementing partners  and establishing a baseline for the series of interventions, besides implementing the project in some key states. 

As of February 2011, the project has been implemented in five state(Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Assam) with six partners, and a roster of 18 activities that have reached a target population of 1000 students and teachers.

At the start it was thought prudent to have consultations with key stakeholders, for MILAP-led interventions targeting Indian Imams, Madrasa Students and Teachers. For the same a consultative workshop was organised in association with Jamia Millia Islamia in June 2008. The key findings of the participants was that there is no need to change the syllabus, but only to change the system of pedagogy in madrasas, further areas were identified in which intensive interventions will yield result focussing on the overall personality development of the teachers and students, making them awareof and conversant with soft skills and the latest technology. As a result of the deliberations spread over a two day period, the participants identified key areas in which training should be imparted to madrasa teachers and students in order to make them aware of new educational techniques and management and how to use these innovations in both the pedagogy and learning process. These experts were able to formulate the core sessions on which adequate stress should be laid.

i) Sessions for Madrasa Teachers—see Annex A

ii) Sessions for Madrasa Students—see Annex B

These focus areas were given the shape of a proper training programme and were implemented at the first programme by MILAP in association with the Academic Staff College, Jamia Millia in Aug 2008.

Subsequently, these programmes were implemented at;

a) Aligarh by Academic staff College, AMU, Aligarh, UP,

b) Pune by Azam Campus, 

c) Hyderabad by MESCO,

d) Guwahati by PFI Foundation, and 

e) Mumbai by Iqra Foundation

Another highlight of the year included the successful start of a course for the Indian Imams.  Based on the concept of Imams as a social leaders, a course outline was drawn-up to make the Imams more aware of basic soft skills, speech delivery, what sort of messaging they can do through the weekly Juma Khutbas and what sort of behavioural skills should be inculcated to integrate themselves as a Counsellor not just as a spiritual leader.

i) Sessions for Indian Imams workshop—see Annex C

At the Jamia consultative workshop, stakeholders, including religious scholars, academics, and social workers came together in each of the five states, to discuss the educational needs of Muslim children and youth, and to identify potential intervention strategies for the project in the future. This series of workshops, bolstered by quantitative research and spearheaded by a local NGO, provided clarity around the MILAP interventions and proved to be an effective strategy for launching the project overall, by embedding ownership with state-level actors and influential community members. Not only did these consultations mark, perhaps the first, public, state-level forums where NGOs, academics and Muslim community leaders gathered for a bi-partisan dialogue and training on issues around minority education, but as the delivery of the training programmes were underpinned by a vetted research design, the findings were accepted more readily by the madrasa participants. 

MILAP Programme Strategy

As a result of the findings from the consultative process, the project team developed a uniform but flexible MILAP programme“approach” by designing a set of program interventions to support minority education at the Madrasa and Community Levels. 

The Intervention component will focus on a set of demand-led, community-level interventions to address critical factors related to the capacity building of the participants access, The Communications component provides information and advocacy efforts to help foster a greater depth of understanding around the issues impacting minority education, and to build trust and motivation between the minority communities in each state, the State government, and potential donors. Under the Execution component, MILAP is initiating a limited number of supply-driven, classroom-level inputs and provide Madrasa teacher and students and Imams with standard, quality instructional products, and short-term training inputs for Madrasa teachers and students and Imams.

Madrasa Teacher Capacity Building Programme (MTCBP)

In addition to the overall ICE strategy, MILAP interventions are embedded in a community-driven methodology. MILAP has identified key, influential, committed community members and organisations willing to contribute to our efforts. By connecting with the community through our implementing partners, MILAP has been able to identify organisations ready to provide support to the programme efforts. These organisations have played a critical role starting from the early phases of MILAP implementation. Because they are an integral part of the local communities, they bring a depth of understanding about community processes and needs. Their perspective ensures that the interventions MILAP provides are relevant and responsive. 

Based on the initial consultations with religious scholars and madrasa administrators, one of the key strategies to improve the quality of education offered in Madrasas was designed to develop new and strengthen existing tools and skills to equip Madrasa Teachers to enhance the overall quality of the teaching-learning practices within their Madrasas. The Madrasa Capacity Development Programme was designed based on a “professional development/coaching model” intended to help Madrasa Heads offer secular curricula in order to address the gaps in teaching-learning practices. The MCDP is being offered to Madrasa Teachers and Students across India.  

The Madrasa Teacher Capacity Building Programme was designed to resemble the key elements from the MCDP and focus on training the teachers from the pilot Madrasas within its target area on secular curriculum and pedagogical issues. The training draws from successful, Madrasa-based interventions in Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, New Delhi and Assam. The objectives of the MTCBP module is to develop Madrasa/Maktab teachers’ understanding of their teaching-learning styles and the learning styles of their students, the use of child-centred, active-learning practices, collaborative techniques, development and application of low-cost/no-cost Teaching Learning Materials lesson planning, and project-based methodologies.

Interfaith Programme

During FY 10, MILAP published ‘The Abrahamic Religions’ writtenby Asad Mirza. The book is targeted at interfaith practitioners and will be  a valuable tool for the MILAP-team, when it starts activities focussing on Interfaith issues in India, along with national and international experts and partners.

Program Challenges & Next Steps

As is to be expected, the first Two-years of MILAP also contained various challenges and at least a couple of setbacks. One ever-present challenge of reaching out to a long-marginalised minority group is that of establishing trust while simultaneously obtaining engagement. In MILAP’s case this is intensified by the project’s wide scope and limited resources. In other words, we can’t apply proven community-mobilisation approaches, because we have neither the time nor the funding to see these to fruition. By leapfrogging critical steps in order to allow for a faster implementation schedule, we compromised on initiating the programme at an all-India level, instead MILAP has concentrated on those cities which are considered to be a bacon for the minority community whether due to the city’s importance or due to the prestige and reputation of the partner organisations. Just as shortcuts in education often prove untenable over the longer-term, it is difficult to significantly abbreviate community engagement and partner capacity building efforts, and still achieve results that endure. In awareness of its shortcomings, MILAP has tried to build in measures for sustainability (the foremost of which is selecting local partners who are vested in these Muslim communities over the longer-term), and also by establishing a permanent Centre for Excellence at either Lucknow, UP or New Delhi in the next FY, which would supervise the activities of the Madrasa Programme throughout India and also conduct Training Programmes for the Madrasa Teachers, Students and Indian Imams on a sustained basis.

Of greater concern is the risk of negative perception and criticism from within the minority population and the potential for backlash from amongst our implementing partners – it will be a serious setback if MILAP-Madrasa Programme garners a reputation as yet another “well-meaning” project that managed to gain community access and raise expectations, but remained unable to respond to them. Another, “quality-level” challenge is how to simultaneously pilot and publicise the tangible results of these training programme to a wider audience

It is not unexpected that grassroots organisations are unable to match the financial practices of larger NGOs, but this increases the obligation on MILAP to achieve accuracy by greater involvement of project staff and ongoing capacity building; neither of which are included as project indicators.

Other challenges which emerged once the pilot details began to be developed in terms of the adaptation of existing curricula to be adequately used within the government institutions. Translation into Urdu or the local language as well as needing to adapt some materials and tools to meet varying degrees of technical infrastructure available have added some unexpected steps to the preparation of pilot projects. In addition, the relative scarcity of existing and appropriate career guidance curricula presented some challenges in terms of finalizing the selection of materials to use. Despite the challenges of working within the constraints, work is progressing and more activities are expected to begin in earnest in FY 11.

Taking stock of the first Two-years, we feel that our progress can best be characterised in three, discrete phases: discovery, refinement, and implementation. The project team successfully completed activities under the discovery and refinement phases (including recruitment, research, analysis, planning, consultation and partner identification). This helped establish a solid foundation on which to launch programme implementation (which included partner mobilisation and training, resource allocation and leveraging). Despite the many challenges, FY11 opens with a MILAP team that is poised to make significant strides in implementing its strategy of Intervention, Communication and Excellence (ICE).