A Ray of Light for the Students of Seminaries in Pakistan

Among an impressive gathering of madrassa and school teachers, students, government officials, parliamentarians, diplomats and representatives of civil society, UNESCO Islamabad Office held the concluding conference of the regional initiative, "Learning for Empathy".

Funded by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the project aims to strengthen madrassa and school practitioners' capacities to equip learners with knowledge, skills, values and attitudes needed to live healthy lives, promote sustainability, and engage with the world as responsible and passionate global citizens. The project is completing its one year of implementation in March 2020 while working in selected madrasas and schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In her inaugural remarks, Representative and Director of UNESCO, Ms. Patricia McPhillips congratulated the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training for initiating a single national curriculum and facilitating madrassa education in Pakistan. Ms. McPhillips stated that the implementation of the project is currently carried out in three countries of the Asia Pacific region (Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia). "Working with madrassas and public sector schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province for promotion of peacebuilding, tolerance, respect for diversity and interfaith harmony is a valuable experience for UNESCO", she added. In addition, she shared the conference would highlight key achievements and lessons learned of the project and to explore the possibility of partnership and scaling up of such interventions in other parts of the country.

Speaking at the occasion, Charge d' Affaires, ad interim, Embassy of Japan, Mr. Yusuke Shindo appreciated UNESCO's endeavours for working with madrassas, particularly for promotion of the SDG-4/ Education 2030 agenda in Pakistan pertaining to inclusive and quality education. He announced that considering the successful implementation of this project, the Japanese Government has approved the second phase of the project for a continuation of the good work.

Joint Educational Advisor, Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training and National Curriculum Council, Muhammad Rafique Tahir highlighted the reforms initiatives of the present government. He said, "Finalization of single national curriculum and registration of madrassas with the Federal Ministry of Education is a priority of the government to ensure uniform education system in the country". He shared that, "Learning for Empathy" is a strategic intervention of UNESCO, which is producing a high impact in terms of portraying the importance of Deeni Madrasas in Pakistan for promotion of peace and tolerance in the society. He proposed the continuation of the project and assured full support of his Ministry in this regard.

In his keynote address, Deputy Speaker, Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mr. Mahmood Jan thanked UNESCO for undertaking this important initiative in the province. He stressed the need to scale it up in other districts and expressed his full commitment and support for the effective implementation of the project. He shared that his government has taken concrete steps towards inclusive and quality education in the province while giving madrassas education the topmost priority.

Other speakers, particularly madrassa leaders and students, also exchanged their views and suggestions for scaling up this initiative to help promote peacebuilding, tolerance, respect for diversity and interfaith harmony in the society through working with madrassas.