An improved madrasa' a peace dividend for a religious minority
March 2009; Children aged between 5 and 15 years are reciting the holy Quran in their madrasa (Muslim school) in Tulsiyahi Nikash village, Dhanusha. Since 2007 this madrasa has been housed in a new building constructed with support from UNDP's Quick Impact for Peace Support Initiative programme (QIPSI). Until then the school had been based in a rented room as the Government had not responded to the community's many pleas to improve the school. Neither was the school officially recognised'meaning that it could not follow the regular curriculum.
Nepal's Muslims number over one million and are one of the most disadvantaged and socially marginalized groups in Nepal.
The government's new policy, since 2007/08, of registering madrasas with the district education boards has provided huge benefits to Nepal's Muslim children, allowing them to study Nepal's regular school curriculum alongside their religious education. The teachers are now provided and paid for by the Government. The Government's recognition of madrasas and QIPSI's support has met the demands of the Tulsiyahi Nikash villagers. A community member says, 'If it had not been for the improvements to our madrasa, we would have had no option but to have picked up arms and joined the Madhesi insurgency to oppose the Government.'
The new madrasa cost Rs 406,869 to build of which the programme provided Rs 394,000 with the rest met by local contributions. Sugra Khatoon, a parent, says, 'We are very grateful to the programme for giving our children their right to be educated. We now feel that we are a part of the country and not just a marginalized religious minority'.
To directly support peace building, UNDP launched a Quick Impact and Peace Support Initiative (QIPSI) initially in the 10 Eastern, Central and Western Terai districts of Saptari, Sunsari, Siraha, Dhanusha, Mahottarai, Sarlahi, Rautahat, Bara, Parsa, and Kapilbastu in late 2007.
These districts were badly affected by the Madhesi conflict. The first phase QIPSI was implemented by three existing UNDP-supported projects, the Decentralized Local Governance Support Programme (DLGSP), the Micro-enterprise Development Programme (MEDEP) and the Community Based Disaster Management Programme (CBDMP).
UNDP has allocated $2 million (Rs. 126,000,000) through this project to improve the livelihoods of poor and excluded communities in these districts to help restore peace and social harmony.
In 2008, the Royal Norwegian Embassy and UNDP pledged an additional $1.5 million (NOK 10 million) to continue the programme in 11 eastern Terai and 9 mid and far western districts, under the DLGSP.