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Ramadan at Boys School in Kathmandu

Photographer: Narendra Shrestha

 

With Muslims making up ten per cent of the 28-million population of Nepal (according to the 2006 general census), the capital city of Kathmandu is running more than a dozen Islamic schools. Typical of them is the Jamia Gaushia Ahsanual Barkat School. Around 30 students from within the country as well as from neighboring India are accommodated, many of them coming from poor families. Because of their low income resources the community-based Jamia School offers them an education at an affordable price.

 

The fasting month of Ramadan is a testing time for the students who have to find the concentration to study on an empty stomach because they have to refrain from consuming food and drinking water.

 

Their everyday ritual for the month begins at around 3 AM when they wake up and freshen up for 'sehari' (or suhoor), their morning meal which they take before sunrise. At around 4:30 AM they attend the first Morning Prayer. Prayers continue at 1, 5, 7 and 8 PM. After sunset, the students sit for 'aftari' (or iftar), the evening meal. Between 'sehari' and 'aftari,' the students attend their regular classes but according to Mohamad Aslam, a coordinator of the schools, the students are less interested in classes and the teachers do not force them to attend. Hence, most of the time they play, chat and read the Koran.

 

Each student of the Jamia School pays 2,000 to 3,500 Nepalese Rupees (about 20 to 40 US Dollars) per month to cover tuition, food and accommodation fees. The school offers education from nursery to eighth grade. Apart from Islamic studies, Urdu and Arabic language classes, the school also provides English and math classes. After completing their education, two students each year get the opportunity for higher education in Egypt. For that, students have to excel in memorizing the Koran, the Islamic holy book.