Introduction Children often receive religious and other instruction in venues run by religious institutions such us churches, temples and mosques. Madressahs are complementary schools providing basic Islamic education, Quraan memorisation, Islamic languages and development of civic responsibility. They also address social issues.
Safeguarding issue A few children attending some Madressahs in a UK district alleged they were sometimes hit by the teachers, or publicly ridiculed, or make to sit in a ‘chicken position’ or made to stand on one leg by way of disciplining them. Parents were not keen to pursue allegations and faced divided loyalties.
Project A police and social care enquiry took place and 197 children were interviewed.
Significant issues and inconsistencies in practice that came to light were:
▶ Ustads were religious scholars and not teachers.
▶ There were no standard recruitment processes.
▶ No guidance on safe childcare practice for staff or parents.
▶ No evidence that the teaching methods were tailored to the age or ability of the child.
Action A steering group was created involving representatives from the community, mosques and statutory agency. They agreed on a joint approach and negotiated consensus on key issues. The group developed clear terms of reference used a Project Management approach to provide appropriate cultural and religious advice and support. They published a report called ‘Safeguarding Children in Madressahs – a good practice guide’.
The guide aimed to provide information and guidance to parents, carers and mosques/Madressahs on how best to ensure safety of their children.
▶ Advised Madressahs on their legal obligations and best practice.
▶ Offered advice on safe recruitment and induction practices.
▶ Provide Child Protection training to the mosques/Madressahs.
The Local Safeguarding Board is evaluating the success of the Project keeping a record of number of allegations. Early results are promising.
Conclusion This project shows that it is possible for statutory public sector agencies to work in a sensitive and culturally appropriate manner with specific minority and special interest groups to ensure the safeguarding of children.
There are plans to introduce a similar project to other religious places of instruction such as Hindu Temples and Sikh Gurudwaras.