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In Indonesia’s Islamic boarding school for deaf children

#Indonesias #Islamic #boarding #school #deaf #children

At an Islamic boarding school in a sleepy neighborhood on the outskirts of the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta, the recitation of the Koran is nowhere to be heard.

This is a religious school for deaf children and here the students quickly gesture with their hands and learn to recite the Koran in Arabic Sign Language.

Islamic boarding schools are an integral part of life in Indonesia, with about four million students living in 27,000 institutions across the country, according to the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

But this Islamic boarding school is one of a few offering religious education for deaf students in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

“It all came from my anxiety when I found out that deaf children in Indonesia did not know their religion,” school founder Abu Kahfi told AFP.

The 48-year-old founded the school in late 2019 after befriending several deaf people and realizing they had no access to Islamic education.

It is now home to 115 deaf boys and girls from across the archipelago who share the dream of becoming a hafiz, a person who can memorize the Qur’an.

The children sit cross-legged on the floor, expressively waving their hands while looking at their school books.

The air is only pierced by howls and high-fives after they correctly recite a passage to Kahfi as he calls them out in front of the class.

It is a daunting religious education class for children who have never learned about religion or the Koran and whose first language is Indonesian.

“The difficulty is enormous,” said Kahfi.

– ‘No more shame’ –

In a room 100 meters from the boys, a group of girls dressed in conservative Islamic dress sit apart from their male counterparts and perform the same practice in rows.

For 20-year-old student Laela Dhiya Ulhaq, learning at school has brought joy and pride to her parents.

“I want to go to heaven with my mom and dad… I don’t want to leave this place either. I want to be a teacher here,” the school’s oldest student told AFP.

While others can memorize syllables in order to recite the text aloud, the hard of hearing must laboriously memorize every single character of the 30 verse sections of the holy book.

Muhammad Rafa, a 13-year-old student who has been enrolled at the school for two years, rolls his thumbs and fingers into various signs, laser-focused on learning the verse in front of him.

“I’m very happy here. It’s very quiet at home, there is nobody to talk to because nobody is deaf, everyone is normal,” Rafa, who has memorized nine passages of the Koran, told AFP through an interpreter.

Both Kahfi and donors fund the school, and children from poor families who cannot afford the 1 million rupiah (US$68) enrollment fee for books, uniforms and toiletries are allowed to study for free.

The children also learn Islamic law, mathematics, science and foreign languages ​​so that they can continue their education at a higher level.

But another effect of school is to boost children’s self-confidence as hearing-impaired members of society.

“My son used to have very low self-esteem, he knew he was different,” Zainal Arifin, whose 11-year-old son Arfi studies at the school, told AFP.

“Since he came here, he is no longer ashamed to sign publicly. He told me that God made him that way and he fully embraced who he is.”

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#Indonesias #Islamic #boarding #school #deaf #children

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