THE annual SANZAF 5 Pillars Quiz, which involves the participation of selected madrasahs in underprivileged areas in the Western Cape, took place on 9 December at Masjid ul-Mubarak in Delft. Delft, which is in the northern suburbs on the Cape Flats 25 kms from the Cape Town city centre, may be close to the leafy towns of Kuils River and Stellenbosch, but leafy it is not.
It is poor, suffers from 50 per cent unemployment, crime and gangs, and is sandy, windswept and architecturally soulless, though the people are warm and welcoming. Delft is also home to Blikkiesdorp, known as ‘Tin Can Town’.
Blikkiesdorp is what the City Council calls a TRA, a euphemistic abbreviation for ‘Temporary Relocation Area’, which is in reality an unprotected urban Gulag of badly constructed corrugated iron shacks – hot and sandy in summer, and cold and muddy in winter.
It is to Blikkiesdorp that many of the victims of gentrification in the city have been relocated, often against their will, but with no other choice. For many residents, ‘temporary relocation’ has become a permanent limbo – of anger, hopelessness and social deprivation.
One of the six madrasahs competing at the quiz was the Blikkiesdorp madrasah under the guiding hand Maulana Razaan Sydow. The children may not have won on the day, but their mere presence was a triumph of recognition, an acknowledgement that even under the most difficult of conditions, children are learning.
The point is that madrasah education is under-rated, especially in terms of the social values it imbues in young learners after school hours, the time when social problems manifest themselves in terms of hunger, boredom and lack of facilities, and when the attraction of the gangs becomes an omnipresent allurement.
Sadly, today the madrasah is a poorly neglected institution – what with children in more affluent neighbourhoods finding their schools making strenuous demands on their time, and those in less affluent areas, falling prey to socio-economic abandonment. On each side of the scale, the education of Deen is sacrificed.
It is for this reason that the madrasah teachers of the Cape need to be saluted for their selfless contribution and perseverance. It is a tough job, satisfying yes, but still tough, because most madrasahs are under-funded. This is a massive blight on our community, which seems to have forgotten that learning has to progress from the cradle.
Yet in spite of this, the madrasah teachers, the mu’alims and mu’alimahs, soldier on – preventing countless young people from losing their values in a jungle of social despair. And here, it is not just a question of ‘alif, ba, ta, tha’ or even learning the six pillars of faith, it is the question of Deen providing a moral anchor, a compass in a wayward and confusing world.
For me, the 5 Pillars Quiz has never really been about the winners, but more about the occasion. It is when the children enjoy a day of fun – and challenges. Standing in front of a microphone, and answering questions in front of an audience based on the famous 5 Pillars Quiz game, can be daunting.
The 2017 quiz was won by a bright young student, Nafeesah van der Schyff, from Masjid ul-Badr, extension 23 in Belhar. In the final round of 21 questions, she romped away from the rest of the field, dominating the buzzer. Zuhair Charles, also from Masjid ul-Badr, came second with Layla Jansen of Madrasatul Sagheera in third place.
Nafeesah won R1, 000 in cash with second place getting R 700 and third R 500. The winners were also given a 5 Pillars Quiz game. Each competitor was given a certificate as recognition of participation, which is the focus of the event. SANZAF also donated R5, 000 to the winning madrasah, which evoked tears of joy at the end of an uplifting and informative quiz.