It is 2021 and yet the literacy rate of Islamic girls in India is less than 50%? What do you think are the barriers to their education? What can architecture do about it?
I, Aamna Ruksana Faruq Bhurani, have graduated from B.K.P.S. College of Architecture (Pune University) and currently working with a firm in Pune as an architect.
This article is about my thesis project that I worked on during the final year of Architecture
College, the idea of which was there in my mind since the beginning of my journey in
architecture. To me, architecture is imagining and designing the future while looking and studying the past and I strongly believe that it has the power to bring change.
STORY OF MY THESIS PROJECT:
“The story of this project revolves around the life of girls belonging to Islamic community in smaller towns or rural areas. Since I was born and brought up in Akola (Maharashtra, India),
I’ve always observed them struggling and even failing to overcome barriers to their education. I started my research with emotional value, finding causes and possible interventions and ended up with strong desire to design something for them. Something that will bring change in their life.”
The research started with surveying about literacy percentage, current condition of education by case studying existing learning centers and interviewing young girls and their parents to understand their preference or choice of school.
The study was also undertaken to know how the social, cultural and religious principles will play role in the overall design and physical characteristics that will have an effect on learners. It also focuses on the physical environment of such spaces with respect to safety, privacy and other such concerns of parents.
The outcome was that a lot of parents, even if they find it equally important to get regular education, are more comfortable sending their girls to madrasahs (Islamic religious school), where they are often taught separately from boys and social customs are respected in comparison to regular schools.
But apart from the merits of an English medium education and an Urdu-medium traditional education, what Muslim women want today is some form of knowledge that empowers them.
Therefore, the idea of thesis project was to combine madrasah and regular education in one campus along with a separate empowerment unit that includes vocational courses.
Need for the project:
There are three major reasons that leads to the requirement of this project:
1. In Akola, there is a strong desire and enthusiasm among Islamic girls for education but
absence of an educational center that provides a blend of both deeniyawi (worldly or regular education) and deeni taalim (religious education) together in one campus.
2. Considering the condition of existing madrasahs, there is a need of new project which is better in terms of physical comfort of girls.
3. There is a need of an educational center which is designed considering all the barriers to these girls’ education. So that, if girls are able to overcome barriers then there will be more enrollment and thereby, increase in the percentage of their literacy rate.
The site chosen belonged to one of the government Urdu medium schools at Akola where maximum portion of the site is not in use. This was in proximity to residential area of the city for ease in access and safety reasons.
Design Concept for educational center for Islamic women:
The learning center is designed especially for Islamic girls for their further education. The educational center is divided into three zones - Academic block (classrooms, labs and empowerment unit for vocational courses), recreational zone (gym, indoor play areas and open air play areas and ground) and theological teaching department.
The overall design approach is contemporary so as to depict that this campus aims to bring change in the lives of Islamic girls by making them stand with current world.
The idea is to respect social-customs but also think about the comfort of end-users. Focus is not to address the symbolic aspect of Islamic architecture but to concentrate on the religious beliefs. An attempt is made to stick to the roots of Islamic philosophy rather than highlighting the typical Islamic architecture elements in the design like arches, dome or minarets.
Creating more interactive spaces within the campus: The concept of informal learning environments in addition to formal classrooms along with common interactive areas is adopted i.e. thinking of whole campus as a learning place rather than just classrooms. Buffer zones are created from road sides so as to avoid visibility of activity spaces inside considering purdah system in Islam.
Also, at the same time effort is made to create multiple open spaces which will give a sense of freedom within the campus for female learners.
This was my approach and an attempt as a student that could help to increase literacy rate or bring change in the life of Islamic girls especially in smaller cities and rural areas of India.
This project has helped me in strengthening my ideology of understanding the community and I welcome all the suggestions that would help me improve and take this idea forward someday.
Ar Aamna Ruksana Faruq Bhurani can be contacted on IG https://instagram.com/aamnabhurani?utm_medium=copy_link