The acting minister of education, Rangina Hamidi, has suggested a new plan in which children from the first to third grade would study in mosques, a move which would be unprecedented in the country's education system.
The ministry in a statement defended the plan, saying it is aimed at giving a central place to Islamic studies, calling it a major and crucial step.
Implementing these changes would involve a careful and step-by-step plan, the ministry has argued, saying that it will remove the stigma about Islamic studies that is associated with madrassas. It says that with this decision, Islamic studies will be brought to schools.
The acting education minister recently removed the deputy minister’s office for Islamic studies and replaced it with a directorate of Islamic studies.
The statement says that the Islamic studies directorate will have greater authority and will be responsible for Islamic education from first to 12th grade at school.
Hamidi, who was not approved by the parliament as education minister, was summoned by the Senate on Sunday where she did not mention her new plan but attempted to defend her job by pledging that she would boost Islamic studies in schools.
“This is a shame, but I have to say that there are a number of school graduates who have no knowledge about prayers or feel obliged to pray,” Hamidi said, referring to what she called "weak" Islamic studies in schools.
“One of the reasons that I received less votes was that I didn’t submit to any pressure over the last five months, and I didn’t appoint any unprofessional individual,” Hamidi said.
She said that there are 220,000 teachers in the Ministry of Education and that increasing their salary under current circumstances is not possible.
Some senators criticized Hamidi for her decision to remove the Islamic studies office.
“The deputy minister’s office for Islamic studies was working under the Ministry of Education and it should coordinate among madrassas and it should work to resemble government and non-government madrassas,” Senate Speaker Fazl Hadi Muslimyar said.
“Despite huge assistance by the international community, the education (ministry) could not activate its publication center and could not address the lack of textbooks,” said the deputy speaker of the Senate, Mohammad Alam Ezedyar.
The acting minister of education was also criticized by MPs last week when she presented her plans to the lawmakers.