The Kerala government is all set to take action against those schools under the Peace Educational Foundation that do not have mandatory affiliations. The group had courted controversy for its alleged links with Islamic extremist groups such as the Islamic State (IS) and for having non-secular content in the syllabus.
The Kozhikode-based foundation runs 10 schools in various parts of the state. It had come under the police scanner after it was found that many Keralites who have reportedly joined Islamic State camps in Afghanistan had close connections with the foundation.
The move assumes significance as the government had recently ordered that the foundation's school in Kochi, whose syllabus encourages Islamic extremist ideologies, to be shut down after studying the reports of the collector and DPI. A departmental inquiry had found that the textbooks being used at schools were "aimed towards the propagation of ideas contradicting the secular policies of the country.''
“We have already given directions to one school to shut down on the basis of various inquiries. We are looking into other schools too. But I cannot reveal more at this juncture,'' Additional Secretary, General Education, P.S. Krishnakumar said to The WEEK.
According to sources in the government, the proposed action against the Peace Educational Foundation schools was not directly connected to its alleged terror links.
“The state government is determined to clean up the private education system in the state and is taking action against all such schools that are in existing violation of norms. The action against Peace Foundation Schools also should be seen in this context,'' said the official.
According to the official, the schools being run by the Peace Foundation are not affiliated to any educational boards as per the rules.
``We have found out that schools run by Peace Foundation have not been affiliated to either CBSE or state board. It does not even have the NoC from the state government, which is mandatory,'' said a senior official with the state education department who was part of the probe.
The Peace Foundation had courted controversy after it was found that its syllabus has many books that highlighted the benefits of being a Muslim. The investigation found out that it had books that said, "How we (Muslims) should never give up in any matter," and that “Allah is one and unique and there can't be any comparison in this case.''
The education department had said in its report that closure of the school in Kochi was “necessary to prevent Muslims from joining IS activities."
The Kochi police had earlier registered a First Information Report against the principal, administrator, and the three managing committee members of the school under Section 153(A) of the IPC on the charge of promoting enmity among different groups on the ground of religion.
The Peace Foundation, however, told THE WEEK that they are yet to receive any intimation from the government side.
“We have not received any information regarding the closure,'' said the contact person at the Foundation. The school's representative accepted that the Foundation had been running the schools without any affiliation. “But that is normal for many a school in the state. Most schools apply for affiliation only when the students have to write 10th Board exams. Till then, affiliation is not an issue,” he said.
Meanwhile, the police is learnt to have intensified its efforts to trace M.M. Akbar, managing director of the Peace Educational Foundation, who has been absconding ever since the controversy broke out.
The police had earlier arrested three persons associated with Burooj Realisation, which created the textbooks used by the schools. The arrested persons are Burooj's secretary, content editor of the controversial texts and the persons who designed the books. During the interrogation, office bearers of the Mumbai-based publication had told the police that the syllabus of these books was prepared in consultation with the Peace Educational Foundation.
Sources in the government said that the foundation and its activities have been closely being watched ever since since its links with IS had been suspected. “We could not establish the school's links with Zakir Naik. But the fact that the foundation has connections with most of the Keralites who have left to join IS is enough to suspect it,” a police officer associated with the investigation said.
According to him, Merin Jacob, a Christian girl from Kochi who converted to Islam and joined the IS, had worked with the school.
Similarly, Abdul Rashid Abdullah of Thrikkarippur, Kasaragod, an engineering graduate who was the chief coordinator of the group that had fled India to join the IS, was associated with the Peace School in his district. Bihar native Yasmin Ahmed who was arrested from airport while she was about to board for Kabul had also worked as a teacher in the Peace International School.