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  • Unicef ropes madarsa board into Bengal polio drive

    As part of its polio eradication programme, Unicef has roped in the West Bengal Board of Madarsa Education to help convince Muslim parents to immunise their children against polio

    To encourage a sizeable section of the Muslim population in West Bengal to benefit from the pulse polio programme, Unicef has roped in the state madarsa board.

    “A month ago, Unicef authorities requested us to undertake a scheme to raise awareness among those who are not keen to participate in the polio immunisation programme,” said board secretary Mohammed Refatullah. There have been reports in other parts of the country of misconceptions that immunisation can lead to physical weakness.

    The West Bengal Board of Madarsa Education, in a programme funded by Unicef, will train madarsa teachers from nine districts in the state on polio eradication. After training, the teachers will go out into the villages and urge unwilling parents to participate in the programme. The nine districts are Malda, Murshidabad, north and south Dinajpur, north and south 24 Parganas, Nadia, Burdwan and Birbhum. All have a sizeable Muslim population.

    Unicef has asked the board to conduct the training camps on an emergency basis so that the maximum number of unwilling parents turn up during the next phase of the programme in June.

    The teachers will explain the need for the immunisation programme and also tell parents about the possible health hazards of not letting health officials administer pulse polio drops to their children.

    About 1,000 teachers from 200 junior-high, high and senior madarsa schools, including the headmaster or headmistress, two science teachers and a member of the faculty preferably teaching Arabic will be involved in the project.

    “Those teaching Arabic are preferred by us because they are the ones who are most revered by the people in the rural belts. We hope they (the Arabic teachers) will be able to convince unwilling parents if they personally visit the villages and request common people not to be driven by superstition and stay away from the immunisation programme,” said the board official.

    The board will hold a two-day camp for teachers between April 25 and 26. The teachers are expected to begin touring the villages from the first week of May so that a considerable number of villages are covered by June. The areas they will concentrate on in the first phase include Bhagabangola, Lalgola, Aurangabad, Farakka and Samserganj.

    Besides trying to convince parents, the board will also display posters with slogans written in a simple language to campaign for full participation in the immunisation programme.

    Source: The Telegraph

    April 21, 2003

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