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Yogyakarta (Indonesia) (AFP) – At an Islamic boarding school in a sleepy neighborhood on the outskirts of the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta, the sound of a Quran recitation is nowhere to be heard.
It is a religious school for deaf children, and here students rapidly gesture with their hands while learning to read the Quran in Arabic Sign Language.
According to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Islamic boarding schools are an integral part of life in Indonesia, with some 4 million students residing in 27,000 institutions across the country.
But this Islamic boarding school is one of a handful of schools providing religious education for deaf students in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.
“It all came from my dismay when I learned that deaf children in Indonesia do not know their religion,” the school’s founder, Abu Kafi, told AFP.
The 48-year-old founded the school in late 2019 after befriending several deaf people and realizing they had no access to Islamic education.
It now hosts 115 deaf boys and girls from across the archipelago who share the dream of becoming a Hafiz, a man who can memorize the Quran by heart.
Children sit cross-legged on the floor, waving their hands conspicuously while looking down at their textbooks.
The wind is punctured only by the Yelps and the High-Fives after they correctly recite a route to Kaffee when he calls them to the front of the class.
It is a difficult religious education for children who have never learned religion or the Koran, and whose mother tongue is Indonesian.
“The difficulty is enormous,” said Kafi.
‘No more shame’
In a room 100 meters (330 ft) away from the boys, a group of girls in conservative Islamic dress sit separately from their male counterparts, performing similar exercises in rows.
For Laila Dhiya Ulhak, a 20-year-old schoolgirl, it is a matter of happiness and pride for her parents.
“I want to go to heaven with my mother and father. I also don’t want to leave this place. I want to be a teacher here,” the oldest student at the school told AFP.
While others can memorize the syllables to read the text aloud, the hearing-impaired must painstakingly memorize every single character from the 30 volume verses of the holy book.
Muhammad Rafa, a 13-year-old student enrolled in the school for two years, twirls his thumb and fingers in different gestures, laser-focused on learning the poem in front of him.
“I am very happy here. It is very quiet at home, there is no one to talk to because no one is deaf, everyone is normal,” Rafa, who memorized nine verses of the Quran, told AFP through an interpreter.
Both coffee and donors provide funds for the school, and children from poor families who cannot afford the 10 million rupees ($68) enrollment fee to pay for books, uniforms and toiletries are given free study. is allowed to do.
Children also study Islamic law, mathematics, science and foreign languages so that they can continue their education at a higher level.
But another effect of school is boosting the confidence of children as hearing-impaired members of society.
Janal Arifin, whose 11-year-old son attends Aarfi school, told AFP: “My son had very low self-esteem, he knew he was different.”
“Since he came (here), he’s no longer ashamed to sign publicly. He told me that God made him that way, and he’s fully embraced who he is.”
© 2022 AFP