Shahid Raza Khan was in Class 2 when his cash-strapped parents shifted him from a private school to a village madrassa in Bihar’s Gaya district. This year, the 27-year-old cracked the UPSC exams, securing 751st rank in his third attempt. “My brother, who is now a dentist, encouraged me to think about the civil services when I was 17. I had one general knowledge book at the madrassa, and my classmates would ask me why I was studying beyond my syllabus,” says the PhD student in Delhi’s JNU.
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With madrassas focusing on imparting a classic Islamic education, their students are often at a disadvantage when it comes to competitive exams. But now not only have madrassas in several states like UP modernised their curriculum, several non-profit coaching institutes are pitching in to help create tomorrow’s doctors, engineers and civil servants.