Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak today handed over an allocation of RM80 million to registered pondok schools, Sekolah Menengah Agama Rakyat (SMAR) and tahfiz (religious) institutions.
He said the allocation under the Special Fund for Improvement and Maintenance of Schools as announced in Budget 2017 aimed at empowering and strengthening the religious education institutions towards excellence.
Of this amount, he said, RM30 million was allocated for coordinating and developing tahfiz education through the National Tahfiz Education Policy (DPTN), the first of its kind given by the government for religious education.
"If it is the desire of parents (to send their children to tahfiz schools), then it becomes the government's duty to determine that it not only remains as an option for parents, but an option that can produce successful human beings.
"Therefore, I have decided to approve the provisions to encourage the DPTN which has been enacted to produce guidelines so that the development of religious education can be more structured and systematic," he said during the ceremony held at Seri Perdana, Putrajaya.
The handing out of allocations involved 819 recipients representing pondok schools, SMARs and of tahfiz institutions from across the country.
Also present were Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Jamil Khir Baharom and Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) director-general Othman Mustapha.
Najib stressed that the government's commitment to develop Islam and Islamic educational institutions was at its highest level, especially after the introduction of the Malaysian Syariah Index (ISM) in 2015, an effort to gauge the government's seriousness in implementing national development based on eight principles of "maqasid syariah".
The prime minister said out of the eight principles, namely education, Islamic legislation, economy, politics, health, social aspects, culture, and infrastructure and environment, education recorded the highest score with 82.5 percent, which was an achievement to be proud of.
"This is a most historic and resounding success, and it becomes more interesting when it is also recognised by other parties, through the presence of the King of Saudi Arabia, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who is also the 'Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques' in Malaysia from Feb 26 to March 1," he said.
Najib said besides the strengthening of ties between Malaysia and the Gulf state, the visit was also a recognition of the country's success in implementing its policies, particularly in upholding Islam and advancing the Ummah.
The premier also announced an incentive of RM10,000 for private tahfiz institutions which were registered with the state religious authorities.
"The government is committed to develop Islamic educational institutions and on special consideration, I would like to announce this special RM10,000 incentive, whereby the locations and method of distribution will be managed by Jakim," he said.
Meanwhile, several representatives of the religious institutions who were present to receive the allocation expressed deep appreciation to the prime minister on the concern and commitment shown by the government to enhance, strengthen and elevate these institutions.
The chairperson of Kompleks Madrasah Darul Naim, Padang Halban, Kelantan, Mohd Aziz Che Man, said the allocation of RM20.88 million provided to Kelantan would most certainly be able to strengthen the Islamic education system in the state.
He said more than 49,000 students from 38 pondok schools, 49 SMARs and 28 tahfiz school would benefit from that provision.
For Selangor Tahfiz Al-Quran Institutions Association chairperson Muhammad Hafiz Mohd Haneefa, the funding was important to strengthening the infrastructure of religious institutions in the state, which currently stood at over 300, with a total enrolment of 18,000 students.