Where the Central and State governments are apathetical to bring the educationally marginalized Muslim students to the mainstream, and when there is no hope of any improvement in the situation in foreseeable future, it becomes imperative for the leaders in the Community to devise a strategy to take the onus of educating the Muslim boys and girls across the country.
– Syed Sultan Mohiddin
The Hindu published a report recently with the headline ‘Muslim student strength in higher education fell by 1.79 lakh in 2020-21’. This reportage has revealed some startling facts extracted from the painstaking report prepared by Arun C. Mehta, former Professor of National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA) with the title “The state of Muslim education in India”. The Muslim intellectuals, academicians and educationists must study this report, to understand the reasons for the appalling nonchalance among the youth of the community for higher education, and chalk out the strategies to avert the situation from getting bad to worse.
“From 17,39,218 Muslim students enrolled in higher education in 2016-17, the number increased steadily in three years to 21,00,860 in 2019-20 – but the number declined to 19,21,713 in 2020-21, thus showing a drop-out of 1,79,147 students,” the report says. The percentage of Muslim students enrolled in higher education relative to the total number of students enrolled also saw a slight decrease, falling from 4.87 in 2016-17 to 4.64 in 2020-21.
The report says that a significant trend that is observed across all States and Union Territories is that the enrolment percentage of Muslim students in classes 11 and 12 is lower than that in the previous classes. The representation of Muslim students starts declining gradually from Class 6 and is the lowest in Classes 11 and 12. Though the trend of dropouts is seen in all places across the country, Assam (29.52%) and West Bengal (23.22%) recorded high dropout rates among Muslim students.
The report states that “many Muslim students come from low-income families and struggle to afford the cost of higher education.”
“To address this issue, it is essential to provide financial assistance and support to deserving students who face financial constraints. Enhancing and increasing the number of scholarships, grants, and financial aid opportunities targeted explicitly at Muslim students can significantly alleviate the financial burden and help more deserving students access higher education,” the report recommends.
The million-dollar question is: ‘Who will implement the recommendations of Arun C. Mehta?’
The Union Government has decided to discontinue the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) scheme from 2022-23, on the pretext that the Scheme overlaps with various fellowship schemes for higher education. Some non-BJP ruling governments are implementing schemes which provide educational scholarships to ‘minorities’ but there are only a few which are exclusively targeted for Muslims. Even if any non-BJP governments have the intention of doing anything favorable for the Muslim students, they refrain from implementing to the required level, for the fear of the so-called ‘Muslim appeasement’ tag!
In this scenario, where the Central and State governments are apathetical to bring the educationally marginalized Muslim students to the mainstream, and when there is no hope of any improvement in the situation in foreseeable future, it becomes imperative for the leaders in the Community to devise a strategy to take the onus of educating the Muslim boys and girls across the country. Here are a few ideas for contemplation;
- Hyderabad Zakat & Charitable Trust is helping hundreds of Muslim students to pursue higher education. There are many such organizations in different parts of the nation which are providing scholarships to the deserving students. They set a good example to channelize Zakat and charity to support for the education of the Muslim students. The community needs to replicate this model and maximize the beneficiaries.
- Hazrath Ayesha Model School in Kadapa (Andhra Pradesh) was established in the year 1993 with only 60 girls in LKG. The Society, which runs the school, started it with the objective of educating Muslim girls by collecting affordable fee. During the next 30 years, the management could convince a number of affluent Muslim philanthropists to construct a classroom each. Almost the entire infrastructure was built with the monetary support of affluent Muslims… and as a token of appreciation for the contribution of the donors, a plaque was placed on each of the Classrooms. Over the years, the institution grew to Junior College level and there are over 1300 girls studying from LKG to 12th Class. This institution sets an example as how the infrastructure of a school and a college can be built with the donations of a handful affluent Muslims. This model is quite achievable because the cost of construction of a classroom will be around Rs.8 Lakh to Rs.10 Lakh and the concept of placing a plaque on the Classroom will create a sense of participation to the donors.
- A young social activist Mr. Wali Rahmani made an appeal recently through the social media where he asked the Muslims to donate only Rs.100 each for his project of constructing a school for the under-privileged children in West Bengal. There was an overwhelming response to his appeal and it is estimated that about Rs.10 Crore was raised by him for the project. Every town in the country which has a sizable population of Muslims can mobilize funds from within the community to establish educational institutions. And it is the need of the hour.
- The Muslim educational institutions which are already established by private managements have a bigger responsibility on their shoulders. They must have the courage and magnanimity to allocate 25% of the seats to the needy and under privileged Muslims as a service to the Ummah.
- In the year 2006, the Sachar Committee reported that the conditions facing Indian Muslims was below that of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. After 17 years, it is anybody’s guess, whether the conditions of Muslims have improved or there was a further decline? But Arun C. Mehta’s report “The state of Muslim education in India” should serve as an eye-opener!