Where can 180 million Muslims study?

Where can 180 million Muslims study?

Even if the tenor of the deliberations at the annual conference of the State Minorities Commissions held in New Delhi earlier this week covered much...

Even if the tenor of the deliberations at the annual conference of the State Minorities Commissions held in New Delhi earlier this week covered much of the familiar ground in putting the focus on questions of security and greater participation in the nation's political and economic activities, it is a pity that the event by itself went almost ignored in the national fora. Of course, there was no let-up in the reporting of the day-to-day breaking-news features, be it the curfew and violence in Kashmir resulting in the unfortunate death of CRPF Jawans in Fidayeen attack in Srinagar plus all other news of national and global interests. Yet, that cannot be a justification for crowding out the news of a conference inaugurated by Vice President Hamid Ansari, and addressed by the Union Minister of Minorities Mr. K Rahman Khan, and attended and addressed by several chairmen of the State commissions. This much about the conference; and now about the nature of the problems before the minorities accounting for 180 million Muslims and over 51 million non-Muslim groups: Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis. Although these groups have been clubbed together in the broader category of national minorities, the nature of problems faced by them somewhat radically differ from group to group. The two most talked-about high-level bodies�the Ranganath Mishra Commission (2004) and the Sachar Committee (2006)�� have prescribed reservation of jobs for these sections, the attitude of non-Muslim minorities have struck different stance on the subject. This is not surprising in the wake of historical, as well as attitudinal. differences between them.
Muslims are badly hit by paucity of means to get good education in highly qualified schools. Buddhists mentioned here are in fact the neo-Buddhists who left the Hindu fold under the influence of the leadership of Dr. B R Ambedkar, but despite handicaps the non-Muslim minority groups have reason to exult over the fact that, taken together, their literacy rate of 68.9% exceeds and is higher than the national average of 64.9 percent (the Muslims show up only 59 percent) The hiatus is rooted in the difference of communities-wise attitude towards education: the Christian community can take legitimate pride in having provided some of the best schools (hospitals too) in the country; the Sikh community too can boast, and justifiably so, for adding a long string of good schools and a host of quality public schools of their own; Parsis have the highest literacy rate of over 97% in the school-going age-group of 7-16 years. While educationally the Sikhs, the Parsis and the Christians have a creditable record, the lower class Christian converts are placed in not such a happy position. The buck stops when it comes to Muslims; it is a cause for concern as it affects a large community of 180 million adherents. Not all of them face the same problems. They are rich Muslims and the less fortunate at the middling rungs as also those living in abject poverty which has placed them much down below the rung and whose living conditions are worse than those of the Scheduled Castes. The Sachar committee pointed out that 66% of Muslims students go to government schools which provide them indifferent quality of education, 30 percent go to so-called public schools, but all of them are not quality institutions, nor can all Muslim pupils afford to join quality public schools. But the fact that only 4% in the age-group of 7-16 years go to Madarsa is significant. Such are the signs of time, for, in the distant past the institution of madarsa had ante-dated the church schools of Britain as a premier educational medium. The church schools went from strength to strength, and some of them came to be rated as Great Public schools. Over time madarsas were much-maligned. But the fact now is that madarsas have of late going through a process of soul-searching to meet the needs of the times. It is left to the sociologist Dr. Saleh Al Shareef, who also served as a member-secretary of the Sachar Committee, to make a forceful case for governmental action to improve the quality of education in the State-run schools besides exhorting Muslim Institutions to revise their curricula meaningfully and substantially to stand the test of contemporary challenge; a wise counsel. For, plaints all right, but action is the need of the hour as much.
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