Kolkata: Amid the Central government’s plan to impose Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India (many believe that it’s making Muslims worried), some organizations working for the empowerment of the largest minority community have other pressing issues to take care of – the dropout of Muslims in higher education.
Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP), held a seminar in Kolkata on July 14 on the status of Muslims in Higher Education in India, Challenges and Way Forward.
It was attended by prominent educationists, academics and social activists of the city.
Only Muslims and disabled people’s enrollment is declining
Social activist Rafey Siddiqui presented a report that highlighted the alarming decline in Muslims’ enrollment in Higher Education post-2015. “According to Furqan Qamar’s report, Muslims are behind Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe in higher education. And it is only disabled people whose numbers are declining like Muslims,” he said.
‘Inferiority complex’ created among Muslims by the constant attack on Madrasas, which were playing a major role in imparting education in rural areas, has taken a downturn and hence the decline, he reasoned. He urged for the setting up of more private institutions where Muslims can study.
The dropout rate for Muslims in higher education should be discussed like UCC
Aamir Edresy, President of AMP informed the audience that every year a survey called the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) gets published by the Ministry of Education. It tells about the rise and dropout of students’ enrollments in higher education among others. This year’s report mentions the enrollment and other information for the year 2020-21. According to this report, during the period, only 19 lakh Muslim students got admitted to pursue higher education. In the last report, it was 21 lakhs. So, while there is an increase in enrollment for students of different communities across India, there has been a decline in the number of Muslim students.
“We should achieve a 15 to 20 percentage ratio in higher education. Because if this trend continues, there will be a fall in the community’s representation in IAS (public service commission), IITs, NEET,” he said.
The AMP President added, “Unfortunately, these topics did not become our agenda. When this report was made public, it didn’t generate much debate. There should be meetings and discussions about it just like UCC.”
He also mentioned the central government’s move of stopping scholarships like the Maulana Azad Scholarship affecting the enrollment numbers.
For a solution, Aamir also pointed out that the people who are working on these issues should focus more on rural areas, blocks. People living in villages do not have much awareness and career guidance.
Demonetization and pandemic affected the economy of Muslims and thus their higher education
Social activist and educationist, Manzar Jameel spoke at length about the ground realities affecting Muslims’ higher education.
“You will find that many small jewellery shops mushroomed in Muslim localities because Muslim women have to sell their ornaments to support families after demonetization and pandemic. Seeing the economic crisis deepening to this level has made many young adults drop out from mainstream education to support their families,” he said.
He also pointed out that the priorities of Muslim families are also not to get higher education but to invest in useless works like first buying vehicles and spending lacks on sacrificing animals.
“The youth are also getting trapped in addictions. There should be a better use of Mimbers (the high rise placed inside a mosque from where religious leaders give sermons) during Juma to address the present issues being faced by the community,” the activist added.
Poverty, the root cause
In his speech AMP president also admitted that poverty is one of the prominent causes for the rise in Muslim student dropout rate.
But it was Haseeb Alam of Milli Al-Ameen who reasoned poverty as the main reason for Muslim youth’s inability to access higher education.
“The per head capita income of SC/ST is 22000, but Muslims have 12000. And for higher studies, the family has to bear the cost of study, so we are witnessing a large number of dropouts. The dropout rate is higher in North India and lower in South, while highest in Uttar Pradesh. We should give quality education at the primary level,” mentioned Alam.
He continued, “Industry is also changing very fast, within five years mediocre employees will find it difficult to survive. Only innovative people will survive because machines will be replacing them. It is a challenge for society and the government too.”
He gave the mantra of ‘action’ along with the seminars and workshops. “Change will come with the action and not from only discussions,” Alam added.
The solution should be a phone call away
However, retired IAS, Jawed Akhtar stressed, “During such discussions, one should not just talk about increasing the percentage in higher education but on creating more entrepreneurs too. Stress should be on promoting the popularity of career-oriented subjects and vocational courses for higher education. Because in reality, it is not the people in government jobs but the business class who help more in community work.”
The former bureaucrat also suggested, “There should be a make-a-call system. And it should be a three-four digit number which can be dialled by a student in need. Help should be made available to such students trying to connect with the agency seeking help for higher education. The direct connect will be far better for counselling making information available on websites.”
After listening to this suggestion, Edresy, the president of AMP promised that such a system would soon come into existence as they are working on it.
The seminar was moderated by Manzar Hussain, zonal head, of AMP Eastern India.
AMP is also conducting such seminars in many cities in India.