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Maharashtra Muslim students' performance improves

Mumbai: Just a couple of years ago, one had to search for even one Muslim name on the merit lists. Since 1998, Muslim students are appearing regularly on the merit list in Maharashtra. They have topped in BA, Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSC) and secondary School Certificate (SSC) examinations. 

This year SSC results of different board also has a number of Muslims particularly Urdu medium students in the merit list. Like previous years, this year also student of Anglo Urdu Girls high school,Pune has bagged the top slot in the merit list of the Maharashtra State Board for Secondary and Higher Secondary Education. Majeda Altaf Hussain Rogangar, a student of the Anglo Urdu Girls high school, topped the exam. She secured 94.66 per cent marks. Majeda, who stood first among girls in the division, ranked third among girls in the state. Fifteen-year-old Majeda, result, followed that of schoolmate Sadeqa Ansari, who topped last year’s SSC merit list with 94.53 per cent.

In Maharashtra a discernible shift in favour of education is seen in the last couple of years. The enrollment of Muslims not only at primary and secondary but also in vocational and professional courses is increasing gradually. A slew of reasons is responsible for this development: 

Awareness campaign
Throughout Maharashtra, institutions and individuals have regularly arranged educational awareness campaign and series of vocational guidance lectures. Prominent amongst these are students Islamic Organization (SIO), Anjuman Islam and Maharashtra Cosmopolitan Education Society. Mubarak Kapadia, educational activist, has consistently toured interiors for vocational guidance lectures. 

Dr Ishaq Jamkhanawala, president Anjuman - I - Islam opines that the attitude of Muslims community is changing." What is required is a consistent effort at the grassroots levels. Muslims must be made aware about the importance of education," he said. 

How even individuals with consistent efforts can change the ground realities, can be judged by the efforts of Peerpasha A.Inamdar in Pune, Karim Salar in Jalgaon, Haroon Majowala and Dr Ishaq Jamkhanawala in Mumbai. Contribution of Inamdar and Dr Ishaq Jamkhanawala through the network of educational institutions, Haroon Mojawala by arranging scholarship for needy students and efforts of Uzma Nahid in promoting education amongst girls are inspiration for others. 

Leading Urdu daily Inquilab has played a significant role in arousing awareness. Shahid Latif, feature editor Inquilab believes that there is a cultural shift in favour of education. "Proper guidance and information if provided, the result would be more encouraging." 

Scholarship at various levels
Memon Education and Welfare Society (MEWS), MESCO, Khair-E-Ummat Trust and others are providing yeoman service to the community by giving financial assistance. The result is decrease in drop out rate at primary and secondary level and increase in enrollment of Muslims in Vocational and Professional courses. 

Less resistance for girls’ education
The cumulative effect of the awareness campaign is that more parents are permitting girls to acquire higher education. Even in the business communities especially in the Memon community, the percentage of educated girls is increasing exponentially. 

Stress on English in Urdu medium schools
More and more Urdu medium schools are making English mandatory from primary level. Extra emphasis is given to teach basics from beginning. Shakil Ahmed, a teacher in a municipal Urdu school said, "We take three extra lectures a week to teach basic English to our students. Most of the teachers volunteer for the extra lecture." Several organisations regularly organize free English classes for Urdu medium students. This has increased the confidence level among them, which is visible in improved performance at H.S.C and profession level courses. 

Adoption of municipal schools
In Mumbai, majority of Municipal Urdu schools have been adopted by various trusts and organizations. Two years ago most of these schools were on the verge of closure due to the high drop rate. Salma Lokhandwala, principal of the Anjuman-I-Islam Girls High School suggests that constructive policies with good facilities can help out the students at the lower levels. "Our school for instance adopted Maulana Azad School at Santacruz. During vacations, our teachers taught their students, and we paid the teachers through donations from well wishers", Ms Lokhandwala said. As a result, the Santacruz School, which was in the 10-20-pass per cent bracket, could score a pass percentage of 50, she disclosed. Although the situation has improved, what remain to be achieved is quite stupendous. The beneficiaries of all these efforts are students from middle and lower middle class. The community has still not touched the deprived class especially those living in slums. In fact it is they who deserve our utmost attention. Shaheen Mistry, founder of Akanksha Foundation an NGO working amongst street children says, if every literate adult, adopts an illiterate child the problem of education would be half solved. 

Grassroots level focus
Muslims have focused on the quality primary and secondary education. The emphasis is given to impart the best education from the primary level itself. 

Case of Malegaon and Pune
Secular and Islamic education institutions in Malegaon are quite renowned there and also institutions such as Jamia Mohammadia, Jametul Salat, Jamia Islahul Banat, etc which impart both secular as well as religious education are doing quite well. 

Haji Gulam Mohd Azam Education Trust and Maharashtra Cosmopolitan Education Society (MCES), Pune, which together manage several institutes from pre-primary to post graduation to professional levels, have taken education at the grassroots level in Pune and surrounding areas. From the academic year 1999-2000 the two trusts jointly started M. A. Rangoonwala Talent Search and Promotion Scheme

At least 1,200 Muslim students used to figure in the 80% and above list at 8th Board level. But they disappeared in the HSC Merit list. Thanks to the Pune experiment they are resurfacing. 

Unlike past when one has to search Muslims names in the merit list, the performance of Muslims in Maharashtra is not only improving but is also giving tough times to students from other communities. 

¯ MH Lakdawala, Mumbai

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