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Mumbai Muslim strategy in the field of education
By MH Lakdawala, Mumbai

Last month one of the prominent and the oldest education welfare organizations, discontinued scholarship for the primary and secondary school students .The reason given was not the shortage of funds but that the said organization wants to concentrate on the students seeking admission to professional courses such as medicine, engineering etc
In another development an Islamic organization announced the establishment of an international Islamic school (IIS) from the current academic year. The IIS as claimed by the organization would be a synthesis of secular education syllabus and the Islamic studies such as Qira’at, study of hadith, Seerah etc. Arabic would be compulsory subject. But the catch is Rs 2000 monthly fees. The question arises, which section of the Muslim society can afford to send their children to IIS, which is financed by the community?
All the hype regarding the Muslim community’s tremendous awareness about the importance of education is lopsided. In fact more or less with few exceptions this awareness is limited to the middle class

A random survey by the Milli Gazette in Mumbai revealed some alarming facts. The survey covered Mumbai's top ten educational organizations which distribute financial aid to the Muslim students.

Approximately 86 percent of the total budget which runs into crores is spent on the students from the middle class. That too for paying the fees of the professional courses. Six organizations have no provisions for primary or secondary education. All four organizations that have provisions for primary and secondary educations have reserved only a fraction of their total budget for the same.

The middle class oriented focus of the community has led to the neglect of the deprived sections. No community can even progress if it neglects a vast section that nearly consists more than 80 percent.
These had led to consequences, which are detrimental to the overall progress of the community.

High drop-out rates in primary and secondary: Due to the economic reasons deprived section of the community cannot afford the education. The drop out is highest at the VIII std level. Not a single organization of repute is doing any work to stop this unhealthy trend.

Literacy rate lowest amongst the deprived section of the community: A cursory look at the slums in Mumbai where a vast section of Muslim lives reveals that majority of slum children are not enrolled in any institution. Their future seems far bleaker. Many organizations conduct educational awareness camps, literacy drives and educational service. Most of them are confined to the middle or lower middle class. No one bothers to even think of those Muslims who live in slums where conditions are not fit for even animals.

Municipal schools in Muslim dominated localities are closing down or are on the verge of being closed: The schools managed by BMC in the thickly populated Muslim areas are in a pathetic conditions. Many have closed and others are just surviving because of the lack of students. Middle class does not send their children to these schools, as they prefer private schools. Deprived sections either due to lack of awareness or due to economic conditions do not send their children to these schools. Although few educational trusts and organizations have sponsored these municipal schools but the efforts are half hearted. No provisions are made to work at the grassroots level to increase the enrollment as well as check the drop out rate.

Seats in Muslim-managed polytechnics and professional courses bagged by upper middle class, elites or students from other communities: Basically most of the Muslim managed polytechnics and professional courses are funded by the community. Zakat is one of the important components of these funds. As such there is negligible flow of students from the deprived sections. Majority of seats go to middle and elite class students. The community is basically catering and financing the 10-15 % of the Muslim population at the cost of the vast majority.

The product of these institutions has basically no attachment to the mainstream nor contributes for the upliftment of the community: Most of the students who pass out from the community-funded institutions become qualified and competent professionals but their contribution to the Muslim society leaves much to be desired. In fact most of them either in their private practice, government jobs, bureaucracy etc are career oriented and alienated from the community. A sizeable section of those who are financed by the community leave for the Middle East or other greener pastures. Precious human resources are wasted.

Reason for this state of affairs is that the basic source of finance i.e., Industrial houses and business community does not have the time to do ground work before financing projects. They have to invariably rely on the professionals from the middle class. Because of their background and lack of first hand information about the deprived section and rural population these middlemen are urban and middle class oriented.

The community should have a second thought about the various educational projects it is financing and their utility to the community as a whole. A start can be made by recruiting a professional agency to know the most urgent and pressing educational problems of the community. Then only an over all upliftment of the community can be planned.
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