Right to education for minority girls needs attention

The cause of the right to education for minority girls was taken up quite effectively at a zonal seminar on "Empowerment of Minority Girls Through Education" at the Department of Education, Karamat Husain Muslim Girls' Post-Graduate College in Lucknow. Organised under the ageis of National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, Government of India and Committee On Girls Education, Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD), Government of India, the seminar was attended by delegates from Uttar Pradesh (UP), Uttarakhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh (MP) and other states of India.

Most who attended were of the opinion that no society where women are subjugated and not allowed access to education can be called civilised. The delegates attending the zonal seminar also unanimously agreed that educational empowerment of Muslim women works as a potential mechanism which is a catalyst that will modernise the Muslim community in India.

The denial of education to minority girls too was strongly criticised by  educationists  who  encouraged the society to break traditional and orthodox control over education that denied Muslim women their right to education.

Dr Shabistan Gaffar, Chairperson, Committee On Girls Education, Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD), Government of India, presided over the function and in a tete-e-tete with CNS stressed that it is very necessary to provide quality education to Muslim women.

Saying that women participation is to the fullest must be ensured in minority girl education. She elaborated on the challenges that are faced by minority girls seeking education today where Gaffar felt, "The social tradition and misunderstanding that prevailed within the community regarding education has prevented many minority girls from being educated. Poverty which is a huge deterrent for many Muslim girls to get access to higher education is also a problem that poses a challenge. Apart from that lack of accessibility to education is a huge set back as a result of poor infrastructure. There is a lack of hostels and senior secondary sections in many blocs and districts situated in the remotest areas of the country. All these issues further way lay efforts to provide education to minority girls."

Making a case to strengthen the madrasa systems in India Gaffar further laid stress on the fact that these age old institutions of learning are serving as the last hope for minority girls to get access to elementary education.

"Madrasas are very misunderstood when it comes to their contribution to education for the community that is facing so many challenges when it comes to educating their daughters. I understand that there are apprehensions in the present scenario but we must not negate the fact that in areas where there is no reach of basic education it is these madarsas which are imparting at least primary education to girls," she argues.

And rightfully so. Nevertheless apprehensions about madrasas following the stereotypes have not been unfounded. In that light would she still feel madarsas are a good platform to further the cause of education within the community?

To which Dr Shabistan Gaffar responds, "Yes that maybe but still I will strongly recommend that madrasas must been seen as a good option for imparting education for the community. There are many Ulemas running these institutions which have a very modern perception and attitude. Through these madrasas they have also helped modernise education they impart to their community keeping in mind the Islamic traditions as well. In my opinion armed with this new vision to help empower and educate the minority girls the madarsas can be very successful for girl education. Then we must not forget that Dr Rajendra Prasad and even former President APJ Kalam got their elementary education from madrasas as well. So why negate their relevance now?"

Lauding the government’s step to bring in the Right To Education Act Gaffar says, "The involvement of inter-faith forums will help develop a synergy between the government and minority community to make the RTE useful for Girl Education. Again I feel that establishing madrasas in rural areas will also support reaching primary education to girls there through RTE. Basic education is the lifeline of education and denying that to girls will not be possible any longer. The government has not been able to reach the minority girls living in far flung areas which calls for an amendment in the RTE Act so that inclusion of the children of minority community in remote areas can also be covered."

Among the others who attended the seminar were Mohd Zaki Kirmani, Aligarh, Rehana Tariq, Hamidi Degree College, Allahabad,Sultana Ahmed, Dept Of Education, IT College, Shakeel Ahmad, Patna, Bihar and Dr Vakil Ahmed, Dept of Urdu, Ramgarh College, Hazaribagh, Jharkhand and Dr Qamar Rahman, Member, Committee On Girls Education.

Anjali Singh - CNS
(The author is a senior journalist and Director of Saaksham Foundation)

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