Cart Before the Horse
Issues to Ponder
Shimoga Shows the Way
"Catch them Young" was our mission
Cart Before the Horse
Distorted priorities have seen phenomenal expansion of college education without matching effort on school education front. So most Muslim colleges suffer from paucity of Muslim students, says Maqbool Ahmed Siraj.
IS it a case of putting cart before the horse? If all that could be gleaned from the Tamil Nadu Muslim educational scene, one cannot but conclude that the cart is indeed ahead of the horse. The tiny Muslim minority is doing all it can to make hay while sun shines. But in doing this, it has almost lost the sense of direction and priorities.
Just within five years, the community has set up nearly 11 engineering colleges. Alongside have come up a couple of colleges for Management Studies, a few colleges of pharmacy, polytechnics, and half a dozen women's colleges. So far so good. The enthusiasm is laudable and perhaps worthy of emulation. For, years the Muslims in the state had not paid much attention to catch up with the trend of professionalisation of education. Now that the Tamil Nadu government has liberalised the process of sanctioning of professional colleges, especially engineering, the rich among the Muslims are tapping the opportunity. But look at the number of Muslim students there. The situation is dismal. Every single of them claims a minority character but cannot muster enough numbers from among the minority to justify its status.
The reason is not far to seek. The state has a tiny Muslim population, i.e., just around 30 lakhs (or around 6%). Second, much of it is extremely poor. One has to roam through slums of Tiruchirapalli, Madurai, Tirunelveli, Salem or Dharmapuri to get a feel of the urban poverty among Muslims. Thirdly, the community is not paying enough attention towards universal school education and promotion of literacy. So the number of schools is almost static. There being no sufficient number of feeder institutions, the colleges automatically run dry of the students from the community. In fact the situation is such that whoever from among Muslims wants to study -- which also means "can afford"-- gets admission. And there is a wide gap between those who wish to study further and those who can afford professional courses in (recently sanctioned) self-financing colleges. Consequently, poor Muslims find themselves unwelcome even in their community-run colleges. The managements having invested heavily in apparatus, land, buildings and faculty, for obvious reasons, cannot scale down fee structure for poor students. It is against market rule and it applies to colleges run by all communities.
But then the problem is not all that insurmountable. Some imaginative planning could have improved the situation says P.K. Shabbir Ahmed, the general secretary of the Omeiat, an umbrella organisation of the Muslims institutions in the state: "We as a community do not believe in planning infrastructure according to our needs. Glamorous courses appeal to the bigwigs in the community. People would not mind spending Rs. 2 crore on grandiose buildings but not on helping students to study there in. Only fancied needs of the community are being attended to, not the felt needs."
According to Omeiat, the Muslims in the state have 21 degree colleges (most of them offer postgraduate courses too), 11 engineering colleges, 6 polytechnics, 11 ITIs and half a dozen other colleges. Besides two prominent Muslim managements are in the queue with application for medical college. Going by their efficiency, it will be not surprising if they are sanctioned the same. But the community runs only around 125 High and Higher secondary schools. Normally the ratio between college and schools should be around 1:10.
So the paucity of Muslim students is invariably the complaint with all Muslim colleges. According to Dr. I. Ismail, principal, M.S.S. Wakf Board College in Madurai, only 600 of the college's 1800 seats in degree and postgraduate courses are filled by Muslims. Contrast this with the situation in Sungam Pallivasal area in the same city. The area teems with 75,000 Muslims who live in near slum conditions. The only corporation High School in the area is on the verge of closure as child labour claims 75 per cent students as dropout. What perhaps Madurai requires is a mechanism to rescue these children from child labour, and retain them in school for longer duration and help them join the Wakf Board College. Yet nothing seems to be happening on this front. Far from it, an engineering college has been set up by a Gulf NRI in Kariapatti, a city suburb. Informs Dr. S. Nazeer Muhammad: "A former correspondent of Muslim High School in Triplicane in Chennai. The number of students in the school has come down from 1200 a decade ago to 600. Urdu medium is hopeless. The SSLC results this year was 17%".
Similarly the M.A.M. College of Engineering in the outskirts of Trichy has to suffice with only 27% Muslim students. The Mohamad Sathak Engineering College in far off Kilakarai has 10 disciplines in B.E. But only 250 of its 1800 students are from the community. Commenting on the situation, Director Dr. S.H. Ibrahim says the management is now setting up a high school. Besides the high-profile engineering college, the Trust runs nearly seven other professional colleges.
Tamil Muslims descent into this chaos is pathetic and extremely disturbing. They had been in the vanguard of the modern educational movement. First Muslim college came up in Chennai in 1905. Vaniyambadi has the oldest educational society established in 1903. The community now suffers both in terms of numbers and quality. The representation in the government jobs is on a steady decline. The traditional industry of leather is increasingly slipping out of the community's hold. Modern management and financial practices still sound like Greek to the community. Lure of working overseas-Gulf in the northern pockets and South East Asia in the southern pocket-is seen as the way out. The residual population engages itself in petty trade or self-employment. No planning or thinking has gone into the modern needs and direction for the community. Improvisation of the Muslim masses in Tamil Nadu testifies to the fact. No wonder then why volatile ideologies of the North are working, like opium on the Tamil Muslim youth. Quo vadis?
Managed Engineering Colleges in Tamil Nadu
- Crescent Engineering College, Chennai
- Mohammed Sathak Engineering College, Kilakarai, Ramnad Dist
- C. Abdul Hakeem College Of Engg. & Technology, Melvisharam, Vellore Dist
- Noorul Islam College Of Engineering, Thiruvithancode, Kanyakumari Dist
- M.I.E.T. Engineering College, Gundur, Trichy
- M.A.M. Engineering College, Trichy
- Sethu Institute Of Technology, Kariapatti, Virudhunagar Dist
- Popular Engineering College, Tirunelveli
- National Engineering College, Tirunelveli
- A.M.S. College Of Engineering, Chennai
- MEASI Academy Of Architecture, Chennai
MAIN reason for starting our college was because Muslim girls were being refused admission in market-friendly courses in colleges run by other communities. A girl who was forced to study B.A. History in a college has now joined B.Sc Computer Science after finishing first year in that college.
Rajab Fathima, Principal ,
AIMAN College of Arts and Science, Trichy.
Despite best efforts only 27% of our students out of the total 220 are Muslims.
Maluk Mohamed, Director
M.A.M. College of Engineering, Siruganur.
Over the years our college has improved the intake of minority students. Of the college's 3600 students now, 73 per cent are from Muslims. Trichy has only two Muslim High Schools. Obviously they cannot adequately feed our numbers. We must do something to bring more Muslims to school, increase number of schools and improve their quality.
Abdullah Basha, Principal
Jamal Mohamad College, Trichy.
It is for the first time that our college has a narrow majority (52%) of Muslim girls. The thought that they (Muslim girls) cannot be employed dissuades them from higher education Not more than 25% of the 1150 girls who graduated from our college during 12 years will now be working.
Sithy Sumayaa, Principal
Thassim Beevi Abdul Kader
College For Women, Kilakarai, Ramnad Dist.
We had set apart Rs. 4 lakh for scholarship to Muslim students in Madurai but could distribute only Rs. 1,25,000 last year to 52 students. Clearly, Muslims hardly opt for higher or professional education.
T.V.A. Mohamad Firoz President,
Saracens Educational Society, Madurai.
These big professional educational institutions are only being run by Muslims, not for Muslims.
Dr. K. Abdul Latiff, Medical Practitioner,
We give top priority to Muslims students, yet our college has no more than just one-third of its students from among Muslims.
Dr. I. Ismail, Principal
M.S.S. Wakf Board College, Madurai.
Despite so many years of existence, Muslim colleges in Chennai fail to produce men and women of excellence on par with Christian-run colleges. Quality comes from good schools which are simply absent.
M.Z. Chida, Industrialist,
The plethora of engineering colleges tell a sad tale. Only fancied needs of community are being fulfilled, not the felt needs. There is a total lack of thinking and planning.
P.K. Shabbir Ahmed, Omeiat,
Shimoga Shows the Way
Urdu Schools thrive in Shimoga district, thanks to the efforts of some visionaries who launched the Urdu nursery education movement three decades ago
By A Staff Writer
PRIMARY education imparted through the medium of mother tongue, as universally acknowledged, is most effective. If a proof is required, one should visit Shimoga district in Karnataka. Fallen in disrepute elsewhere, the Urdu medium schools thrive here. True, the schools do not teach kids from the elite families, do not turn out good number of professionals, and may not even put up very good performance in public exams. Yet the fact that they ensure mass education, check drop-outs and make the students more creative, weighs heavily in favour of opting for Urdu medium education in Karnataka where predominant majority of Muslims speak Urdu.
Thanks to the Phoolban Nursery Education movement by a clutch of Muslim social activists in 1971, this district of the Old Mysore state has 25 Urdu medium high school today. These school teach nearly 4,000 students at a time, employ around 125 teachers and ensure that drop-outs do not occur. Perhaps effective supervision can raise the number of students to nearly 5,000 and enable 50 more jobs for Urdu medium teachers.
It was in 1971 that an ex-serviceman, Major Khaleelur Rahman and his close associate B. S. Nazir Ahmed, an officer from the local steel mill, launched the Phoolban Nursery Education campaign from Shimoga. They were inspired by the experiment of the Nursery education in Europe during the Industrial Revolution. The duo assisted by their wives and a few friends took the message to a number of districts of the Old Mysore state. Lo and behold! Within no time they were able to set up 70 Phoolban Nursery Schools in Shimoga, Hassan, Chikmagalur, Mysore and Bellary districts. The stress was on Urdu medium education of Muslim children. This facilitated teaching of Islamic tenets and morals too.
Though later the movement weakened, it threw deep roots in Shimoga district. The real push for up-grading the educational movement came in 1978 when only a single Muslim student had passed in SSLC in Shimoga taluk. Major Khaleel and his colleagues who had founded the Al-Mahmood Education Society in 1974, set up the Al-Mahmood High School in Bhadravati.
From then on they never looked back. Today the Al-Mahmood Society runs 10 educational institutions which comprise four high schools, two junior colleges, and two higher primary schools. These institutions centred in twin town of Shimoga-Bhadravati and some villages in the vicinity alone provide education to nearly 2,000 students at a certain point of time.
B.S. Nazir Ahmed
Receiving impetus from Al-Mahmood's efforts, a number of other organisations too chipped in. Today, the twin town and its environs alone have nearly a dozen Urdu medium high schools or Urdu sections in the Government High Schools. A great majority of the students from these schools are Muslim girls. Says Sayeeda Nazir, administrator of the Al-Mahmood Trust: "Earlier Muslim girls were averse to continuing education after SSLC due to co-education in government colleges. Now Al-Mahmood institutions provide them the requisite atmosphere to continue their education undisturbed. And it is hoped, the second generation boys too will catch up with their sisters once these educated girls are mothers."
Thanks to these schools, good many Muslim girls now enter the Shimoga based TCH Training Institute and have secured appointments as government teachers. According to Shahana Begum of Al-Mahmood High School Bhadravati, nearly 300 girls from these schools are today government teachers. Some girls have joined dental colleges and one even cleared the KES (Karnataka Education Service). A boy became a lecturer. Though this may appear to be a humble profile, but going by the depressing 1978 SSLC results of Shimoga taluka, the achievement is spectacular.
However, Al-Mahmood Society's troubles are endless. Except the Bhadravati School, all schools are unaided. Says Nazir Ahmed: " We face a great dearth of trained Urdu teachers. Al-Mahmood Society's application for a B.Ed College has so far evoked no response, while the previous Janata Dal Government sanctioned a B.Ed College in Shikaripur last year. Five Muslim ministers are of no help in getting an NOC for the B.Ed College which is a pre-condition in getting a sanction from National Council for Teachers Education (NCTE)."
Most Government Urdu medium high schools also suffer from dearth of Trained Urdu teachers. Consequently, they record a pitiable 2-3 per cent passes in SSLC exams.
The Urdu medium education has helped the students gain sufficient insight into Islamic tenets and moral. Islamic dress code also enables them to develop modesty. But perhaps the greatest moment of joy for the Muslims of Shimoga came last September when the Maulana Azad National Urdu University decided to open its study centre here. "It is a boon for us. Our students especially girls will now be able to study upto degree level effortlessly," says Sayeeda Nazir. Al-Mahmood now aspires to setup a medical, ateacher's training college in Shimoga. Going by the poor economic conditions, the community should come forward to set up ITIs, polytechnic and Krishi Vigyan Kendras also.
"Catch them Young" was our mission
. S. Nazir Ahmed is a restless man. Past 60, he does not sit quiet for a while. His long stint in the Bhadravati based Visveswaraya Iron and Steel Limited (VISL) as deputy general manager has perhaps steeled his nerves. Pioneer of Phoolban Nursery Education movement in Old Mysore state, Nazir along with his co-activist Major Khaleelur Rahman has blazed a trail of Urdu medium educational institutions. Now secretary of the Al-Mahmood Education Trust, Nazir Ahmed spoke to Islamic Voice about nursery education, his life time passion:
Q: Why do you consider nursery education to be the backbone of child's intellectual development.
A: The age between 3 and 6 years plays a crucial role in an individual's life. Habits and traits developed in this stage play a major role in shaping the adult life. If children are carefully groomed during this period, their mannerism, thought process, intellectual life will bear an indelible stamp of the impressions gained during this period.
An English adage says: "There is a world of difference between one and six years but very little difference between six and sixty years."
The educationists have therefore developed several methods to train the child during this period known as nursery education, kindergarten or Montessori.
Q: How did you apply it in your institutions?
A: We were quite disturbed to see that most Muslim kids had no systematic upbringing during this crucial period. We began by setting up Phoolban Nursery Schools in districts of Old Mysore state. Between 1971 and '73 we set up 71 such nurseries.
Q: Any particular precedent was inspiring you?
A: We had that instance from a European village from where the nursery education began. A factory where couples worked together put their children in a single shelter under the cave of a matron. The matron engaged them in toys, games, songs, rhymes, charts and various educative pastimes. So magical was the result of this training that the children of the workers outdid the children of the highly placed professionals who had passed the crucial 3-6 year age with their mothers. This serendipitous experiment blazed a trail. Educationists surged to the town to copy it. Europe later saw wide replication of this experiment which came to be termed as Nursery Education.
Q: How could the Muslim benefit from this?
A: Normally, in a given population, 17 of the 100 people, fall under the category of 3-6 years. Muslim should establish great many nursery schools under the care of trained teachers who could train them in basic tenets of the faith, Islamic practises, etiquettes, rhymes based on Islam and culture. This generation will prove a boon in shaping future builders of the community. These could be started in a room attached to the mosque or even in a garden. 'Catch them young' should be our motto.