Who moved our cheese?


Who moved our cheese?

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Are we becoming like the little people Hem and Haw, reluctant to change?

From the simple parable of four characters of Johnson Spenser’s book, ‘Who moved my cheese?’, we learn some profound truth about change. Sniff and Scurry, the two mice, dealt with it successfully, while the little people Hem and Haw didn’t!

Is the Muslim community gradually facing the shortage of cheese, a metaphor for what we need in life: a good job, a loving relationship, a position, good health, or spiritual peace of mind.

The most crucial factor that influences all of these is education. With the 21st century dawning upon us with a new set of challenges like automation, innovation, and artificial intelligence, the community has a dire need for mentors, some initiatives, and many relevant skills. Whereas the entire world is grappling with these challenges, the Muslim community seems to be struggling with basic education, which begins with schooling followed by college and higher education. In fact, after the pandemic, the dropout rates have increased due to the digital divide and remote learning skills.

In his book ‘Education of Indian Muslims, Challenges and way forward, John Kurien points out the glaring truths about the pathetic condition of the marginalized category of Muslims, whose condition is worse than the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled tribes in few states of India. Only 1.8% of us belong to the Higher and Upper middle class (World Bank Report, 2020) and can afford to send our children to standard schools. A considerable proportion of 86.7% belong to the lower-income group and have no access to proper schooling.
He further comments that if the Muslims from birth to 25 years of age are not focused upon and provided vocational and professional skills, we may face unknown future challenges. Education for the first 1000 days of life is critical for lifelong health and can impact adult learning and earning.

Let us explore some of the reasons:

  • According to recent research done in Urdu Medium schools of Mumbai by Pratham, it was observed that the quality of education was so poor that most students did not have basic literacy skills.
  • The learning initiatives taken by the community are far from satisfactory. Most scholarship schemes and other opportunities go unutilized due to a lack of awareness, like the 25% quota reserved for the marginalized children in the reputed and elite schools.
    There is poor participation of Muslims in the government schemes, especially concerning education for girls. 2.4 million rupees were granted for the pre-metric scholarships, out of which 1.7 million were for Muslim students.
  • The options for a second chance to learning and job opportunities for the youth go unexplored.

Now let us understand the overall condition of Muslim Entrepreneurs in India in changing the socio-political environment. The Prophet Peace be upon him stressed on business, tijarat as there are blessings in it and has many advantages over other forms of jobs. The Kundu Committee found that 49% of Muslim households in Rural areas and 50% in Urban areas were self-employed. However, there were many challenges in starting the business and talking about entrepreneurship; we have many miles to go.

A few sectors like Itar (perfume), leather, and scrap were once dominated by Muslims, have now been substituted by others who adopted automation and collaboration with the best talents and produced startling results.

The biggest problem also seems to be the mindset issue. Self-doubt and elephant thinking seem to have taken a toll on the rich talent present in our children. The ummah is not bold enough to take risks, which is one of the essential requisites of design thinking and one of its principles is failure to succeed faster. Abrar Ali Saiyed, in his research paper on Muslim Entrepreneurs across 15 cities of India, listed down a few challenges in this regard, the first one being: Convincing family and friends. Some of the other challenges listed were:

  • Getting customer, staff, skills
  • Lack of support system
  • Documentation
  • Competition and government policies
  • Discrimination from other communities

Talking about jobs, we are not in the critical and influential positions that will help us improve our present condition. A lot of groundwork at the grass-root level can ensure us some positive results.

However, a few initiatives were seen in the past few months to create awareness among the community and equip ourselves with the necessary education and skills.

  • Dawood Vaid, the founder of Skyeducation, whose work was appreciated by Byjus, has begun a unique venture to educate through his YOUTHMBA course.
  • Sameer Siddique runs a series of lectures on Entrepreneurship on various platforms like Mferd and Alifs, his brainchild.

You can reach him with your thoughts via [email protected].

The Falcon group of institutions organized the most extensive online conference on Indian Muslim Leadership to inspire Muslim youth to realize their dreams.