The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Muslim-only school cry

New Delhi, Dec. 20: Muslim MPs and non-government organisations want the human resource development ministry to create exclusive schools for minority children in predominantly Muslim areas.

At a meeting with members of a high-level committee set up by HRD minister Arjun Singh, Muslim MPs said very few Muslim children are able to access schools like the Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalayas. The government should set up schools in predominantly Muslim areas to increase enrolment of children from the minority community, particularly girls.

The MPs want these schools to be exclusively for Muslims. It is, however, uncertain whether the government will agree to have schools exclusively for the minority community. These are issues that will be thrashed out in the coming days before the government finally draws up a list of recommendations.

The shockingly low socio-economic representation of Muslims revealed by the Sachar committee’s report has propelled political parties and ministries to come up with schemes that could improve their representation in education, employment and various institutions.

The Prime Minister has set up a committee and so has minister in charge of minority affairs A.R. Antulay and Arjun Singh. The high-level committee set up by the HRD minister is expected to submit its report by January 31.

“We want the recommendations to be included in the 11th Five-Year Plan,” said RJD leader M.A.A. Fatmi at a news conference here today. The CPM central committee is also expected to come up with a list of recommendations to address the concerns raised by the Sachar committee at its meeting in the first week of January. The party leadership wants the Planning Commission to draw up a sub-plan for the Muslims.

The MPs and NGOs suggested at the meeting that the medium of instruction for Muslim children should be their mother tongue, be it Urdu or Hindi.

They also wanted more women teachers in order to get more Muslim girls into schools and to retain them till Class XII.

HRD officials said the meeting did not discuss quotas as a form of affirmative action for the Muslims. The focus was on the three education sectors — primary, secondary and higher. The main emphasis was on primary education since this is the weakest link.

The Sachar committee’s report has expressed “grave concern” over the educational status of Muslims. The minimum number of years Muslim children spend in schools is often less than that of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

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