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LAST YEAR, the Ministry of Minority Affairs launched the Nai Manzil scheme for Muslim youth (aged 17-35 years), whereby both school-dropouts and those from Madrasa backgrounds were to be provided formal education with full fee waiver, in order to help them find employment. The Jamia Senior Secondary School, one of the beneficiaries of the scheme, enrolled 100 such students as part of a bridge course in Class XII to provide them quality education.
They were provided a monthly stipend of Rs 4,000 along with stationery, books and lunch. However, the journey wasn’t easy — for the students, or for the teachers and principal. “It was tough for us to find drop-outs or Madrasa students to enroll in the course. We finally approached some NGOs who worked with school drop-outs to help us,” says Principal Muzaffar Hassan.
Classes for various humanities subjects were held six days a week for nine months. Teachers would finish their regular classes and then teach additional hours as part of the bridge course. The classes bore fruit for several whose link to education had been broken for various reasons.
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On October 4 this year, 75 of the batch of 100 students were felicitated by Jamia Millia Islamia Vice-Chancellor Talat Ahmad for having passed their board exams. Fifteen of them scored first division, and 64 of them have already enrolled in undergraduate or professional courses. The Indian Express talks to four such students, whose lives have changed post their board exam marks.
Farheen Saifi (18)
Born in Moradabad district of Uttar Pradesh
Education was no go area for her, courtesy her paternal grandfather. “He didn’t believe that women should be allowed to study,” she says. When she turned nine, she was enrolled in LKG at a primary school in her village. But her real education began when she shifted to Noida in 2008 along with her parents and brothers. Her father, Abrar Ali, worked as an electrician in a private company. He managed to get Saifi admitted at S S International School.
“I was 11 years old when I enrolled in Class III. Students would tease me but my teachers were supportive. They encouraged me to ignore such taunts. I managed to get a first division every year and I completed Class IX by 2013,” she says. However, Saifi’s father suffered a brain haemorrhage and lost his job. The family moved to Delhi to stay closer to relatives. Saifi had lost hope until the bridge course happened.“We heard of Shikhar NGO which teaches underprivileged girl children. I enrolled there and passed Class X for the Jamia Board of School Education (JBSE),” she says.
This year, she passed with 70 per cent marks and is now enrolled in the BA (Hons) Political Science course at IGNOU. She handed over her stipend money to her father. The situation at home has inspired her to pursue psychology. “My father has been going through some psychological problems. I want to study psychology to help him,” she says.
Mohd Javed (26)
Born in Khanpur village of Muzaffarpur district in Bihar
Javed’s father sent him to a religious institute, Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, in Lucknow to study. Education there was purely religious, he says. Javed realised that continuing his education at the institute would not yield benefits as the certificates issued by them were unrecognised.
“I realised it would be better for me to study mainstream subjects. So I left Nadwa, and joined a high school in Haroi to complete classes IX and X. But in that school, we were not given any classes, we just had to fill a form and appear for exams,” he says. Given his economic background, however, Javed had to drop out after Class X in 2012. He came to Delhi, and started working as an interpreter for patients coming from the Middle East in top private hospitals. “I would get paid Rs 1,000 per day for translating from Arabic to English or Hindi,” he says.
Till 2015, he continued to find temporary work, until he heard of the bridge course at Jamia. “I got so much exposure, and was introduced to new subjects. I have even gained confidence. I’m satisfied with whatever I have been able to achieve,” he says. Having scored 62 per cent in his XII boards, Javed is now studying BA (Hons) Arabic at Delhi University’s Zakir Hussain College (morning). He used his stipend money to take English literature classes.
Shabana Khatoon (18)
Born in Khanpur village of Muzaffarpur district in Bihar
Like her seven siblings, Khatoon’s education also began in Madrasas. She would travel over an hour one way to attend a Madrasa, where she “was taught about Islam”. While her father, Anish Babu, and mother, Marzuman, wanted to educate all their children, they did not have the means to do so.
Travelling over two hours every day for education took its toll, and Khatoon was made to drop out. When her father moved to Delhi in hope of better employment opportunities, she heard of the NGO. “They asked me to enroll in Class IX. All these subjects — English, History, Political Science — were completely foreign to me. It was very difficult to read about initially,” she says.
But with the help the NGO and a relative who gave her free tuitions, Khatoon managed to pass class IX and X from the JBSE. She too is enrolled in BA (Hons) Political Science at IGNOU after scoring 61 per cent in the board exam. She hopes to become a teacher one day. She handed over her stipend money to her father who has used it to buy a computer.
Born in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh
Islamuddin, who lives in Zakir Nagar, did not face any problem with his education like so many of his peers until Class XI in 2014.“I was studying in Syed Abid Hussain Senior Secondary School since childhood and performed satisfactorily in every class. But in Class XI, I developed some psychological problem and had to drop out,” he says. He received treatment for a year for his problem.
“For an entire year, my only worry was that I should get better. But my parents were definitely worried about my education,” he says. After having recuperated by 2015, his attention shifted back to his education. Islamuddin says he always wanted to study English, but the gap year was creating a problem for him. “Someone told me about the bridge course and I grabbed the opportunity,” he says.
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