Shakira Gariya, 17, is all set to be the first girl from her village of Bodhan in Surat to become a doctor, having cleared the recent NEET exam with 570 marks.
Her father, a daily wage labourer who fends for the family by pulling handcarts, is over the moon. Shakira is among the 30 students from this year’s Gifted-30 batch, an intensive coaching project started by Bharuch-based Munshi Manubarwala Memorial Charitable Trust (MMMCT) and Surat’s Progressive Muslim Education Trust (PMET) for underprivileged Muslim students aspiring to crack the NEET and JEE in Gujarat.
This year, all 30 students of the batch cleared NEET, of whom 12 students are set to get admission in state-run medical colleges.
Shakira, who is confident of getting through the prestigious BJ Medical College in Ahmedabad, wants to be an oncosurgeon. She says, “I am confident of getting into the medical college in Ahmedabad, considering the admission trends last year. That is my first choice. Else, I will choose Vadodara or Surat. I want to be an oncosurgeon. I feel there is a need to create more awareness about cancer.”
The group selects students on the basis of tests and academic interviews across 26 centres in Gujarat. The best 30 are chosen for the coaching pattern that includes hostel stay in Bharuch. The trust had initially collaborated with Bihar’s Rahmani family, which runs the Rahmani 30 league for Muslim students — an offshoot of Abhayanand 30. However, they parted ways over differences in their approach to teaching.
The results of the intensive coaching are encouraging. Azaz Pathan, academic coordinator of Gifted-30, says, “This year we got very good results in JEE Main exam and NEET. Earlier too, one student of G30, Shehzad Bhurawala, got All India Rank 141 in NEET-2017 and stood 5th in the state. His father is disabled, but Shehzad is now studying MBBS in the prestigious KEM hospital and medical college in Mumbai. This year, we have another student, Ahmed Shaikh, who scored 558 in NEET and will get through a medical college in Gujarat. We took him after his father’s death.” According to Pathan, the trust spends about Rs1.25 lakh towards each student for their lodging, meals and coaching needs.
According to community leaders, the growing number of Muslim student toppers in various academic streams has become an inspiration for many others, which has led to an increase in the number of schools run by the community in the state. Shahid Husen Shokat Memon of Koday village in Mandvi, Kutch, secured the All India Rank 2 (AIR 2) in the Chartered Accountant (CA) Final November 2018 exams, while Ashraf Kesrani topped the All India NEET exams 2018. Maroof Pathan emerged topper in the recent Special GPSC exam.
Another group of intensive coaching also runs for madrasa students who have memorised the Quran and are known as Quran Haafiz. The group prepares these students for mainstream academics, which they may have left midway after class 7 to complete their Quranic studies. Abdullah Shahji, a teacher at one such intensive group at Hanifa School in Borsad, Anand, says, “We started this batch two years ago for students from madrasas who are Quran Haafiz. We had 10 students in the first batch and all cleared SSC this year through the NIOS exams. They will now join a CBSE school for further academics and thereafter, professional courses. They are supposed to be the most intelligent as reciting the Quran is not easy. Many of our students have expressed their desire to pursue commerce, while a few others plan to take up science.”
Socio-political activist Zuber Goplani, who is also a member of multiple Muslim educational trusts and runs the Hanifa School in Borsad, Anand, says, “The incident of 2002 played a major role in awakening the Muslim community about the importance of education in life. Until that time, the community was seen as being least interested in education and therefore also looked down upon as having no contribution to make to the development of the country. The community has realised that to be heard, to be represented and to be able to stand up for their rights, they need to be educated. In Gujarat, the number of schools run by the Muslim community has gone up from 198 in 2001 to 1,000 in 2018.”
Goplani’s school has intensive batches for bright students aspiring to crack NEET, JEE, CA and civil service exams.
Farhad Rahmani, who now runs the Rahmani 30 in Bihar, however, feels that the number of student toppers emerging from the community is far less compared to “general toppers”. “We have a long way to go,” he says.