Over 50 Muslim students from Bihar’s leading colleges such as Patna Women’s College, Magadh Mahila College and Maulana Azad Engineering have expressed their willingness to study at US universities under ambitious Indo-US collaboration programme. While the students, who participated at a workshop (13-14 February) at Patna attended by Ohio State University, expressed enthusiasm at prospect of studying in US, they also wanted to know about their security, parity with students from other nationalities and religions and more importantly if they would be allowed to wear full dresses.
Patna is among six Indian cities chosen for the programme promotion along with Delhi, Hyderabad, Aligarh and Kurnool. Bihar Muslim students are elated at Patna’s inclusion in the 75,000 US dollar one-year education promotion programme, which started in September last year, to prepare students to seek admission in post-graduation and research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The programme is for Muslim girls and girls from other disadvantaged groups, ones belong to scheduled caste and OBCs.
Syed Hasnain, local expert who played a crucial role in mobilising and motivating Muslim students, told The Indian Express: “Women in STEM roadshow, as this is popularly known as, did evoke good response in Patna after we were hard put by Muslim women students to convince them to attend it. Most of them come from poor economic background with some of them having annual family income of Rs 2 lakh. Since I know about only four Muslim women having gone abroad to pursue research, this may well be a huge opportunity. Our intention is to prepare them in such a manner that they are able to get scholarship, which can make their education almost free”.
Karen E Irving, an associate professor at the Ohio State University, told The Indian Express:”As per figures of US department of state, USA had about 9,70,000 international students in 2015. Of it, 1,35,700 students were from India, 14 per cent of the total students. China, South Korea, Canada and Mexico had sent maximum of these students to US”. Sultana N Nahar, a reseach professor at Ohio State Unity, added: “Muslim women students from India had neglible presence – less than even 0.25 per cent – in US educational institutions. This is where this programme holds so much importance”.
Ayesha Tabassum, a Chemistry third year graduation student in Magadh Mahila College, Patna, said: “With my family’s annual income ofRs 1.20 lakh, I cannot think of going to US for higher studies. I attenfed STEM to settle my doubts on dressing, security and parity of treatment with other students. I am now looking forward to tough preparation. If I am able to make the cut for science research in US, it would be a realisation of a dream”.
Sidra Perbeen, pursing Zoology honours from Patna Women’s College, said her father, a private teacher, cannot afford her higher education from even a big Indian ciries. She said STEM programme had given her a ray of hope. Amber Jabeen, doing research in science from Patna University, said she had been motivated to prepare hard to get admission at Ohio State University. “We asked some questions from Ohio faculty members and are now looking forward to mentoring from senior teachers”, she said.
Dr Nasreen Haque, president of Intalage Inc, an organisation which sends STEM background teachers, mostly women, told Bihar Muslim students not to be too wary about gender and religious discrimination. “At times, media blows it out of proportion. Muslim girls are free to wear veils”, she said allaying apphensions of participating students. The STEM programme would not offer any monetary benefits to students but would work as a facilitator and guide for students to get enrolment. The programme is part of Indo-US exchange programme, agreed upon during tenure of Dr Manmohan Singh as India’s PM.