Muhabeeba,27 and a mother of three,is a student with Sameeksha,a programme the equivalent of class X and launched by Nilambur municipality in Malappuram district. Every afternoon,she takes along her youngest,2,to the local madrasa. The other two,too,are under 10.
Married at 16,she had failed at class X and then dropped out. Now she is walking the fine balance between family and education,cautiously and secretively. Her husband,Haneefa,who works in the Middle East,doesnt know but his parents do.
He doesnt like me going out and attending classes, she says. He will come by October end and the exams are next week. Hopefully it will be all over before he comes.
She is living with her in-laws. Whenever I leave home for class,I take my mobile too,for fear that his parents may inadvertently say I have gone out, says Muhabeeba,who wants to study further.
Aishaby,45,married at 14 and dropped out of high school. Now widowed,she goes to class encouraged by her children,particularly the eldest son,an engineering student.
And Sajitha,34,mother of four with the eldest in plus two,attends afternoon classes. My eldest daughter helps me clear doubts, she says.
Sameeksha has 2,519 such learners. It is the first time in the country that a local governing body has ventured into a project to ensure its entire population passes X. Nilambur municipality had implemented programmes to get all its people past IV and then VII.
Municipal chairman and Congress leader Aryadan Shoukath stresses the focus on education: the municipality has this fiscal set apart Rs 1.46 crore for Sameeksha,compared to Rs 1.30 crore for road and other infrastructure. The biggest challenge was to overcome protests from Muslim men who were against their women going to class. The men tried initially tried to stop their wives who,however,got support from their children or even grandchildren, says Shoukath,also a writer and award-winning filmmaker.
The X-equivalent programme is under the State Literacy Mission,part of a continuing,alternative scheme to the existing one for formal education. Across Malappuran,the programme has enrolled 7,539 in 100 village panchayats and seven municipalities.
Nilamburs Sameeksha targets those in the age group 17-35 who had passed VII but not X in their formal schooldays. There are older students too. English and mathematics are tough, says Pathummakkuty,61,a widow. But I am helped by my college-going grandchildren, says Pathummakutty,who has three daughters.
A socio-economic survey counted 1,167 women among the 2,519 trainees. Overall,they include housewives,businessmen,drivers,daily workers and even employees of government or quasi-governmental bodies. Before classes began,they were given a 40-hour bridge course to bring them back into the learning mood. Working and retired schoolteachers train them in various subjects at 73 learning centres.
3,404 minor girls married in Malappuram,2012,found Integrated Child Development Scheme study
2,827 of them were Muslims
4,249 child marriages among Muslims in Malappuram in 2009,according to 2011 study,social welfare department