The future of madrassa-going students is at stake in Uttar Pradesh. In the past five years, nearly 20,618 teachers imparting modern subjects to madrassas didn’t get salaries or honoraria.
These teachers are hired on a contractual basis to teach modern subjects like English, Hindi, Mathematics, Science and Social Sciences to nearly one million students in 7,391 madrassas.
In the past five years, these contractual graduates and post-graduate teachers have gotten a salary for only 10 months. Now the state government is reportedly moving one step forward to ‘harass’ them by not renewing their contract this year.
Not receiving the promised honorarium and the lack of alternative sources of income have pushed some of these teachers into precarious situations, say people in the know. Some have started quitting teaching work and are looking for other work for their livelihood. Several are driving battery rickshaws or vending to manage household expenditures, as has been reported in the media.
The Indian government’s apathy towards madrassa teachers would deprive almost 10 lakh students of modern education. This will not only throw these minority students out of modern education but also hit their futures adversely.
Mainly, most of these madrassa students come from the marginalised sections of the Muslim community. The Muslim population is around four crore in UP, which comprises nearly 20 percent of the state’s population.
These madrassa teachers were appointed on contract under the SPQEM (Scheme for providing quality education in madrasas) introduced by the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. The objective was to modernise the education system in religious schools in 2009.
Talking about the role of madrassas, Syed Hussain Afsar, editor of an Urdu daily, said that these madrassas played a significant role in the freedom struggle, but unfortunately, now the government is trying to destroy the Islamic seminary.
Afsar went on to say that this was not merely an issue of teachers’ salaries, but also of the future of millions of marginalised students who don’t have enough resources to attend regular schools…
In 2022, the Indian government withdrew the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) for students of minority communities, including Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhists, and Christians. Muslims were the largest beneficiaries of the scheme.
The move hit the dream of students from minority communities pursuing higher education, M.Phil and PhD courses.
The government decided to end the MANF programme at a time when Muslims had the lowest gross enrolment rate (GER) in higher education institutions (16%) out of all the communities in the country, compared with the average of 26.3% for the entire country.
“It seems that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) election slogan of “Sabka Saath-Sabka Vikas” was merely eyewash. Earlier, they stopped MANF for higher education, and now they are not giving funds for the modern education of madrassa students,” Afsar said.
Dalits and people from Other Backward Classes (OBCs) are worried about the future of their children because of how the government has been treating minorities. They are concerned that cutting funding for Muslim education could soon end fellowships for other underprivileged groups like OBCs and Scheduled Castes (SCs).
These days, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is also making efforts to expand its outreach among the Pasmanda (marginalised) section of Muslim society.
But the government’s attitude towards Muslim education raises the question of the intent of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The right-wing government’s lofty promises to Muslims now appear to be a mere sham.
Renowned academician Prof. Nadeem Hasnain says BJP’s ‘affection’ for Muslims is only a political strategy to divide them into Pasmandas and Ashrafs.
“No one can rule out the fact that madrassas spike the literacy rate among Muslims,” says Hasnain, former head of the anthropology department at Lucknow University.
Muslims were the primary beneficiaries of these educational schemes. The BJP stands to reap electoral dividends by pushing Muslims to the receiving end of their hardcore communal voters.
The government seems to have sent a loud and clear message to its core voters in the saffron ecosystem, who demanded that the pro-Hindutva government should stop providing financial assistance to Muslims and other minorities, weakening their education system.