By Manzar Imam
New Delhi: Conscious of their role in uplift of society, students of seven most educationally backward districts of Bihar and West Bengal organized a get-together as part of Students Resources Development Programme to think about and devise some common minimum programme to promote education in their area here at the Department of Architecture and Ekistics, Jamia Millia Islamia on Sunday, 22nd November 2015.
The students were joined by some teachers, administrative staff and professionals, who provided them with ideas as to how to go about creating awareness among children and their parents as also how to convince them to go to schools, madrasas, colleges and other educational institutions. It should be noted that most of the districts of Northeastern Bihar including the adjacent Uttar Dinajpur district of West Bengal has lowest literacy rate in the country.
Speaking on this occasion, Prof. M. Ghazi Shahnawaz asked students to “make a workable plan” to be followed for one year as large programmes have a risk of failure. The psychology teacher, who presided over the two-hour long interactive meeting offered to train a small group of about a dozen students from different departments in basic skill sets required for such an educational venture.
Dr. Mohammad Ansar Alam of the Faculty of Education suggested to organize one or two large meetings every year to create awareness among students about their role in advancement of society. You must concentrate on studies, but also “Be responsible citizens and, visit your respective schools when you visit your native place during vacations.”
In view of his past experiences of working for educational mobilization, Aftab Ahmad, programme officer at the India-Arab Cultural Centre said there was no dearth of schools and madrasas in villages. However, “What is lacking is the collaboration between teachers and prospective children and their parents”. He further said that it would be better if children were sent to their existing native schools. It will not only lessen the financial burden of their parents but will also create educational awareness in villages and rural areas. Despite Islam laying stress on education, it is unfortunate that Muslims in general and people of Seemanchal, which has a large Muslim population, in particular lag so far behind in education.
Dr. Khalid Mubashshir, Assistant Professor, Department of Urdu, proposed to start a joint venture with students and teachers of other universities and colleges where a good number of students from educationally backward areas study to make plans for educational awareness in rural areas. “Social progress cannot be achieved without education”, he said. Mohammad Mujahid Akhter stressed on the need for career guidance for students, lack of which is a big obstacle in their progress.
Manzar Imam, a Ph. D. student at the Academy of International Studies, presented an overview of educational scenario of Seemanchal stating that the literacy rate of all four districts of Purnea Division was less than 40 percent which was a great cause of concern. He continued that the situation of female literacy in the Commissionerate was even worse with Kishanganj having 18.49 percent, Araria 22.14 percent, Purnea 23.72 percent and Katihar 24.03 percent female literacy rate.
While speaking about the status of education in Bihar’s Purnea Division, Imam appealed teachers and students of Jamia Millia Islamia to come up with thoughtful and creative ideas to help increase the poor literacy rate of all the backward districts of Bihar and West Bengal. He also said that the word Seemanchal should not be misunderstood as physical anthropology, geography or a land mass of the region so referred. “It is about the issues of poor literacy, poverty, unemployment, lack of resources and opportunities”, he said. Tauqueer Alam demanded that English be made a compulsory subject in Bihar school syllabus as students suffered due to weak English.
Dr. Rizwan Alam, Tanweer Samdani, Salam Anwar, Nadeem Ahmad, Nawed Alam and others attended the programme and gave valuable suggestions. Noushad Azam and Mudassir Nazar coordinated the programme. Students shared their views and experiences.
[Manzar Imam is a freelance journalist based in Delhi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org]