A boy tops engineering admissions, while a girl is all set to pursue medicine
Muslims in the country are more often than not associated with illiteracy and backwardness besides being projected as proponents of gender inequality. These attributes are slowly but steadily getting watered down as many children from the community are beating the odds to excel in academics.
A case in point is that of A. Mohamed Navas, a 17-year-old resident of Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board quarters at Avaniapuram here. Employed in a workshop that manufactures springs meant for bicycle stands for a daily wage of Rs. 150 ever since he completed Class XII, the boy has topped the Tamil Nadu Engineering Admissions (TNEA) this year.
With a cut-off mark of 194.50 out of 200, he has been declared State first rank holder among Backward Class-Muslim category students in the vocational stream. Having studied in a Tamil medium government aided school all through, he is now all set to join a B.E., or B.Tech., degree course in a government engineering college.
Nevertheless, the irony remains that the boy, who lost his father at the age of one, does not have the wherewithal to afford even the paltry expenses he might have to incur at a government college.
His mother A. Thara Hussain Beevi has been pedalling her sewing machine for the last 16 years to feed him and his elder sister A. Zeenath Nishan, now a B.Com graduate.
Navas opened a bank account in his name in June last year for receipt of State Government's one-time scholarship of Rs. 2,000 given to Plus Two students of minority community. But the account remains dormant till date with the initial deposit of Rs. 100 as the scholarship amount is yet to be deposited.
Despite living in penury, Ms. Beevi remains pious. She was offering Namaaz at her single room accommodation when The Hindu knocked at her door for an interview with Navas whom she summoned, over a borrowed mobile phone, from the workshop.
She had no idea that Navaz's name and photograph had been displayed on Anna University's website until a requisition was made for the interview. The only thing that had been bothering her ever since he scored high marks in Plus Two was the expenses that she might have to incur on his higher education.
Not very different is the case of S. Syed Ali Fathima, a 17-year-old Burkha clad Muslim girl of Othakadai here. With a cut-off mark of 197 out of 200, she stands a fair chance of getting a medical seat under government quota through 3.5 per cent reservations provided for Backward Class-Muslims.
However, the girl is in no mood to celebrate as her good score has only increased the anxiety regarding the expenses she might incur for her studies. Daughter of a cattle feed seller, the girl has excelled after putting up with many a humiliation for not paying her school fees in time, her inability to spend for transportation and so on.
Her elder sister too scored 1,033 out of 1,200 marks in the Plus Two examinations a few years ago. But could not take up an engineering course for want of money and ended up pursuing a bachelor's degree in mathematics. Now, Ms. Fathima does not want the “scary thing called money” to be a hurdle in realising her dream of becoming a doctor. The two girls have studied so far with financial assistance from their maternal uncle M. Jahir Hussain, himself a father of three girls, who struggles to make ends meet with paltry income from his textile business.