On June 1, when the results of West Bengal Board of Madrasah Examination were declared, an unusually high number of girls had made it to the merit list. From Mehbuba Yesmin of Kaliachak in Malda district, who stood second, to Napisa Khatun of Murshidabad district, who ranked tenth, there were five girls who made it to the merit list.
A close look at students who took the High Madrasa Examination in 2018 reveals that almost 70% are girls. Of the 52,502 students who took the examination this year, 36,565 are girls and 15,937 are boys.
While the Madrasah Board authorities said schemes promoting girls education such as Kanyashree, the conditional cash transfer scheme, and Sabuj Sathi, the scheme of providing bicycles to school-going girls, are some of the reasons. But there is more to this phenomenon than encouraging girls to attend schools.
Migrating for jobs
In a State with a skewed child sex ratio (960 females to 1,000 males as per 2011 census) 70% female students taking a board examination is indicative of a huge drop out among boys. Even the authorities of the Board agreed that boys were dropping out and were migrating to other States for work.
“Most of the High Madrasas are located in Malda and Murshidabad districts and the boys in these districts have a tendency to drop out and migrate for jobs to other States,” Sheikh Abu Taher Kamruddin, president of the West Bengal Board of Madrasah Education, told The Hindu.
The high number of girls writing the Class X board examination is also visible in the statistics of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Examination. Of the 11,02,921 candidates who had appeared for the examinations in 2018, the number of girls appeared stood at 6,21,266 (56.3%) while the number of boys appeared was 4,81,555 (43.66%).
“These statistics clearly indicate that dropout of school-going boys is higher in certain pockets of the States, particularly in the minority-dominated districts of Malda and Murshidabad,” said Sabir Ahamed, chief researcher with Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s Pratichi Trust.
Though the Madrasah Board was set up in 1927, it had no legal status till 1994, when an Act was passed in the West Bengal Assembly, giving it powers to affiliate institutions and conduct examination. There are 614 high madrasas in the State, which provide education in regular subjects like language, science, maths along with two optional subjects of Arabic and Islamic Studies (Islam Parichay). The Board also affiliates 102 senior madrasas providing religious education and conducting Alim (Class X) and Fazil (Class XII) equivalent examinations. Even in the Alim examination, more girls appeared. Of the 8,760 students who wrote the exams, 5,114 were girls.