“Discrimination responsible for low level of education among Meos”

A new study on Meo Muslims in eastern Rajasthan has held their educational backwardness responsible for the overall under-development of the Mewat region and identified social and economic factors, religious taboos, gender biases and illiteracy among parents as the “compelling issues” leading to the poor educational scenario in the community.

The baseline study, conducted by global advocacy group “Save the Children”, has described “institutional discrimination” on the basis of caste and class in access to services as a contributory feature in the low level of education among Meos. “Muslim children report that they get step-motherly treatment in the classrooms,” says the study in its final report.

Releasing the study's findings here on Sunday, “Save the Children” State coordinator Prabhat Kumar said while several kinds of discrimination operated subliminally, many of the teachers surveyed did not hesitate to express their abhorrence while talking about Dalit, tribal and Muslim children. “Some of the teachers opined that tribal children are rather dull and their brains are fit to do wage work.”

Mr. Kumar said the children belonging to the Meo community were the victims of social exclusion and there was practically no community voice in existence in planning and implementation of development schemes in the Mewat region. The study covered Meo Muslims in 40 villages of Tijara block in Alwar district.

Status of women

The literacy status, income and occupational patterns of Meos “prove beyond doubt” that they are the most marginalised section in the State, according to the study. The Meo populations residing in the region have been neglected for years and the facilities provided are not up to the mark, while the status of women's education is even more depressing.

The study has emphasised the need for both the government and the civil society to understand the rights perspective and together create an “enabling environment” in which the excluded sections are protected from discrimination and exploitation. It also recommended realistic and on-the-ground programmes and initiatives for spread of education among Meo children.

The rate of transition of students from primary to upper primary in the region was found to be low as more children are forced to leave studies and join the work force with a need to supplement the family income. Cases of those “never enrolled” were also found in the surveyed households.

Mr. Kumar pointed out that a large number of children were already working mainly in the unorganised sector with low wages and in more hazardous and exploitative forms of labour like brick kiln, beedi rolling, manual labour and domestic work. “Except for the much-publicised National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, awareness and utilisation of other government schemes remains quite low.”

The survey covered 562 households across six villages of three blocks in Alwar district, in which 77 per cent were Muslims and 21 per cent Hindus. Only 42 schools in Mewat are run by the government directly, even as the student-teacher ratio is 33:1. The attendance rate of girls in schools in the age group of 6 to 8 years is only 36.8 per cent.

About 33 per cent schools in Mewat have only one teacher and 23.5 per cent have two teachers. Nearly 53 per cent schools have no headmaster.

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