NEW DELHI

Concern over low literacy level among Meo Muslims

Enrolment drive and modernisation of madrassas suggested

Special Correspondent

BHARATPUR: The abysmally low literacy level among the Meo Muslims inhabiting the Mewat region -- comprising Bharatpur and Alwar districts -- was the cause of concern at a workshop on universalisation of elementary education held here on Wednesday. Mewat was identified as a deprived and isolated region with respect to basic development.

The participants in the workshop, who included educationists, representatives of voluntary bodies and other stakeholders, felt that significant interventions in the shape of enrolment drive, enrichment of primary education and modernisation of madrassas and maktabs were needed to benefit the highly cohesive community of Meos.

There are approximately 11.5-lakh Meos, comprising one-third of the population, in the Mewat region which is a cultural rather than an administrative unit. The 2001 Census puts the literacy rate among Meo Muslims at 33.60 per cent in Bharatpur district and 30.12 per cent in Alwar district, far below the State average of 60.41 per cent. Munshi Khan, general secretary of Mewati Sahitya Akademi, said the backwardness of Meos had its genesis in historical reasons.Mr. Khan, while calling for inclusion of madrassas in the drive for employment-oriented education, said the Mewat Development Board -- functioning since 1980s -- had failed to deliver goods. Some other speakers, concurring with Mr. Khan, demanded that the Board's headquarters be shifted to Bharatpur with the Divisional Commissioner as its Chairman.

The day-long workshop was organised by the Society for All-Round Development (SARD) in association with the European Commission and Aga Khan Foundation. The SARD is running `Taleem Ghars' (education centres) in Deeg block to educate the children who were never enrolled or had dropped out of schools.

Kiran Dogra, senior consultant with Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, said the District Primary Education Programme had selected six girls' middle schools in Bharatpur district as model schools and was providing all facilities there.

Zubair Meenai of the Department of Social Work, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, said enlargement of curriculum in madrassas and maktabs would make their education relevant to the present needs.

Akhtarul Wasey, Head, Department of Islamic Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, suggested that maktabs be developed as primary schools and help in universalisation of elementary education. Yoginder Sikand, expert on minority education, emphasised that modernisation of religious seminaries was the key to progress of Meos.

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