Subani Nabeela, has achieved 84 in standard XII. She aspires to do graduation course in Management. But she is unable to do so as there is no girls friendly college in Mumbai.
Shaikh Tehsin scored 135 in Centralized Entrance Test for Masters in Management Studies Program. She is eligible for a seat in MMS on merit. Her father is apprehensive to give her permission as wearing hijab is discouraged in most of the Management colleges.
Balsaria Shenaz has scored 62 marks in first year of B.Sc (Computer Science). She has decided to discontinue education as she finds it difficult to be in full hijab inside the male dominated class room.
Thousands of Muslim girls who would normally have gone to college for higher education are unable to enroll as there are no exclusive girls colleges or girls friendly colleges. Even Muslim managed colleges are insensitive to the plight of Muslim girls who do not want to study in a college which is not sensitive to their religious and cultural requirement.
Farzana Ahmed, a brilliant student of final year Mechanical Engineering has to miss her one lecture everyday as academic time table of her class does not provide any provision to offer the afternoon prayers. Farzana is studying engineering in a Muslim managed college. Enough space is not provided for girls to offer Namaz and girls common rooms are very dirty and have no privacy to offer Namaz, said Farzana. A visit to Muslim managed colleges and observations suggest that lack of gender sensitive policies is the major factor in impeding Muslim girls education in India.
According to the study, Unequal Citizens A Study of Muslim Women in India by Zoya Hasan, In higher education, Muslim women have an abysmal share at 3.56 per cent, even lower than Dalit women (4.25). The authors note that Scheduled Caste women have probably managed a better percentage in higher education, thanks to reservation.
Subani Nabeela has joined a Home Science College as that is the only exclusive girls college. I am totally frustrated and disheartened as despite scoring 84, I am unable to join graduation course in management because my family thinks that atmosphere in coeducation colleges are not girls friendly, said Nabeela.
A Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education Girls Education website notes that the Prophet even made the pursuit of knowledge an obligation on every Muslim be they man and woman, and pointed out that knowledge is only attained through learning.
Shaikh Tehsin appeared for a personal interview and group discussion for MMS course. She was discouraged by a panelist saying that even if she gets admission, it will be difficult for her to cope up with the demand of the course wearing Hijab. My friends are both forcing me to discontinue wearing hijab. I have seen that my senior classmates have to stop wearing traditional dress and some even have trimmed the beard. I have decided to do Masters in Commerce instead of MMS, said Tehsin.
Another major issue which discourages Muslim women from taking admission for higher studies is lack of female counselors in colleges. Because of the male dominated environment, there are psychological and emotional issues which a girl encounters in the college. In most of the colleges there are very few women professors.
Dr Rukshana Khan, psychologist and counselor opines that for an average Muslim girl, college environment is nothing short of cultural shock. According to Dr Rukshana, there are certain physiological conditions in women which require a resting place, privacy and first aid facility. Regular counseling is required for girls so that they are prepared to face numerous problems associated with the male dominated environment in the college campus, she said. Exclusive timing for girls in gymkhana, and laboratory, clean place to offer Namaz, reserving a portion of class room for female students will make their stay in college more comfortable.
To make education institutes girl friendly and gender sensitive, big investment is not needed. All that is required is the willingness on the part of the college management and proactive role of the parents. If the girls do not enroll for higher education, then who is going to take care of future generation of Muslims
(The writer can be reached at mhlrediffmail.com)