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Muslim Students, Parents Struggle With Cancellation of Pre-Matric Scholarship, MANF

Gandhinagar: On November 25, 2022, the Union Government decided to cancel the pre-matric scholarships for students of grades 1 to 8 belonging to minority communities from the academic year 2022-23.

In its widely criticized move, the government limited the pre-matric scholarship scheme intended for minority communities to only students in grades 9 and 10. The government justified its position by saying that the Right to Education Act (RTE Act) covers compulsory education to grade 8 for all students.

The decision drew fierce flak from scholars, activists and political parties, with Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party government of revoking the rights of the poor.

For Chohan Isha, a class 7 student from Modasa, the canceled scholarship means her dream of becoming a teacher is in jeopardy. “My father is a driver and earns Rs 6,000 a month. The scholarship helped us study without being a burden to him,” explains Isha, whose brother is in class 5 and also benefited from the scholarship.

Difficulty studying

Amid the chaos created by the cancellation of pre-matric scholarships, the Union government also withdrew the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF). The MANF was launched by the earlier United Progressive Alliance government at the Center in an effort to implement the recommendations of the Sachar Commission.

Both the financial aid schemes – both the MANF and the pre-matric scholarships for minority communities – are established by the Ministry of Minority Affairs. While one helped students with their early education, the other fellowship helped researchers from minority communities.

Rashid Chaki, a teacher and social activist from Jamnagar, is struggling to help students take advantage of what he calls the scholarship that ‘rightfully belongs to them’. Chaki filed an RTI with the Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF) and the state government after some parents of excluded children asked him for help. The Begum Hazrat Mahal Scholarship is for girls students in grades 9 to 12 from the minority community. Students of class 9 and 10 receive Rs 5,000 annually as a scholarship and students studying in class 11 and 12 receive Rs 6,000. After the process of RTIs and the responses to them, Chaki did not receive a very solution-oriented response from the ministry. MAEF told Chaki that it had received 2.82 lakh applications from across India, of which 4,362 were pending verification. Of these, 1,019 applications are from Gujarat.

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Chaki, who helps dozens of students fill out scholarship forms correctly, said The wire that the portal even accepted applications for pre-matric scholarships until November 15, 2022.

Chaki’s uncle, Adam Chaki, has also been instrumental in getting these grants to ground floor beneficiaries – as the petitioner of the case in the Gujarat High Court.

Students at a school in Jamnagar. Photo: Tarushi Aswani

In 2008, when the pre-matric scholarships were launched, the government of Gujarat under the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi argued in the apex court that the Center for Minority Scholarship is a scheme based on religion and that it Center cannot compel the state to implement it, and that a similar arrangement existed in the state for all poor students, regardless of their religion.

The then government of Gujarat had appealed to the Supreme Court in this case and challenged the Gujarat High Court ruling upholding the constitutional validity of the scholarship. In this pre-matric scholarship, the governments of the Union and the states share the financial burden in the ratio of 75:25. A student is eligible if parental income from all sources does not exceed Rs 2.50 lakh per annum.

Chaki explained that the reasoning given by the government – ​​that the RTE will cover expenses for students in grades 1-8 – does not apply to minority students studying in private schools. He added that since even minority-run schools were exempt from the implementation of the RTE policy and were not under the government’s Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, it would be problematic if a student from a minority community went to study in a a minority-run school from another school. community.

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Isha, who studies in a private school in Karimnagar with her younger brother, feels that her parents must now choose which child to educate in the future, given the money crunch and the loss of the pre-matric scholarship.

Marginalization of minorities

Mukhtar Bapu, trustee of Derawala Vidyalaya in Dhebar, Jamnagar, has been called since the news of the cancellation of the scholarship came out. “Parents, students and even our school staff are concerned about the future of these children,” he said. The Vidyalaya Bapu loop has 176 students from grades 1-8. The school’s fee system is such that Bapu and his staff help children fill out forms where they receive only half of the scholarship money as compensation and let the parents keep the rest. “We don’t know where to go now, how to help these kids in the middle of their academic years,” he said.

Hamza Chiroliya, 32, is a former MANF beneficiary and is thankful for it. Chiroliya believes that if the fellowship had not furthered his education, he would never have been able to complete his doctorate. Like Chiroliya, many students have been left in the dark and forced to either borrow loans or leave their education midway through. “If I had been in this situation, I wouldn’t have been able to finish my PhD; not only is it unfair, but it also drives Muslims to illiteracy.” Chiroliya also added that while not many PhD students in the state, this move would make it impossible for economically disadvantaged persons from the minority community to receive an education at all.

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In addition to the argument that the cancellation is discriminatory in nature, Doctor Manish Doshi, Gujarat’s Congress spokesman, said the party strongly opposed the BJP government’s politically biased decision. “The BJP government has a record of robbing facilities by minorities. Instead of spending billions on their own advertising, they should be spending on the future of our country,” Doshi said.

“They are an exclusive government, they want to exclude minorities from their rights, further marginalizing minority communities,” he added.

Tarushi Aswani is a freelance journalist based in Delhi. She tweets to @tarushi_aswani.


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