Huff Post: by Brianna Sacks —
MUMBAI, INDIA– The bell rings, and nearly 700 Muslim students pour fromAnjuman-I-Islam school’s worn, stone buildings onto a dusty quad. Their plain, blue-and-white, government-sponsored uniforms mask the reality that 97 percent of these secondary school students come from ghettos, slums and illiterate families. Despite the energetic chatter and overflowing classrooms, most of these students’ education will stop before they turn 15.
Muslims make up almost 14 percent of India’s vast population, yet remain the country’s most disadvantaged minority and religious group. They rank lowest in literacy, more live in slums than any other group and less than 1 percent hold public sector and government jobs.
“The separatism of Muslims gives them a lack of choice that makes them stay together in concentrated ghettos where there are not many state-sponsored schools,” explained Irfan Engineer, director of the Center for Study of Society and Secularism. “Muslims just aren’t in schools, comparatively.”
Statistics paint a dim picture, predicting that like most Muslims students in India, 40 percent of Anjuman’s students won’t make it past grade nine, the highest drop out rate of all religious and minority groups in India.
“That’s the age when their parents pull them to make money, or they see friends making 200 rupees a day and they think that’s great,” said Anjuman-I-Islam Director Sabina Zaveri. “But I tell them they can never make more than that once they drop out.”
Two hundred rupees add up to about three U.S. dollars.
India is a secular country, but religious beliefs draw deep political lines. In a Hindu-dominated nation, Muslims have endured a riotous, bloody history that, according to a slew of reports, continues to leave a dark mark on India’s classrooms. Poverty, communalism and segregation hinder Indian-Muslims’ educational trajectory, including infrastructure and achievement.