Education of minorities
The stoppage of Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) for minority students last year has raised concern among the minorities that it will fetter the the educational growth of students and will halt their entry into higher degrees – MPhil and PhD. Though continuation of MANF would have added sophistication in the higher education for minority students, but its stoppage will and should not impact the process of seeking education. There are schemes like MOMA (Ministry of Minority Affairs) or JRF (Junior Research Fellowship) that would support the education of thousands of students in India throughout their educational journey. The schemes like MOMA, pre-Matric and post-Matric scholarships remain in place and will continue to support education of minorities. Educational fellowships are an economic incentive for better standardised output. These are instituted to ward off fellows from economic constrains and liabilities that would otherwise hamper quality of education. However, such schemes have no permanency, meaning that with or without these fellowships, minorities will have to manage their education and secure incentives like JRF for their higher education.
In the absence MANF scholarship, pre-Matric, post-Matric and Merit cum Means based scholarship schemes for students belonging to six notified minority communities – Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jain and Parsi (Zoroastrian) will continue to benefit millions of students. It is estimated that Rs. 3.3 croreshave been disbursed for minority students from 2016 to 2021 and for Muslims alone, Rs. 2.3 crores have been awarded. Between 2016 and 2021, the ministry of minority affairs distributed about Rs. 9,904 crores in scholarships across four scholarship programmes that assist qualified students from pre and post-Matriculation education up to the PhD level as well as in technical and professional education.
These scholarships are a motivating force for students from under-represented groups to enrol in schools, colleges and institutions of higher education. It further provides the ground work for minority youth’s success and gives them an advantage in the job market. It highlights the consistency of efforts and interventions of the government in process of upliftment of the marginalised section including people of far flung areas. As already pointed out that all the schemes and scholarships have no permanency as was proved by the stoppage of MANF. Therefore, schemes or no schemes, minorities will have to strive in pursuit of higher education defying all demotivating narratives. Such narratives are generated to create division and mistrust that in no way is good for society’s health.
While there exist some schemes that help minorities to pursue higher education, they should take full benefit of such schemes. However, at the same time, understanding the impermanence of such schemes, seeking education should be their main goal as in today’s world, education is the only means to ensure a better and prosperous future and minorities need it much more.