I also quote in this context from the document titled “2006 West Bengal Assembly Elections & Minorities”, brought out by the Association of Indian Minorities.
The Muslim community considers education to be very important for girls and boys. However, given the experience of poor Muslims of a bias in the labour market there has been a tendency for boys to become disinterested in further education after primary education. Hence initiation of appropriate vocational training which enable self-employment would significantly counter-act the disincentive to seeking education. This is an important issue for immediate action.
The current minimum age of marriage of Muslim girls is 14 years. In most cases, Muslim girls are married off by the age of 16. This often results in withdrawal of the girls from schooling. Besides concern for the sound health of mothers and their children, the incidence of desertion of such young married girls is not insignificant. Left alone to fend for themselves and their infants, and lacking in adequate education or marketable skills, these girls must face a harsh existence. Increasing the age of marriage of girls through legislation based on dialogue with community elders and leaders is essential.
Similarly, creating opportunities for Muslim women’s employment and self-employment would have an immense transformative effect on the current situation.
The need of the hour is the opening of primary schools in the localities where there are large numbers of Muslims living and working. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (Education for All Campaign), whose implementation continues to be a travesty in this state, must be thoroughly overhauled and used as a powerful means to reach out basic education to all.