Educational backwardness is a key factor responsible for the social cultural economic and political backwardness of the Muslim community in Bihar. Very few authentic studies are available on this subject. No serious effort has ever been made to know the actual condition of the community.
Despite many central and state government sponsored educational schemes for minorities, only 36% Muslims are literate in the state of Bihar.
According to the 1991 census, the Muslim population in Bihar was 101.19 lakhs which formed 15.7% of the total state population. This constitutes 10% of the country's total Muslim Population. During 1991-2001, the population of Bihar had grown by 28.4% and Muslim population slightly higher i.e 29% which constitute about 130 lakh plus which is 16% of the total population of the state. 84.5% of Muslim population lives in rural areas and 15.5% in urban areas. There are nine divisions in Bihar. The largest number of Muslim population is found in Purnea Division -26.76 1akh, followed by Tirhut Division- 21.5 lakh, Darbhanga Division- 13.01 lakh, Saran Division- 9.07 1akh, Patna Division 8.98 lakh, Magadh Division- 6.95 lakh, Munger Division- 5.68 lakh, Kosi Division- 4.80 lakh and Bhagalpur Division- 4.44 lakh. Out of 37 districts of the state, there are 14 districts, which have high Muslim - concentration ranging from more than three lakh to over seven lakh. The district with relatively higher Muslim concentration are all in the north Bihar. As a matter of fact, all the Muslim groups in the state are backward. According to census 2001, the literacy rate of all the 37 districts are as follows: Patna 63.82%, Rohtas 62.36%, Munger 60.11%, Bhojpur 59.71% Aurangabad 57.50%, Buxer 57.49% Jahanabad 56.03%, Kaimur 53.64%, Nalanda 53.64%. Saran 52.01%, Siawn 52.01% Vaishali 51.63%, Gaya 51.07%, Bhaglapur 50.28 %, Sheikhpura 49.01% Begusarai 48.55%, Lakhisarai 48.21%, Gopalganj 48.19%, Muzaffarpur 48.15% Nawada 47.36%, Samastipur 45.76%, Darbhanga 44.32%. Banka 43.40%, Jamui 42.74%, Madhubani 42.35%, Khagaria 41.56%, West Champaran 39.63%, Sitamarhi 39.38%, Saharsa 39.28%, East Champaran 38.14%, Supaul 37.8%, Sheohar 37.01%, Madhepura 36.19%, Purnea 35-51%, Katihar 35.29%, Ararai 34.34% and Kishaganj 31.02%. The literacy rate among Muslims is far less than the general literacy rate. According to a household survey conducted by the Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI) Patna, for the literacy rate among Muslims, the outcome was as follows: Patna 43.1%, Raohtas 41.9% Munger 53%, Kishangnaj 24% and Katihar 28.9%.
One thing that is clear from these figures is that the literacy rate in the high concentration Muslim areas is far less than the national average and it is less than the state average also. Despite many central and state government sponsored educational schemes for minorities, the number of illiterates among Muslims are as high as 64%. Primary to Higher Secondary 33.6%, in Higher education graduation, post graduation and Technical, the combined figure is 2.4%. It means only 36% Muslims are literate in the state of Bihar. As per census report 2001 literacy rate for Muslim is 38% and 44.4% among general population.
There are some other interesting statistics available about the type of educational institutions and presently school/college going students in the state of Bihar. 51.1 students opt for government institutions in rural areas and 53.9% in urban areas. 2% students opt for expensive private institution in rural areas and 7.6% in urban areas. 15.7% go to ordinary private institutions in rural areas and 24.6% in urban areas. Only 4.1% students study in minority schools in rural areas and 3.2% in urban areas. 24.1% of rural students and 9.0% of urban students go to Madrasa.
The educational facilities and standard of education in Urdu/ Hindi medium schools are far less in comparison to English medium institutions, which is reflected in the low level of performance of students of these institution in general education as well as other competitive examinations. Thus the problem of education is manifold- High mass illiteracy, low standard of education and low level of performance.
We have to tackle all these problems simultaneously, for which we need to adopt a multi-pronged policy to meet this challenge.
(* The writer is former vice-chairman Bihar Intermediate Education Council and a senior principal in B.R.A. Bihar University-Muzaffarpur)