On ground, one verdict: Education key, classes, exams trump hijab ban – The Indian Express

In the split verdict on the hijab ban in Karnataka’s Pre-University Colleges (Class 11 and 12), Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia said that while deciding the case, the key issue for him centered around the fact that a girl faces “a lot of difficulties” in her education and by denying her that opportunity (via the hijab-ban order), “are we making her life any better”?
As the controversy played out in the courts, and on the campuses in Karnataka, the weight of Justice Dhulia’s remarks — and the premium that the community places on the education of its girls — are borne out by two key trends: the increasing presence of Muslim women in higher education and evidence that only a tiny segment decided to forgo education over the government order banning hijab in schools.
In Karnataka, the Gross Attendance Ratio (GAR) of Muslim women in higher education has seen a steady rise – from 1.1 per cent in 2007-08 to 15.8 per cent in 2017-18, according to unit-level data analysis of the National Sample Survey rounds 64 and 75 by Khalid Khan of the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies. Across India, the corresponding rise was from 6.7 per cent to 13.5 per cent.
Two, apart from the five petitioners against the state government order, no Muslim girl student in PUC classes has so far dropped out or applied for a transfer certificate in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts, where the issue first flared up in February.
All of them, according to the deputy directors of the PU (Pre-University) Board of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi, appeared in the final exam held in April 2022.
At the college level, however, at least 110 students have so far approached Mangalore University seeking a transfer certificate (TC), of whom 10 are confirmed to have taken admissions elsewhere, senior officials told The Indian Express, adding that authorities have been instructed to issue transfer certificates without any delay to prevent dropouts.
In May, as colleges affiliated to Mangalore University began enforcing the February 5 no-hijab order of the state government on uniforms, P Subrahmanya Yadapadithaya, Vice Chancellor of Mangalore University, announced that Muslim girls can obtain TC and seek admission in colleges where the hijab is allowed.
Yadapadithaya had said, “I am ready to tweak the rules so that the education of Muslim girl students is not hampered. If the students are not ready to follow the rules and wish to shift to other colleges where hijab is allowed, we will make arrangements to issue transfer certificates without any delay as there is a provision for transfer of admissions. We will change the rules and consider it a special case if the intake is full in the college of students’ choice. We will waive the fees for students who decide to join other colleges. If the students are not ready to follow the rules or move out of the University College, we will make arrangements to conduct online classes for them.”
According to Kishore Kumar, Registrar of Mangalore University, of the approximately 900 Muslim girls in colleges affiliated to the university, 110 Muslim students sought TC following the VC’s announcement. Of these, 10 have confirmed their admission in colleges elsewhere.
The remaining 100, he said, are yet to seek admission in the 2022-23 academic session.
Speaking to The Indian Express, V-C Yadapadithaya said, “Despite repeated requests, the girls were not convinced. Hence, they sought TC and we approved them. However, the problem lies in cases where some girls were not able to find the academic course appropriate for them. Hence, they may have been forced to change their course or may even drop a year to find an appropriate college.”
Officials at Mangalore University said the university had sent out Google forms to colleges where the girls had sought transfer to help them track their admission status.
“The objective was to assess the number of girls who have confirmed their admissions in different colleges after taking the TC. We have so far received the forms from only 10 colleges, which means that only 10 of the 110 have confirmed their admission,” said Registrar Kumar.
A family member of one of the petitioners who moved the Supreme Court said, “She is disturbed that she had to drop a year because of the hijab controversy. She has not completed her II PU (Class 12) yet and will take up a private exam in 2023. She is being assisted by her elder cousin who is tutoring her.”
A second year BSc student from University College, Mangalore, who sought TC, has now confirmed her admission in PA College of Engineering in Mangalore. However, she has had to choose biotechnology engineering. “I really miss my college and friends. Although I was a second-year BSc student at University College, Mangalore, I will have to start from my first year,” she said.
The ban on hijab was enforced through a February 5 order of the Karnataka government, saying that headscarves are not part of uniforms compulsory for educational institutions. The order was invoked under Section 133(2) of the Karnataka Education Act, 1983.
The Karnataka HC had in March upheld the government order, ruling that such curbs under norms for college uniforms are “constitutionally permissible”.
Udupi and Dakshina Kannada, which has Mangaluru as its district headquarters, are adjoining districts in the state’s coastal belt. Around 23 colleges in Udupi are affiliated to Mangalore University.
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