Poverty, early marriage and higher rate of illiteracy are creating hurdles for Muslim girls to go to college for higher education in this Muslim-dominated town.
Having about 1-lakh Muslims, Malerkotla is the only Muslim-dominated town of the state, but the number of Muslim girl students in the colleges of the town was not according to the population.
As per the information collected by the Hindustan Times, there are barely 700 Muslim girl students in the three colleges of the town including 81 in the Government College, 270 in Islamia College for Women and 325 in KMRD Jain College.
Though, the Islamia College is considered a Muslim institution, but the KMRD Jain College is the first choice of Muslim girls. The educated parents allow their girls to go to this college not because the college offers good courses, but because the college is located in the middle of the town and considered safe for girls.
Girl students hesitate to tell the reason behind the low number of Muslim girls in colleges, but vice-principal of Islamia college Rubina Rawat said, "Illiteracy of parents, early marriage of girls and, most importantly, poverty are the key factors behind the poor number of girl students in the colleges of this town."
"We have talked to parents of several students, they don't want to teach their girls because they don't have enough resources of income and they say that they cannot spend their hard-earned money on the education of girls, who will leave them after marriage," she said, adding, "Early marriage is another factor in Muslim community as most of the girls get married after Class-10 and +2. 10% girls in our college are married, they are lucky as they could convince their husbands to continue their study"
"My parents allowed me to complete my graduation in the Jain college, because this is considered safe for girls," said Runa, BCom II student, "but I am worried about postgraduation as this college does not provide M Com, and my parents will not allow me to go outside the town."
Another Muslim girl, who did not wish to be named, said, "There are some restrictions on us, but we are very much aware about the concerns of our parents, who are providing us all facilities to continue our studies."
The number of Muslim girls in the Government College, which is one of the oldest colleges of the state, has fallen to 81 from 134 in the 2013-14 academic session and MA (Urdu) is the first choice of Muslim students as all 30 seats in MA-I (Urdu) have been occupied by the Muslim girls and boys equally. Interestingly, out of a total of 28 students in MA-II, 26 are Muslim girls.