Vidya Bharati : Thrashing (Mis)perception
Sarfaraz is not the only minority student who excelled at Vidya Bharati school in Assam. There are about 2 lakh more minority students who are studying in similar schools across the country
On June 1, 2016, the news about a Muslim student, Sarfaraz Hussain, studying in Vidya Bharati run Shankardev Shishu Niketan in Assam that he topped the High School Leaving Certificate (HSLC) exams, proved to be a big wonder for the media all over the country. The centre of discussion was not the high quality education imparted in the Vidya Bharati schools, but the number of Muslim students studying in these schools and scoring high. It caused an endless debate not only in the print and electronic media, but also in the social media.
Related Interview : ‘Value education makes us different’
Many questions emerged during the discussion. Is it for the first that the minority students excelled in Vidya Bharati schools? Whether the Muslim students and their parents hesitate to join these schools because the recitation of Saraswati Vandana, Vandemataram, various shlokas and also performing Suryanamaskar is compulsory there? Whether the Muslims do not want to impart their children value education rooted in Indian ethos? Whether the Muslim students face any discrimination in Vidya Bharati schools or they are now paid special attention? Fact is that, it is not for the first time that the Muslim students excelled in Vidya Bharati schools. It happens every year. Like other students, a good number of so-called minority students show outstanding performance, but the media do not note that.
Shankardev Shishu Niketan Betkuchi, Assam
Producing nationalists to the core
Shankardev Shishu Niketan Betkuchi is one of the 619 schools run by Vidya Bharati in Assam. Sarfaraz Hussain, who was in the news to be a topper in Assam, is from this school only. “My Muslim faith never came into my way of learning in this school, reciting Saraswati Vandana, singing patriotic songs, participating in Bal Sangams and playing games with Hindu students mostly popular in RSS Shakhas,” he says.
He says once in school campus or outside with a group of my fellow students, most whom are Hindus, I never felt that I am alone or something else or I am a student belonging other than Hindu community. We all ate together, played together, studied together, slept together during functions. Not only me, my elder sister Semin Begum who is now doing degree course in most reputed Cotton College Guwahati had also passed HSLC from this school. She also did not face any problem.
“During my schooling in Shankardev Shishu Niketan, there were more than 25 Muslim students, 6 of whom were Muslim girls. None of them faced any problem, some of the Muslim girl students were good singers of Saraswati Vandana, National antehm, Vande Mataram and patriotic as well as devotional songs in Hindi and Assamese. I never felt that I am a Muslim and others are something else,” adds Sarfaraz.
Shri Ajmal Hussain, father of Sarfaraz, says he admitted his son in the Vidya Bharati school because it is one of the best schools in the area not only in providing good academic results but also producing obedient, disciplined and motivated hardworking students. “The school promotes the social harmony and mutual trust. The school fee is also affordable.” He pointed out that Shankardev Shishu Neketans are also in many other Muslim majority areas like Nalbari, Naogaon etc where Muslim students are 30 to 40 per cent and at some places they are 50 per cent, but they do not find any problem. —Jagdamba Mall
According to Vidya Bharati national secretary Shri Shivkumar, more than two lakh minority students including about 1.65 lakh Muslim students, study in different Vidya Bharati schools across the country. But while enrolling them in the schools, it never thinks of majority or minority. “All children of India are our own. Our prime objective is how to make them good citizens,” adds Shri Shivkumar.
Nurturing to be the responsible citizen
“We, as a family, visit temples too,” says bubbling Yasmin, a final year student of Dr. Nalli Kuppuswamy Vivekananda Vidyalaya Junior College, Korattur. Studied in a different school till 5th standard, Yasmin joined her 6th class attracted by discipline and education. Aiming to become lawyer, she likes all whatever taught in the school. ‘Discipline, education, culture, caring, is very useful for my career. I enjoy pooja performed in the School. I felt great when I was also part of social service rendered by the School during recent floods”. “The school has nurtured me a responsible person. I will support my school by possible means in future also,” says Yasmin on her future contribution to the society and school.
“I should have done some ‘punya’ to be in this school” says Ashfaqur Rahman, a 10th class student. Studying from LKG, he says my lifestyle changed being a student of this school. I used to behave in an undisciplined manner at home and with others. But the way I was taught here has changed my lifestyle. I gained a lot from this school–discipline, helping each other, caring, unselfishness etc”. When his family shifted to Royapuram about 17 kms away from the School area, Ashfaqur was adamant to continue in the same school. ‘I travel daily in train to reach the School. I feel good. Will do good to the society’ he says.
Shri Alexander, father of Aakash Nova is attracted by discipline, sports and the teaching methods. He feels after studying in the school the children will be good citizens when they grew. –Rama Devi, Chennai
Since 1952 when the first Saraswati Shishu Mandir was started in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, by Nanaji Deshmukh, Vidya Bharati has emerged as the largest non-governmental education institution in the country with 12,364 formal schools including primary, middle, high school and higher secondary, 32,06,212 students and 1,35,500 teachers.
Saraswathi Vidyanikethan Public School, Kochi
Saraswathi Vidyanikethan Public School, affiliated to Bharatheeya Vidya Nikethan, the Kerala Chapter of Vidya Bharati, is one of the most sought after schools in Kochi. It stands within the premises of RSS Pranth Karyalaya.
Nibin George, son of George, class 12 Computer Science student, studies in the school since LKG. His parents selected the school due to culture-based education and moral values. Nibin believes that students get training in practising moral values, something the new gen lacks. They get a culture, which does not have a place for the old age home in it. Activities like the Matrupooja, Gurupooja, Olympiads, several sorts of examinations in mathematics, science club and biology lab attract Nibin the most. Shri Binu George and Smt Jini George, Nibin’s parents, feel the school shapes the future of the children properly. Their son participates in Gita competition, etc. Since the discipline of the school is exemplary and the children get training how to behave with others, they will be responsible to the society.
Reshma Maria Sabu, Class 12 Commerce, also is in the School since LKG. She feels yoga, pranayama and suryanamaskar improve the memory power. Reading Week, Quiz competitions, World Environment Day, Worship of Trees in the school premises, Gurupooja, Mathrupooja attract her the most. She also likes the system of Sevanidhi collection and involvement in sewa activities. Sri Sabu Idicula, father of Reshma Maria Idicula, selected the school for his friend’s advice. What attracted him the most was the Sanskrit, Yoga and pure vegetarianism.
Alisha Khatoon who is a Class 12 Commerce student says students get training how to live a meaningful life and how to a step forward. Teachers give wholehearted encouragements. Celebrations of Thiruvathira, mono act, Gita chanting and competitions in elocutions, recitations and tableau, contribute towards the personality development.
Mohammed Siraj, father of Alisha selected this school because of the rich cultural background because the students from all over the country study here. Alisha’s elder brother Mohammaed Javed was the topper in Class 12 Commerce in the same school. The school also creates social awareness among the students. Study tours also help the students to be aware of their social responsibility. —T. Satisan, Kochi
What attracts the Muslim students and their parents towards these schools is not the huge and glittering infrastructure but the most modern quality education rooted in Indian ethos. Out of total 7,98,220 students studying in 2,628 schools of Vidya Bharati in Uttar Pradesh, 19,292 are Muslims. There are many Vidya Bharati schools in the country, including Assam, where the number of Muslim students is 30 to 50 per cent, and they never face any problem. “This is one of the best schools in our area which not only provides good academic results, but also produces obedient, disciplined hardworking students. It also promotes social harmony and mutual trust,” says Ajmal Hussain, father of Sarfaraz when asked why he put his son to Vidya Bharati run Shankardev Shishu Niketan. (see page 39 for details)
Baleram Brijbhushan Saraswati Vidya Mandir, Shastri Nagar, Meerut
‘Achchhi Taleem, Achchhe Samskars’
He hans-vahini, gyan-dayini, amb vimal mati de…
Luv-Kush-Dhruv-Prahlad bane ham
manavata ka tras hare ham…
(O enlightening mother, astride a swan, bestow us with unstained wisdom… Let us become Luv-Kush-Dhruv-Prahlad to obliterate the sorrows of mankind…). His mellifluous voice filled the entire room as Labrez Saifi, a student of class 9, sang soulfully the Saraswati prayer in Baleram Brijbhushan Saraswati Vidya Mandir, Shastri Nagar, Meerut. He has been studying in the school since class 6. He forms part of a group of 150-odd Muslim students now taking education here where the total strength stands at about 2650.
Three other Muslim students—Shadab Ali, Mohammad Junaid Saifi and Adam Meer, all from class 10, chanted Vande Mataram, Gayatri Mantra and also the Bhojan Mantra with aplomb. On being asked if their parents knew of all this and if they show displeasure about Sanskrit mantras, all of them flatly deny. Taking the cell numbers of the parents of these students, I talked to them.
Iqbal Ali, father of Shadab Ali, is all praise for the standard of education as also the samskars imparted in the Vidya Mandir. He says had he known about the school a couple of years earlier, he would have sent his elder child too here. He says Shadab has become a well-disciplined boy, behaving properly with elder and younger ones alike. He does not loiter aimlessly like other street urchins, and keeps himself busy with the home-work assigned by the school. On being specifically asked whether Sanskrit mantras and Vande Mataram etc. that he has memorised and sings annoy him, he counter-questions me why this should be so. I have no objection whatsoever, he says.
Like Ali, Shri Gayasuddin Saifi, father of Mohd. Junaid Saifi and Shri Ameeruddin, father of Adam Meer, both have all praise for the taleem (education), discipline and samskars imparted in Vidya Mandir. Ameeruddin says he would send his two younger children also to Vidya Mandir when they grow up. He praise whole-heartedly the Vidya Mandir teachers who labour hard to provide education to all students without discrimination. –Ajay Mittal, Meerut
Anguished over the flood of questions asked by mediamen about his experience of studying in the Vidya Bharati School, Sarfaraz says, “I studied in this school from nursery to 10th standard. But I never experienced such an embarrassment as of today because nobody in the school, neither any of the Acharya nor the students—Hindus or Muslims, nor any of the RSS Adhikari made me feel at any point of time that I am not a Hindu or I am a Muslim.”
Rajkamal Sarashwati Vidya Mandir
A week after admission in Rajkamal Sarashwati Vidya Mandir (RSVM) at Dhanbad, affiliated with the Vidya Bharti, worried Imtiyaz Ahmed asked his son Faizan Ali his experience about the school and its environment.
“Amazing… it looked like my second home where I feel protected among my brothers and sisters and teachers. I should have been in this school from childhood,” Ali told his father. However, some of his community members had initially questioned the decision of seeking admission in the RSS affiliated school. But after Faizan secured position in top ten ranks in Jharkhand in 2016 for class XII examination conducted by CBSE, his critics disappeared. He secured 95.6 % marks. “What my son is today just because of this school. Teachers are very dedicated and they never discriminated my son on religious ground. I never felt RSS anti minority as far as their dedication for children are concerned,” said Imtiyaz.
Ask Abdul Hafiz a class mate of Faizan who secured 95 % marks in XII examination in science and found place in state topper list. “Unlike other schools I found level of discipline very high. School gave me a right direction. Your seniors even peon and gardener are like your guardian and they personal care. Being Muslim they never forced me in to morning prayer,” Hafiz said. Hafiz’s father Akthar Ansari has further reasons to state. “RSS running this school never has been any reason for me. In fact, I never cared for that. My daughter Sajia was student here. I opted for this school because it teaches Indian values which is fast declining. After all character building is very important,” he said.
Arfa Jabeen of this school got fifth rank in the state topper list in XII (Science). “I had been facing economic hardship when I admitted my daughter Arfa at this school. However, few other schools offered free education even a minority one but I refused that. Future of children was my priority not free education. As a follower of Islam I always adhere to proper dress sense in accordance with Indian society that RSS schools follow. I am thankful to school as it trained my children as a disciplined citizen. This year many minority parents admitted their children at these school once I convinced them,” Arfa’s father Jawaid Ahsan.
Pseudo seculars will surely fear to tread at these schools.
—Abha Bharti, Ranchi
Sarfaraz is not an exception. Equally talented students are in many other schools also. Janishar Ansari belongs to Haffua in Ranchi and studies at Saraswati Shishu Vidya Mandir, Patratu. He became a hero in Jharkhand on June 5 when he scored full 10 cumulative grade point average (CGPA) in CBSE board exams. “The emphasis in this school is more on gaining knowledge than attaining degrees,” says Ansari. Not only Ansari, Faizan Ali studying at Rajkamal Saraswati Vidya Mandir, Dhanbad, scored 95.6 per cent marks in 12th. When Faizan was admitted in this school several years ago by his father Imtiyaz Ahmed, some of his community members had questioned him about this decision. But after Faizan secured position in top ten ranks in Jharkhand, all critics disappeared. (See page 41 for details)
Saraswati Vidya Mandir, Munger, Bihar
All round development fascinates
“Saraswati Vidya Mandir provides the opportunity of all round development, which is must to score high in individual life and also to contribute fullest in the nation building,” says Mohd Saif Alam, the 10th standard student of Saraswati Vidya Mandir in Munger, Bihar. A good Kabaddi player, Saif has been studying in this school for the last seven years. He had his primary education in the Saraswati Shishu Mandir.
Mohd Faizan Ahmed who studies in Saraswati Vidya Mandir, Kudra, enjoys the smart classes in the school. Having deep interest in science he wants to join IIT after completing 12th standard. Not only the students but the teachers also feel themselves satisfied in the Vidya Bharati schools. Ruby Khatoon who teaches at Saraswati Vidya Mandir, Phulwari Sharif, Patna, finds satisfaction in teaching at the school. Shri Jabbar Ali admitted his daughter Muskan Khatoon in Saraswati Vidya Mandir, Shastri Nagar, keeping in view the good samskars imparted in the school.
—Sanjeev Kumar, Patna
Not only in remote areas of Jharkhand, but in the national capital Delhi too a good number of Muslim students study in Vidya Bharati schools. Sahil, travels about 20 km from Badarpur to Nehru Nagar to attend the school at GLT Saraswati Bal Mandir Senior Secondary School. “I do not get the quality education anywhere else that I get here,” says Shahil studying in 12th standard. About 100 Muslim students study in this school and they come from posh Muslim localities like Jamia Nagar, Abul Fazal Enclave, Okhla, etc.
Saraswati Vidya Mandir Intermediate College, Pratapgarh, UP
Both Career & Character Together
Saraswati Vidya Mandir Intermediate College at Lalganj Ajhara of Pratapgarh District in Uttar Pradesh has 67 Muslim students. Babar Ali Rizvi from this school had topped High School in 2006, while Mohd Asif was topper in 12th in 2014.
Akram Khan is impressed with the teaching quality, discipline, news-reading session, prayer assembly and eating together without any distinction of caste, creed and religion. “We never feel that we are despised in any way just because we are Muslims. We are intermingled with the rest,” says Mohd Sufiyan. Asma Nisha feels lucky to be in the school because that is the best school of that area. When asked whether she knows that Vidya Bharati is an RSS associate institution, she just laughed the question away, but Sufiyan could not resist himself saying that “Aap to TV vale patrakaron ki tarah sawal kar rahe hain. Ve bhi aise hi ulte seedhe sawal karte hain.”
Khursheed Alam, whose son Farhan Alam studies in class 9th, is confident that his son would emerge successful in his life. Nanhe Khan, who runs a juice centre in the nearby market, admited all his three sons – Sahil, Shorab and Shahid in the same school. He shifted to Lalganj Ajhara from his far off village just to enroll his sons in the school. Ghulam Rasool, a shop owner, feels his children get both ‘Shiksha and Sanskar’ in Saraswati Vidya Mandir. Jaamid Khan is himself a teacher in private school but he does not take his son to that school. Instead, he feels proud that his son is studying in the Saraswati Vidya Mandir.
—Dr Shakti Kumar Pandey
Iqbal Ali, the father of Shadab Ali who studies in 10th standard at Baleram Brijbhushan Saraswati Vidya Mandir, Shastri Nagar, Meerut, and travels about 18 km everyday to reach the school, is all praise for the standard of education as also the samskars imparted in the Vidya Mandir. He says had he known about the school a couple of years earlier, he would have sent his elder child too here.”
Saraswati Shishu Mandir High School, Karimnagar, Telangana
Personality Development the Prime Attraction
Shoukat Ali, a driver in the Fire Service, admitted his daughters, Harishma and Karishma, in the Shishu Mandir School on the advice of his nephew who is a teacher. What he likes most about the school is the discipline inculcated there and the cultural activities in the school. Both of his daughters played the role of Lav and Kush, the twin sons of Sri Ram.
He says there were some murmurs over his daughters playing this role from some religious elders of the locality, but he firmly believes that it helped them in their personality development. It is a tough task to create and preserve an environment of discipline but the schools performed well on this front. He says culture consists of values and beliefs that influence practices. He supports the education that aligns with and includes the cultural identity.
Kaza Pasha, an auto-rickshaw driver in Godavari Khani, admitted his three children—Shahista Parveen (10), Khalid Pasha, (8) and Farooq Pasha (6) in Saraswati Shishu Mandir, because the quality of education is good here. Beyond curriculum, he says, physical education also motivates the children.
He has a word of appreciation for the Headmaster Sreedhar who interacts with them by visiting personally and sharing their children's progress at the school. Our concern for education is better understood at the Shishu Mandir, he added. —Nagaraj Rao, Hyderabad
The experience shared by the students studying in Vidya Bharati schools and also their parents is sufficient to clear the misperceptions created by the pseudo secularists and also the section of media dominated by the same mindset. Vidya Bharati is today the world’s largest non-governmental educational institution because of the quality education imparted in its schools even in remote areas through the dedicated team of teachers.