Maulana Azad and Education in India

“Education is the powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Anti-apartheid revolutionary and former South African president Nelson Mandela.

SM Fasiullah for BeyondHeadlines

Education is a magic wand that can help human beings meet any challenge in life. It is essential to sustainable development. Education is as necessary as food for us. It can not only get us jobs and status in the society, but also enables us to shape our future and make the world a sustainable place for everyone.

In India, there’s one man who first set a well-thought goal for education after independence from cunning colonial rule: “Free education for all”. People remember him as Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.

Every year, Indians celebrate National Education Day on 11 November marking his birth anniversary. He was India’s first Education Minister. He earns respect from Indians for laying foundation for India’s education future. The Government of India first declared 11 November as “National Education Day in 2008, honoring Maulana Azad.

He was notable among many Muslim freedom fighters who joined hands with Mahatma Gandhi in India’s Freedom Movement. Being Education Minister, Maulana Azad dreamt of an India where all Indians would be educated.

He is called Maulana in reverence for his abilities and extensive knowledge, both contemporary and Islam. Perhaps, the very first verse of Holy Qur’an “Read: In the name of thy Lord…” has inspired him to study hard and become exemplary figure in Indian history. He receives rich tributes every year from students, teachers, academicians, politicians, and in fact every citizen. His life is a symbol of pluralism and religious tolerance in the country.

In his maiden press conference in independent India, Azad said: “A truly liberal and humanitarian education may transform the outlook of the people and set it on the path of progress and prosperity, while an ill-conceived or unscientific system might destroy all the hopes which have been cherished by generations of pioneers in the cause of national struggle.”

Today, India’s national education system follows the highest ideal of Mahatma Gandhi: “Education for All”, which is further emphasized by eminent educationist Maulana Azad who said that education must be imparted by heart.

In an event at MANUU in 2012, former Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal praised Maulana Azad and said that the farsightedness of eminent educationist Azad’s ideas of human and cultural values of education mirrored in the four clear-cut aims of education identified in an International Commission on Education of UNESCO for the 21st century.

Today, we have right to education (RTE) and free primary education. Thanks to our visionary leaders who foresaw the need for it. The RTE Act was passed in Dr. Manmohan Singh’s government.

Right to Education:

Passed in 2009, the RTE Act specify that private schools reserve 25% of seats at the entry level for children belonging to ‘weaker sections’ and ‘disadvantaged groups’ of the society. This may not be the best push to ensure educational opportunities for children from weaker sections, but it has come as a major initiative from the government for welfare of downtrodden. This act is a progressive piece of legislation, which could help in taking education to the masses.

Dr. Singh once admitted that elementary education was not free when he was a school kid, and there was no fundamental right to education. Despite those conditions, the education he received being a child helped him realize his aspirations. He noted: “This is why I believe that education can help us realize our aspirations.” Thanks to many education welfare schemes, now we are in a better position to stay competent. There are plenty of opportunities for those who strive for education.

Also, education is magical as it helps us in rediscovering ourselves. Many people have become prominent figures in India after pursuing their education despite unfavorable conditions in their lives. Dr. APJ Abul Kalam, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Dr. Manmohan Singh are a few names. Dr. Singh once confessed: “I owe to education, everything that I have achieved in the journey of my life.”

Students Imitate Azad at Insight

Inspired by great leader Abul Kalam Azad, students at Insight International School in Hyderabad dressed like Azad to celebrate his birthday today. They also delivered speeches recalling noble thoughts of Maulana Azad. A Grad VII student, Areeb Hisham muttered: “Education imparted by heart can bring revolution in the society.”

Islam inspired Bedouin to learn. These Arab tribals, who were once uncivilized, laid foundations for many fields in education, philosophy, medical science, and other social sciences as well. Talking about it, a Grade VI student Khaja Moin Abdullah spoke in today’s speech: “Islam fosters scientific inquiry, open learning circles, use of community resources, peer view, problem solving approaches, storytelling, and free education.”

Weaker sections of the society are always at receiving end when it comes to benefits utilization. In some cases, they are being sidelined or ignored by well-off people and ruling classes. Schools in remote areas, slums, and rural areas are not in good conditions. They are relatively unsafe for children. “It is necessary to build and promote safer schools in disadvantaged communities,” says Shaik Sana of Grade VII.

While India is prospering on various fronts, it also has few inherent problems. May it be corruption or system bias, one needs strong will and courage to challenge and change the fate of the nation. For that better education is of paramount importance. “Climbing to the top demands strength, whether it is to the top of the Mount Everest or to the top of your career,” opined a tender soul Syed Raaid Azzam Hussaini of Grade IV.

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