The second pre-university (PU) examination in Karnataka was conducted between April and May this year amid the hijab controversy, especially in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts. Despite the raging controversy, Muslim girls passed the examinations with flying colours this year, according to teachers from government colleges in these two districts.
In fact, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi also topped other districts in the state when it came to the pass percentage this year by scoring 88.02% and 86.38%, respectively.
Although the education department did not clarify the number of students who did not appear for the exams owing to the hijab issue, girls on the other hand said they felt that being absent for just one examination for the sake of hijab would cost them a whole academic year.
Shekar Rai, principal of Shri Ramachandra PU College in Perne and who has worked as a teacher in Dakshina Kannada district for 15 years, said, “The hijab controversy hardly made any dent in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts. The high record of pass percentage in these two districts is a testament to the fact that students distanced themselves from communal conflicts. In our college, we advised girls not to make any statements about the controversy in public which will hamper their preparations for the exam. The students obliged.”
He added, “Dakshina Kannada students usually have a strong primary and secondary education compared to other districts that gives them a strong academic foundation and makes it easier for them while pursuing higher studies. Moreover, students here prefer to pursue science, engineering and want to get into the private sector.”
Another teacher from a college in Udupi, who did not wish to be named, said, “The girls showed that hijab and education are two different things and have realised which is more important to them. Girls in Udupi too complied with the uniform rules and are now returning to college. However, there are a handful of girls who are still adamant about wearing the hijab in class, but I am sure that over time the girls will realise.”
Ayisha Marzina (18), a science student in Dakshina Kannada who scored 90.5% in the II PU examination this year, felt removing the hijab was hardly a problem while appearing for the examination. “Although the hijab controversy was a cause of concern for the community, I did not let the problem reflect on my academic performance. My college did have the uniform rules but I was not ready to miss my exam, which is a rare opportunity, because of the hijab. My teachers were kind enough to allow us to wear the hijab on campus,” said Marzina who wants to pursue pharmacy studies.
Ilham from St Aloysius College in Mangalore, who scored 99.5% (597/600) in science and ranked fourth in the state, wants to pursue clinical psychology. Speaking about her preparations for the exam, Ilham said, “I used to study just three hours a day and took one subject at a time. It’s because of my teachers that I understood all the concepts in the class and did not worry about it at home. During my free time, I borrowed books from the library and spent a few hours reading them.”
Ilham, who will be pursuing clinical psychology in Yenepoya Medical College, adds, “I was initially angry about the hijab ban, but realised I would be moving out of the college in a month’s time. Moreover, the hijab controversy did not affect me much because it started at the time of the preparatory exams when we did not have regular classes. I, instead, focused on studies because it was a matter of 10-15 days and I could not afford to throw away the hard work I had done. We were asked to remove the hijab and I complied. My parents also supported me. It was all a matter of three hours without a hijab and it would not really hurt me so much.”
Meanwhile, Niyafa Mariyam and Raiza from Puttur, who scored 94.8% and 95% in arts and commerce, respectively, felt the hijab controversy was a “distraction”. Raiza, who wants to pursue her major in English, said, “Since I studied at a Muslim institution, I did not have any problem. However, looking at the developments in other colleges, it really hurt me and kept me distracted. It is really difficult to forgo a practice which we have been following for years.”
Mariyam, who wants to pursue law and who studied in a Muslim institution, said, “I have been interested in law since Class 10. As an aspiring law student, I felt really disappointed after reading the high court order on hijab. I was really worried if I would be allowed to write the exam with the hijab on, but my college allowed it.”