Nevertheless, in the words of one of the trustees of a longtime Marathi-medium school that had recently made the conversion to English medium, “The world is going so fast, but our own students are unable to catch the speed of the world. We are 100 years behind the speed of the world.” In many ways, this statement embodies the contradictions these community schools must grapple with. On the one hand, the interviewee evokes the drive to discipline and progress that fuels these schools, yet he also acknowledges the pace he must keep up with, and the metamorphoses that his organization and its students must bend to if they hope to succeed. Indeed, schools must now face a Cornelian dilemma: to maintain the diversity they sought to represent and celebrate the communities they were created to serve, or adapt their curriculum to reflect the more ‘universal’ possibilities of an English-medium school. For most schools, this decision has already been made, with many of the community schools choosing to conduct the vast majority of their classes in English. Seen as the language that will allow their students the best opportunities to become ‘world-class citizens’, the shift to English-medium can also become problematic since it contributes to a uniformization of these schools while also robbing them of some of the advantages they could provide by teaching classes in the ‘local’ language of the communities that had founded them. Yet in another way the introduction of English has also led to an opening up of the population of these establishments; in one of the Tamil schools I visited, the interviewee confessed that the Tamil Nadar caste, who had started the school for people of their community, were now almost absent and largely sent to study outside of Dharavi while it was Muslims who were now dominant.
The presence of Muslims in this school reflects a pattern of shifting demographics I could observe in many of the schools. Indeed, it seems that the rise of Muslims as a share of the student body is taking place, as well as the more recent creation by Muslims of their own schools. Such a trend can be a testament to a few social factors; different trustees and professionals discussed the changes in local mindsets that the presence of their community schools had helped to spur on. Muslims populations, who for long were plagued with exceedingly high dropout rates and carried an aversion to sending their children (and especially their girls) to school, are now beginning to shift their perspectives. Another notable point is that these Muslim schools were generally less than ten years old, much younger than other community schools that tended to be at least a few decades old. Gradually, they had started their own trusts, and were expanding to add more classes and courses to their programs while often maintaining strong community traditions (for example through the teaching of various Arabic classes). Here, it seems that these schools started by Muslim trusts are following a similar pattern as the older-generation of community schools in Dharavi as they use education as a catalyst for social cohesion.