Winds of change: A step forward
A Year-long Series on Education, Sponsored by The Aligarh Forum : - A Mirror on our Efforts, our Successes & our Shortcomings ; Stories of triumphs, tribulations and struggles of the Indian Muslims in improving their educational status, in illiteracy alleviation, and in their professional and social uplift.
By Bushra Razzack for TwoCircles.net
New Delhi: Great winds of change are sweeping across the historic Anglo Arabic School, Delhi. With the decision of the management to admit girls, a new chapter is being written in the annals of the school’s history.
Situated at Ajmeri Gate, the school was started in 1696 by Gazi- ud-din Khan Feroze Jung, a general of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Originally called Madrasa Ghaziuddin, this has been an all boys’ school since its inception.
With an illustrious list of alumni including Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the eminent educationist and the founder of Aligarh Muslim University; Liaqat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s first Prime Minister; Mirza M.N.Masood, an Indian hockey Olympian and politicians like Jagdish Tytler and Sikander Bakht, this has been a sought after school in the Walled City.
The historic Anglo-Arabic School made history by opening its doors to female students. [TCN Photo]
The thirty girls who took admission within the past week were felicitated by Najeeb Jung, Vice Chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia, at a function held in the University on Friday.
“You have become a part of a movement, a part of history” reiterated Jung, “by setting foot in a male domain.” Jung urged the girls to be passionate about their education as this is the only way to bring about a positive change in the community. “Success lies in your hands,” he said. “The input provided from schools is 30 percent while 70 percent contribution is from your side. It is how you make optimum utilization of the inputs provided that determines your success.”
“You have to break the glass ceiling and emerge. You have to take that extra step, make that extra sacrifice,” he added. “Your way is doubly difficult as the numbers are small. You may face stiff opposition from society but don’t let it daunt you,”
Jung is also chairman of the school and president of the Delhi Education Society.
With the novelty of girls in an all-boy’s school, Jung foresees discipline problems and is firm on this issue - Misbehavior towards the girls of any sort would be looked upon with zero tolerance. Proper decorum is to be maintained at all costs by male students and staff alike. No one, he said, should even speak to the girls in a raised voice. Will the overall discipline in the school then improve substantially? Is it expected that more ‘gentlemen’ will emerge?
The first female member of the staff, Faiza Nisar Ali also endorses this, stating that the boys are very rowdy and hopefully they will mellow substantially with the presence of females on the campus. Faiza, who is a Commerce Teacher said that the opposition to admitting girls was “Too much!” “It was a struggle against many odds,” she stated, relieved now at the mission accomplished.
“Here girls will rub shoulders with boys and give them competition and this will improve the academic standard of the school. To develop any community, it is essential to educate its members, boys and girls alike. This is a new beginning and we hope that this step taken by us will prove successful in every way.”
Faiza, who prepared the feasibility report on the basis of which the management took this decision, said she consulted extensively with parents, educationists, psychologists and male students also who seemed enthusiastic at the prospect of studying with girls.
“We hope they will come regularly to school thus reducing the absenteeism ratio.” Faiza also elaborated on the stiff opposition she faced from the staff when she was appointed as a teacher. “I can look back now with satisfaction at having completed six successful years. The resistance against admitting girls was somewhat expected. At present, there are a few members of the staff who are not ready to teach them. Over a period of time everyone will accept this change too,” she added .
Shahina Furqan, a teacher in the adjacent sister school, the Anglo Arabic Model School, has been zealous in her efforts to motivate girls and her untiring efforts have borne fruit. She has been instrumental in bringing in 22 out of the 30 girls admitted so far and many more are likely to join in the coming month. She spoke first to the girls who did not feel shy of studying with the boys. The parents, however, were concerned about security issues but once assured of their ward’s safety, gave the nod.
“All these families live in the walled city and have closed minds. They could not at first understand the need for girls to study at all and that too in a boys’ school. But alhamdullilah, after counseling them, they were prepared to accept change. This is a great achievement,” says Shahina proudly.
Not surprising, it is the mothers who are more enthusiastic than the fathers, many of them being school drop-outs. They see this move as their own dreams being fulfilled.
Prof. Azra Razzack, Secretary, Delhi Education Society under whose aegis this school runs, said that the non-availability of Science and Commerce streams in girls’ schools across the Walled City was the major factor in girls seeking admission here.
Darakshan Fatima, one of the first three students who secured admission, will always be grateful to her mother for the bold step she took. “The credit for my admission goes to my mother who gave me the strength to face all those who opposed us.” Darakshan, who was earlier studying in Rabea Girls School, is confident of facing boys. She has enrolled in grade XI (Commerce with Maths) along with Mehvish Rehmani. Her younger sister, Gulafshan, has been admitted to grade VII.
The credit of bringing about this change goes to Atyab Siddiqui, Manager of the school. The germ of the idea was sown when former President APJ Abdul Kalam proposed the matter when on a visit to the school two years ago.
Sixteen girls have already been enrolled in commerce in grade XI and VI in the Science stream. The management has taken a decision to give full financial support to the initial fifty needy students.
A separate washroom and space for a common room has already been earmarked. Siddiqui said they would advertise for a matron cum counselor to look after the needs of the girls. Also efforts are being made to recruit more female teachers.
Asked whether there would add more activities for girls, the Principal, Abrar Ahmed said that for SUPW(Socially Useful Productive Work) they already had Electronics, Computers, Drawing and Painting and if girls are interested in gardening, they could start this too. He added that with distance not being a deterrent, many students from Okhla too have expressed a desire to join, especially for science stream.
“A hostel for girls is also in the pipeline and we will look into this after a year,” said Siddiqui. “Word has spread like wildfire and girls from other cities are looking on this as a great opportunity,” he added enthusiastically.
The Vice Chancellor presented each student with a copy of Dr Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! a book outlining the journey of life and its challenges.
With enough support and motivation here, there’s no looking back for the girls now as they prepare to go full steam ahead and carve a niche for themselves in what had been, until a week ago, an all boys school for three and a half centuries.
Bushra Razzack is a writing & editing professional based in New Delhi.
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