Ashraful Madaris – An Urdu medium school fighting for survival

By Nikhat Fatima,

Building character and integrity and not just building careers is what the teachers strive for, in this 110-year-old school ‘Ashraful Madaris’ located in Yakutpura, one of the oldest localities of the historic city of Hyderabad.

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Founded in 1918 by Janab Ashraf Ali, who came to Hyderabad from northern part of India, in search of employment in the Nizam Government, the school enrolled only boys and ran in Urdu gali, Troop Bazar. Being educated himself he felt the need to educate the children of Hyderabad state.

The school then shifted to a bigger place as the strength increased till finally Janab Ashraf Ali acquired own land and own building in Yakutpura.

The school, registered and running through a society now, has both girls and boys and it caters to the poorest of the poor in the slum areas of Yakutpura. Ashraful Madaris, originally an Urdu medium school, has recently started English medium in the year 2008.

Ashraful Madaris is not your regular run of the mill school. Standing on 2 acres, it has a large play ground with sports facilities, a well-equipped library, 30 classrooms, and qualified staff. Other highlights are its moral and Islamic education, Arabic language curriculum, Quran Nazerah and other subjects of Deeniyat.

Erasure of the Urdu language and slow death of Urdu medium schools

The school has produced several successful students who have gone to achieve great laurels in their careers. Two of the alumni who stand out are Padma Bhushan awardee, late Syed Abid Hussain and IAS bureaucrat late Syed Turabul Hassan. While time and again many students have studied from Urdu mediums and topped various state and national level exams carving out successful careers, the language is currently being pushed to erasure due to increasing anti-Muslim propaganda in the country. “The Government is trying its best surreptitiously to end support for Urdu medium schools so that eventually they will shut down,” said Adv Khalid Hasan, Principal of the school and General Secretary of Awami Insaaf Movement.

Boys playing cricket in the large playground of the school

The ban on appointment of teachers in government-run and aided Urdu medium schools, unavailability of books and literature for children in Urdu medium schools and similar issues are causing a drastic decrease in the strength of Urdu medium schools. Facing these struggles, the century old school, Ashraful Madaris, established English medium in 2008. However, there were other immediate reasons leading to initiate English medium in the school, according to Hasan. He shared that the unavailability of textbooks of multiple subjects due to insufficient number of printed books, absence of chapters on Muslim freedom fighters, and even discriminating material on prominent personalities were big reasons to introduce English language as the medium of instruction.
Expressing fears of an impending doom for the Urdu language, Hasan reiterates that the absence of learning materials on imminent Muslim personalities from school books “will lead to the young minds doubting the contribution of Muslims in nation building.”
“Urdu will die a slow natural death because there will no longer be new generations to learn the language,” he said.

Professor Anwar, who is Patron in Chief of the school explained, “Even though the school is aided we are facing financial problems because once teachers retired, the government did not appoint any. And we had to appoint new teachers and pay their salaries from our funds. And over the years, out of the 40 teachers, only 12 are being paid salaries from the Government and the rest we have to bear. And so once these 12 teachers also retire we will be on our own.”

He further explained the situation of different Urdu schools in the state, how some of them are running with just one teacher and some merged with Telugu medium schools.

Day boarding – a unique feature of Ashraful Madaris

Day boarding facility was started on November 1, 2021, for male students of High School, planned on a unique routine. Students of Urdu medium come to school right from the morning prayers at 5:30 AM after which they do some physical exercises, and then study Islamic tenets and the Holy Quran. They are then provided breakfast after which they join the regular classes held as prescribed by the Telangana State Board.

day boarding

“Healthy mind in a healthy body with spiritual strength is the goal of day boarding,” said Hasan. The boarding school’s classes recess for afternoon prayers followed by lunch that is supplied by the Government through the mid-day meal scheme. Evenings at the premises consist of refreshments and games, accompanied by revision of the day’s lessons. The day concludes through night prayers and dinner by 8 PM. The rationale for establishing this facility is to provide intensive moral and spiritual education for two hours in the morning, supervised study for two hours, healthy food and physical well-being – all adhering to 5 times prayers. The school believes in an all-round development combining character building, removing stunted growth and ensuring proper nutrition.

There are 4 teachers who are engaged in the day boarding school activities. Two of them for the first half of the day and 2 of them for the second half. Teachers after every class enter the names of the students who were unable to understand the lesson and need extra attention in the book maintained for use of the day boarding teachers. So the teachers ensure that these students are given extra coaching.

Once students weak in studies are identified their parents are called over for counselling to enrol their children in the day boarding school.  Some parents are convinced and readily agree while some need more convincing.

The day boarding is running successfully and appreciated by the parents and the students. Zayed Khan, a daily wage labourer shared, “ All my 3 children are studying in Ashraful Madaris.My 2 sons Rehan and Farhan are in class 8 and attend the day boarding. I am happy that the boys are getting good education as well good moral values through Islamic teachings in the day boarding. My boys do not waste their time as they are engaged in the day boarding where they get to play as well as study. All the 3 meals of the day are given by the school which is a big help for me”.

The struggle to survive, seeking help from the community

“What we are offering in our school is far better than the other schools, yet our students are unable to afford quality education,” said Maqsood Ali, one of the school’s leaders.

Despite its sprawling playground and holistic development, Ashraful Madaris management is struggling to keep the Urdu medium alive. While nearby schools are housed within packed complexes, the huge campus of this government-aided school is unable to attract students because everyone prefers English mediums nowadays.

“We are trying to get donations from generous people so we can waive off the fees of the poor students,” he added. Majority of the students are orphans, or their parents are daily wage labourers and they cannot pay even the nominal fees that the school has prescribed. The expenses of the schools (both English and Urdu medium) come to around three lakh rupees monthly which is still difficult to manage given the poor economic condition of the students affecting funds derived from fees.

In order to keep the Urdu medium school alive, the school provides uniforms and books, computer classes, digital education through projectors, and scholarships. It is planning to start a NCC (National Cadet Corps) centre in addition to soft skills training, legal literacy and career guidance.

“We wish to give to the community educated, well trained, dedicated and healthy children who will grow up to be responsible citizens and lead the community towards progress so they will reciprocate by enrolling their children in our school,” said Khalid Hasan, appealing the community to come forward and help save the future of numerous underprivileged children.

Appeal to the community

Besides the school, Ashraful Madaris, runs other institutes including primary and high schools of both Urdu and English mediums, National Institute of Technical Training, Ashraful Madaris Mahila Sanatkar and Ashraful Madaris Junior College. To run these higher studies institutes, Adv Khalid Hasan, the Principal has appealed to well-wishers and lovers of Urdu language to help in whatever capacity they can. He can be directly contacted on 9291523184.

women learning to sew at Mahila sanatkar