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Published in the 1-15 Mar 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Urdu school faces closure

56-year old school remains without premises for 28 years, teachers not paid salaries for ten months

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed <firozbakht@rediffmail.com>

The Milli Gazette Online

New Delhi: A 56-year old school catering to the most backward sections of the Muslim population of Sadar, Qasabpura, Quresh Nagar, Bara Hindu Rao and Kishanganj in the Walled City faces an uncertain future, there is one. The school has been functioning with bare minimum infrastructure housed in tents and under tarpaulin sheets.

Qaumi School

Qaumi School

"Every time there is a dust storm, a spell of rain or a cold gust of wind, over 500 students in the ragged tents of the Qaumi Senior Secondary School huddle closer and wonder how much longer they will be forced by official apathy to bear the harsh vagaries of nature,’" states M Atyab Siddiqui, the legal secretary of Friends for Education, an NGO that has been trying hard for the last 14 years to improve the lot of the hapless school.

A ramshackle tent with a moth eaten blackboard and creaky furniture constitutes a classroom. A make-shift laboratory now functions under a tin roof that gets blown away on breezy days in inclement weather.

However, the unpredictable weather of the capital has caused incessant worry. "It is the students who suffer the most be it summer or winter," says Mohabbat Ali, vice principal, a fact that other teachers confirm. "Students are sick most of the time owing to the hot sand storms in summers and chilly winds during winter," confirms another senior teacher.

Vermins over the last 28 years have not only damaged the school records but eaten away most of the books of the now almost non-existent library of the beleaguered school. 

"The plight of the students, who are mostly drawn from families of book-binders, muezzins, imams, carpenters, box-makers and petty hawkers is indeed pitiable," recounts Siddiqui. During monsoon, it becomes impossible to run the school as it is always water-logged according to Iqbal Malak, a community worker and general secretary of Friends for Education.

Since 1976, the students passing out of Qaumi School have not experienced what it is like to study in a school with a roof over their heads. This government-aided school has been functioning under trees inside the Delhi Eidgah from the time their 23-roomed and five-storied school building with more than 600 students in Sarai Khaleel area, was razed to the ground during the Emergency on May 15, 1976 only with an assurance that without delay the school would have a massive building and even a playground in the vicinity. The ground was the Eidgah. 

It is an irreligious act according to the tenets of Islam to run a school on the Eidgah grounds, tells Mr Furqan Ahmed, the senior Economics teacher. While after the Emergency resettlement programme, the other residents and shopkeepers were rehabilitated in Shahzada Bagh and Inderlok, nothing was done for the school, laments Javed, an Urdu teacher.

However, despite assurances by several politicians and officials over the years that proved to be hollow words, the school continues to drag on the Eidgah premises where it was granted temporary accommodation to store its furniture and equipment 70 per cent of which was stolen during the shifting in 1976.
Even a memorandum accompanied by affidavits and signed by thousands of residents of the Bara Hindu Rao area was given to the then president of India, Giani Zail Singh and the freedom fighter Aruna Asaf Ali according to an alumnus and a member of Qaumi School Old Boys’ Association, Naim Qureshi. 


The list of the VIPs who have been contacted for help includes Indira Gandhi, Morarji Desai, Chandra Shekhar, Rajiv Gandhi, Vishwanath Pratap Singh, Sikandar Bakht, Arif Mohammed Khan, Tara Chand Khandelwal, Jai Prakash Agrawal, Jagmohan, BR Tamta and Rukhsana (Singh) Sultana. 

Also included in this list were the former Lt governors of Delhi namely H L Kapoor, Romesh Bhandari, Markandey Singh and PK Dave. But all in vain according to an illustrious alumnus the late Shahid Ansari whose ceiling high pile of documents and files prove that he left no stone unturned only to meet an untimely demise and turn in his grave to see the sorry plight of his alma mater. Until now, nothing has been done bemoans, Mohabbat Ali.

While in 1991, Jagdish Tytler the then local MP and a union minister together with the DDA tried to get the school some land in Dwarka, Narela or Pitampura but the offer was rejected as the poor students of the area had no means to travel from Old Delhi to the outer Delhi areas. "We informed the DDA that moving to the area allowed by them is akin to closing our school," told the ex-principal Azhar-ul-Hadi. "Most of the students studying in our school are below the poverty line and come walking to the school," Hadi stated.

The Qaumi School was founded soon after Partition in 1948 when it was set up with funds raised by the poor Muslim residents of the area. It was taken over by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi in 1960 as a primary school. In 1975, it was raised to the higher secondary level. 

Recently, the Directorate of Education has even stopped the grant to the school and the teachers are without salary for the last three months. The Board result this year for class 10 was just 17 per cent and for class 12 it was 33 per cent. Abdul Malik, manager of the school is unable to tackle the situation. Now teachers of this Urdu medium school are running from pillar to post to collect the 5 per cent grant that the aided schools have to raise on their own. The government provides 95 per cent grant to such aided schools. 

Some teachers say that the earlier manager Siraj Qureshi was providing the 5 per cent grant to the school but resigned in 2002 on account of the quagmire the school got stuck into after it removed a lady teacher Bazm-e-Ara who later filed a writ in the court to be reinstated. The court asked the management to pay her the 27-month salary besides ordering them to reinstate her. Owing to this impasse the students study obviously suffered, and they got a pathetic result.

"If no action is taken to save the students and teachers of the school, the institution will be closed. Our petitions have been un-addressed because of the callous attitude of the concerned authorities that will one day drive hundreds of students into the darkness of illiteracy," says a disgruntled Atyab.
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