New Delhi, Aug 23: The 324-year-old Anglo Arabic School, one of the oldest in the capital with scores of eminent personalities among its alumni, is today struggling to keep itself afloat.
Woefully short of teachers, with no lab assistants and no librarian, the government-aided school is trying to somehow fulfil its commitment to the 1,800-odd students who are enrolled in the hope of getting a decent education at a nominal fee.
"Most of these students come from weak socio-economic backgrounds and their parents cannot afford to send them to expensive private schools. This school is an island of hope for hundreds of such parents," former MP M. Afzal, an alumnus of the school, told.
Among the more prominent alumni of the school are Aligarh Muslim University founder Syed Ahmed Khan and Indian hockey legend Mirza M.N. Masud.
More recent alumni include former Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi, former MP Shahid Siddiqui, president of India Islamic Culture Centre Sirajuddin Qureshi, Vice Chancellor of Maulana Azad University Aslam Pervaiz and renowned Urdu critic professor Gopi Chand Narang, among others.
Located at Ajmeri Gate, just outside the walled city, Anglo Arabic is the only government-aided school in Old Delhi that has been running an English medium section for classes 6 to 10 since 1990. An all-boys institution since its inception, the school turned co-ed in 2012, and now a considerable chunk -- more than 400 -- of its students are girls.
The school has 45 sections, divided into six houses, of classes 6 to 12.
Apathy has marked officialdom's dealings with Anglo Arabic. No new appointments have been made in the school since 2008, when seven teachers and one guard were recruited, according to Principal Wasim Ahmed.
Recently, the Department of Education returned 44 files of teachers sent by the school for MACP (Modified Assured Career Progression) without assigning any reason.
"Having sat on the files for one year, they just sent them back without making any noting. What does this mean? Are they indirectly asking us to grease their palms? Else, how can they arbitrarily deny rightful promotion to 44 persons," asked senior mathematics teacher Mohd Qasim.
The Education Department's action has upset the school's plan to appoint new teachers at a time it is short of 31 teachers.
"To fill the existing vacancies, the principal has to give the Education Department a certificate that no cases of MACP or promotions are due with us. Which means that as long as these 44 cases of MACP are not cleared, the department would not make any new appointments," Ahmed said.
Currently, the school is managing with ad hoc teachers against the vacant posts.
"We have 25 ad hoc teachers and paying them is draining our funds which are meant for spending on other heads. Consequently, we have little left to spend on various other activities such as sports facilities," he said.
The sprawling campus of the school is a picture of neglect, primarily for want of funds. Being a heritage structure, the school management is not authorised to make any structural changes or carry out substantial repairs. Only the Delhi Development Authority can do so.
Anglo Arabic is the only educational institution in the entire Old Delhi that has an extensive playground and some space and facilities for sports. But the playground is in a shambles and sporting gear minimal for want of funds.
"But we still have our football, hockey and cricket teams playing at inter-school levels," the principal asserted with a tinge of pride.
The school has had no librarian since 1999, no biology and physics lab assistants since 2012. "If a post falls vacant, it is never filled," a disappointed Ahmed said.
A tablet outside the imposing building reads: 'Founded by Ghaziuddin Khan in 1692, this madrasa is one of Asia's oldest educational institutions. It was the centre of Delhi's Renaissance of the 1830s and 1840s.'
The school is particularly popular with students from Old Delhi, Jamia Nagar and the trans-Yamuna areas who want to take up science stream after Class 10.
"Many students from underprivileged backgrounds cannot make it to good schools in the science stream after Class 10, because the percentage required is quite high. The Anglo Arabic school is one where almost every student interested in studying science stands a chance," said Mohammad Saleem, secretary of the school's alumni association.
"But now with outdated lab equipment and no lab assistants, I think the practical aspect of science is neglected," he added.
Currently, the school is managed by the Delhi Education Society with the Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia being the ex-officio chairman of the body.
"Given its historical importance, the institution deserves more attention. But it has suffered due to government apathy," former MP Afzal said.
(Mohd Asim Khan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)