A Sanskrit high school running in the interiors of Bihar, has more than 85 Muslim girl students out of the 125 girls studying there. The rest 50 students are boys. All the students are learning Sanskrit and can converse in the language proficiently.
Shri Radha Krishna Sanskrit High School, located at the Kuchaikote block of Gopalganj district, 190 km north of Patna, was built in the 1930s and is meant for students from Class 6 to Class 10.
According to Jogindra Tripathi, the 58-year-old principal of the school, who is one of the two Sanskrit teachers there, the school has a total of 175 students. “Since this a Sanskrit school, our emphasis is on Sanskrit language. In Class 10, we have three Sanskrit papers of 100 marks each, which the students have to clear. The other subjects that are taught here are English, Science and Geography. Out of the 125 girl students that are enrolled here, 85 are from the Muslim community and they too, like the others, have developed excellent command over basic Sanskrit and can easily converse in that language,” said Tripathi.
According to Tripathi, this year, 40 Muslim girl students will appear for the Class 10 board examination.
Puroshottam Pandey, who is the other Sanskrit teacher of the school, said that most of the students studying there are from the economically weak section, but their parents have made sure that their children get at least secondary education.
“Their parents earn a modest income by working as tailors, welders, etc., but they have not compromised on their children’s education. Every year, parents approach us with the request to admit their wards in our school but since we have resources crunch, we are not able to admit all the aspirants. The family members of the Muslim students know that we teach Sanskrit here and when we meet them for any feedback, they say that they are happy that their daughters are learning Sanskrit,” he said.
Shabnam Khatun, a Class 10 student said that she has never faced any resistance from her family about studying in a school specialising in Sanskrit. “My father is a welder and he admitted me to this school. My family knows that I learn Sanskrit here and they have also heard me speaking in Sanskrit with my friends, but they have never stopped me,” said Shabnam, who wants to become a teacher. Similarly, Ashia Khatun, a student of Class 8, whose father is a tailor, when asked, replied to this newspaper’s queries in flawless Sanskrit and also recited long Sanskrit verses. “I understand Sanskrit better than Urdu. I also listen to Sanskrit news on radio daily. I want to make a career in the education field with specialisation in Sanskrit,” she said.
The school, which has seven teachers in all, tries hard to make sure that no religion based discrimination is allowed. “I deliberately drink water from the water bottles of Muslim girl students, often. The intention is to make everyone realise that everyone is equal and no one should practise chhua-chhoot (untouchability)”, Tripathi said.