As the Delhi gang rape episode unfurled in the capital, the staff of the Anglo Arabic Senior Secondary School were worried that the first batch of female students they had inducted would not return after the winter break.
They felt that the parents would not send their daughters to school in the wake of the ghastly incident. But to their surprise, almost all the girl students returned to school after the vacations.
The school, located in the vicinity of the infamous G.B. Road brothels, was started as a madrasa during Aurangzeb’s rule. Although it went on to become the first Anglo-Indian school during the British Raj, it started admitting girl students only in 2012.
“We thought the rape incident would have an adverse effect on our female students because of the location of our institution. We were worried as most of the girls come from conservative Muslim families. But we are amazed to see these girls return to school. They are more enthusiastic than the boys,” said Khalida Tasneem, a teacher.
Khalida considers the presence of the girls at the school as a significant step towards the emancipation of Muslim women.
“This school has, of late, acquired the reputation of having only Muslim students and staff. Hence, because of the influence of some conservative clerics of the area, girls were not allowed admission.
It is only after the intervention by some activists that girl students were admitted. Even the presence of the red light area in the neighbourhood has been ignored by the parents,” said Khalida.
Some of the female students voiced similar sentiments. “In our locality, there is a dearth of schools that teach subjects like biology, mathematics and commerce and our parents usually don’t allow us to go to faraway places in the city. By opening its gates to us, the school has brought education to our doorstep,” said Azra Usman, a Class XI student.
According to the school management, out of the 2,000 students enrolled, only 100 are girls.
The school, boasts of names like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the reformer who founded the Aligarh Muslim University and Liaqat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan among its alumni.
Journalists Pankaj Vohra, Shahid Siddiqui and politician Jagdish Tytler also attended the school. Siddiqui is happy that his school had turned into a co-ed and hopes that this will improve Muslim education and more importantly, the education of Muslim women.
Siddiqui said “there is always something amiss if we don’t allow our girls to study in a co-ed environment. Even a branch of the school which went on to become Delhi College and then the Zakir Hussain College of Delhi University allow girls to study.”
“Despite its proximity to an infamous area, not a single case of harassment has been reported from its campus. Apart from helping Muslim education, such institutes have helped our children understand different cultures,” said Siddiqui.