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Bridging the north-south divide

North Delhi is slowly but surely developing as a strong hub of education reports Harsha Baruah

india Updated: Dec 24, 2010 10:01 IST
Harsha Baruah

North Delhi may be known for housing the country’s largest university, the University of Delhi, but when it comes to schools the area goes short on good names. Although it is home to some of the oldest schools in the Capital — Happy School in Daryaganj or Tis Hazari’s Queen Mary School – north Delhi hasn’t kept pace with the change that has come about in other parts of the city in recent decades.



That is partly because the area had a preponderance of government schools, which have steadily slipped over time. And until recently, good private schools didn’t move there to fill the gap.



“There came a time when the standards at government schools fell,” said Vijaynagar’s Rekha Sharma, whose two daughters study in Delhi Public School, Rohini. “We lack enough good private schools in our area,” Sharma said.



Kalyan Vihar resident KC Pandit, whose son is studying in Class 10 in Maharaj Agarsen School in Ashok Vihar, agrees that schools in the region haven’t improved with time. “In spite of the fact that government schools have more-qualified teachers and infrastructure, these are not utilised fully,” said Pandit.



The largely unchanged demography – mostly refugees from Pakistan and small-time business people who placed much less emphasis on education compared to residents in other parts of the city – was responsible for keeping good private schools from exploring north.



According to DK Bedi, principal of Apeejay School in Pitampura, when it comes to choosing a school, today’s parents in Delhi usually think: “If I can shoot, I will shoot in south Delhi.”



That is not to say, Bedi said, that good schools exist only in south Delhi.



“You will find good as well as not-so-good schools in both the north and the south. At the end of the day, it is a matter of mindset,” he said.



“If one goes to Greater Kailash or Saket, one would notice a sense of poshness. Youngsters are used to leading a certain kind of lifestyle in those areas. Naturally, they would also like to study in a school in the same area. So it is not just a matter of the quality of the school.”



Rita Sen, principal of DPS, Rohini, believes that it would be wrong to over-emphasise the “north-south” divide when it comes to school education.



“If parents were so desperate to send their children to schools only in south Delhi, I would not be getting 4,000-odd applications for nursery admissions to my school every year,” Sen said. “Today, we are in need of more good schools in every part of the city.”



Few would disagree with that, but north Delhi perhaps needs good schools more than any other part of the city.



Sen’s DPS is a response to the changes that characterize north Delhi’s demography in the last two decades. Areas such as Rohini and Pitampura have come up in a big way and are home to an upwardly mobile middle class that places a premium on its children’s education.



Schools in these areas are being sought after by parents who live in faraway places. “Parents from places as far as Vikaspuri, which is 10 km away from my school, apply for their children’s admission. We, however, give preference to children living within a 5km radius,” said Sneh Verma, principal of DAV Pushpanjali Enclave, Pitampura



Delhi Metro is also bringing about interesting changes, both in enhancing the appeal of north Delhi schools and offering easy transportation.



Disagreeing that the south city has an edge when it comes to quality education, Rukmini Devi Public School director KC Garg said, "In areas like Dwarka, where there are groups of


flats occupied by middle-income families, one finds a number of good schools to cater to their needs. And it would be wrong to say that schools in Pitampura are less good than ones in Barakhamba Road."