It was in the 1950s and the 1960s, when central Delhi had started bursting at its seams that south-east Delhi became the new destination for the affluent and the upwardly mobile class of Delhi. The rise of south Delhi residential colonies led to a need for basic amenities such as markets, hospitals, hotels and, of course, good schools that could meet the aspirations its residents.
Before south Delhi came up, central Delhi was where most of the good schools were located. Back in those days when public transport was weak and school-buses were difficult to arrange for, the commute between south Delhi and central Delhi seemed too long and most parents preferred to send their children to schools within walking distance.
“My daughter went to a reputed school in central Delhi but back in those days even that distance seemed so much,”said Sharmila Verma (63), a homemaker and a resident of Greater Kailash II. “We also felt that some of the older schools elsewhere in the city were less open to experimentation and were too embedded in needless traditions.”
This was the reason, Verma said, we sent our younger son to Bluebells School, which was close and followed a unique curriculum. It was one of the first schools in Delhi to introduce exchange programs with other schools abroad and facilities such as dance studios and recording studios.
It also makes its students take on the roles of the school support staff every day to make them understand the dignity of labour.
“When the school was started no one knew that the area around it would develop into such prime property,”said Suman Kumar, principal of Bluebells, which is just next to Greater Kailash-I, the home to Delhi’s nouveau riche.
Being located next to a residential colony is not always an advantage though. Most of these schools started off with a small student body, but grew over time. The haphazard way in which south Delhi developed has meant that most of these schools don’t have enough land available to expand their infrastructure now.
Moreover, their proximity to residential colonies brings other difficulties. Often there are complaints from resident welfare associations (RWAs) regarding traffic bottlenecks, noise on annual days and congestion around the school to mention a few. “Because we are located in the heart of a residential area we have had to streamline the traffic during school hours,” said Jyoti Gupta, principal, KR Mangalam School, which is located in GK II. “We work hard to reach a mutual understanding with the RWA on all issues.”
Over the years the schools in south-east Delhi have emerged as an alternative to older and more established schools elsewhere by having children from diverse backgrounds.
“We are a middle class family and it was very important that our child didn’t attend a school where children from only very elite or rich families studied,” said Sunil Arora, a resident of Janakpuri whose daughter passed out of Laxman Public School two years ago. “I wanted my child to interact with children from similar backgrounds.”
However, some parents are now worried that with schools giving preference to students who live in the neighbourhood, the diversity of student body might get compromised.
“Most people living in certain south Delhi colonies have similar social and financial background. This will create a very uniform culture in the classrooms,”said Ritika Nanda (29), an export house owner seeking admission for her three-year-old daughter.
Over the past two decades schools in southeast Delhi have built a reputation. “Central Delhi schools have a legacy to take forward, but we are in the process of making a legacy,” said RC Shekhar, director, Gyan Bharati School, Saket. “We are the schools to watch out for and we are the future.”