Nearly 5 decades after demolition, Urdu medium school awaits a new building
At a time when the Delhi government is inspecting newly built schools and prepping them before students return to campus, an Urdu medium school operating out of a derelict temporary accommodation at Shahi Eidgah has been left unattended.
Located in Old Delhi’s Sadar Bazar area, the Shahi Eidgah serves as a campus for Qaumi Senior Secondary School that was demolished nearly 45 years ago. With tin roofs and rickety furniture making up its mise-en-scène, it has students studying in classes 1 to 12 who are in urgent need of attention. Despite multiple efforts and interventions aimed at securing land for a school building, the school’s fate remains unchanged.
In 2018, the Delhi High Court directed the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to allocate land for the school and the Delhi government to initiate work within six months. Four years later, uncertainty prevails over the future of the school as the stalemate over land allocation continues.
A 45-year wait continues
The Urdu medium school was demolished during the 1976 Emergency and has been operating out of the Eidgah premises ever since. Residents said that since the Covid-19 pandemic has forced schools to shift classes online, the time is ripe for the construction of the building.
School in-charge, Abdul Wahab, said that while online classes are ongoing, old battles await students when physical classes recommence.
“Holding classes under tin roofs is not an easy task. Be it the excruciating heat of summers or incessant monsoon downpour, there are multiple challenges that students face. In non-pandemic days, we used to hold classes in two shifts due to the paucity of infrastructure. Online classes are taking place right now, but eventually, students will return to the school and the old challenges that come along with it,” said Wahab, who has been associated with the school in different capacities for the past 50 years.
He is also a former student, who remembers the old campus. “Our old school was a double-storey building in Sarai Khalil. It was demolished in 1976. When no alternative was space, school authorities placed tents at the Eidgah premises, and since then, the school has been operating out of here,” said Wahab.
Over the years, many students have dropped out or changed schools due to the absence of a school building. “Parents continue to call us and enquire if there has been any progress on the development of a school building. Since the school is in shambles, many students continue to move out,” said Wahab.
Weathering the storm
Former students and residents of the area have sought land allocation for the school, but to no avail. Abdul Malik Qureshi, former manager of the school, has lodged a contempt petition to seek accountability for the delay in land allocation for the school. “In 2018, then chief justice Gita Mittal of Delhi high court had directed both the DDA and Delhi administration to allocate land for the school. DDA had promised to give 4,000 acres, but later said that they would give 1,600 acres. I had filed public litigation last year just before the lockdown. We have sought that 4,000 acres be granted to the school. The case is sub judice,” said Qureshi.
Another former student, Shadab Qureshi, who graduated from the Eidgah campus, said that a new school building was long due. He said that the school had weathered many storms and recalled how teachers made efforts despite the constraints under which they worked. “During our time, we saw sheets getting replaced with makeshift tin roofs. We studied under these roofs in the late 1990s and the condition was quite bad. During the monsoon, the whole school would get flooded and the roofs would often get damaged due to strong winds. Things don’t seem to have changed. We did not get to see a new building while we studied there, and after all these years, generations of students after us are stuck in the same circumstances,” said Qureshi, who lives near the school.
He added that locals had high hopes for the Aam Aadmi Party. “When the government came to power, we thought that the school will finally get a building. However, nothing has happened so far,” he said.
The right to education
Waseem Siddiqui, an activist and Delhi resident, said that a proper school building is essential. “In line with the Right to Education (RTE) Act, the school needs a campus. The rights of children are important over other considerations. Urgent attention is needed towards the issue since the issue has remained unresolved over the years. The school has not received any attention from the government despite the court order,” said Siddiqui.
HT contacted the DDA and the Delhi government multiple times for their comments, but they have not responded.