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Set up post World War I, Punjab’s Kalaswala Khalsa School is a tool of social change

The institution materialised as part of the social churning that followed World War I. Today, it has 1,300 students and is engaged in serving the hinterland of Gurdaspur.

punjab Updated: Aug 27, 2018 12:25 IST
Surjit Singh
Surjit Singh
Hindustan Times, Qadian (Gurdaspur)
Punjab,Kalaswala Khalsa School,empowerment
Students at Kalaswala Khalsa Senior Secondary School in Qadian, Gurdaspur(HT Photo)

Education and social change are inextricably linked. Nothing illustrates this better than the Kalaswala Khalsa Senior Secondary School, Qadian.

Recalling the founding of the school, under the patronage of Sardar Bahadur Apar Singh Bajwa in 1919, Mandeep Singh Bajwa, the president of the managing committee of the school, said, “Social change follows as people learn lessons from major events. This school was also part of the social change that materialised after the World War I.”

Today, the school functions under the state’s grant-in-aid scheme thereby getting 95% aid from the government.

Product of religious renaissance

“Punjab-based soldiers had fought the war for England and its allies like France. Those who returned alive made their people aware of education. They had realised the importance of education and were impressed by women education in those countries. This made our ancestors come up with the idea of opening the school at their native village in Sialkot, (now in Pakistan),” Mandeep added.

That time then was a period of a renaissance in Indian history, when different religious organisations were setting up schools and colleges to educate people on the western pattern.

Following this lead, the Bajwa family based in Kalaswalathen village, decided to contribute to the society.

Early patrons and those in-charge now

Late Kartar Singh Bajwa and Gurdial Singh Bajwa were the patrons of the school. In 1942, Harcharan Singh Bajwa was instrumental in raising the standard of the school from middle to high school.

With Sialkot district going to Pakistan during Partition, closure loomed over the institution. However, Mandeep’s forefathers were willing to do it all to let the lamp of education burn bright.

Gurdial Singh Bajwa served the school as its founder president, Kartar Singh Bajwa as secretary and Harcharan Singh Bajwa as manager of the

managing committee at the time of Partition. Today, Rajya Sabha MP Partap Singh Bajwa is serving as the manager of the school.

“After Partition, Gurdial Singh Bajwa decided to settle his people in and around Qadian, which was the centre of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. He also decided to shift the school here. The school was named after Kalaswala village,” Mandeep added. The school was raised to higher secondary level in 1961 and to senior secondary level in 1989.

Principal served for 31 years

The school today has a shiny exterior and all facilities. “We offer classes from 1-12. There is humanities, commerce, non-medical and medical stream. There are 1,300 students. Our labs are well-equipped,” says Shalini Sharma, principal. She adds, “The school is not a mere educational institution. It is the dream of our ancestors who wanted to uplift rural youth.”

However, behind such infrastructure and success is decades of hard work and commitment. One such iconic man who breathed life into the institution is former principal Manohar Lal Sharma. He headed the school for 31 years from 1969 to 2000, when the school celebrated the golden jubilee of its re-establishment. He was honoured with the ‘Teachers State Award’ in 1990 and the ‘Teachers National Award’ in 1992.

Even today, Sharma thinks only about the school. “After Partition, it was the only school in this remote area. Had it not been opened here, the entire area would have been illiterate. Nobody from here had the resources to go to nearby towns for education,” Sharma adds.

100-yr-old building speaks of communal harmony

The local Ahmadiyya Muslim community constructed the building, situated in the heart of the town, more than a century ago as the hostel of the famous educational institution, Talim-ul-Islam College.

“The only college in the old Gurdaspur district at that time, the Talim-ul-Islam college was built in 1898,” recalls Sharma. After Partition, the majority of the faculty and the students of the college migrated to Pakistan, resulting in the permanent closure of the facility in Qadian, he adds. The local Ahmadiyya community rented the hostel building to the school at a token amount.

Thus, the school is an instance of communal harmony as it is run in the name of Sikhism, but the building is of Muslim-origin. The heritage building is a rare specimen of Muslim architecture and resembles old mosques. Though, the building looks old, it is maintained and renovated from inside.

Defenders of the nation

The school’s contribution to defence services is special. “Maj Gen Surjit Singh (retd), Brig Kuldeep Singh Kahlon (retd), Brig Daljit Singh Cheema (retd), Col BS Ghuman (retd), Col BS Kahlon (retd), Col AS Khehra (retd), Col Udhe Singh Brar (retd), Col Deo (retd), SP, vigilance, Surjit Singh are the alumni of this school,” the principal adds.

“A unit of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) which was earlier called as Army Cadet Corps (ACC) was in the school. It greatly motivated students like me to join defence forces,” said Brig Kahlon (retd), who has also been the director of Sainik Welfare Board, Punjab, after retirement and is the recipient of many gallantry awards. Prominent amongst other alumni of the school are Santokh Singh Riar, officer on special duty (OSD) to Punjab chief minister, Dr Balcharanjit Singh MS, Dr Didar Singh (retd), principal, Dental College, Amritsar.

Carried on during militancy as well

Even during the era of Sikh militancy in Punjab, the school managed to carry on. Former principal Mandeep says, “Armed Sikh men used to barge in, asking us to shut the school. We convinced them that there is no use of the school shutdown for them.” He added he asked the militants a question that changed their mindset.

“I asked them that if we close the school, then from where they will bring engineers, doctors, teachers and noble citizens for the state for which they were struggling?.”

First Published: Aug 27, 2018 12:23 IST