The vision of Dogra rulers lives on in this school located in the heart of Jammu city
What came as a surprise to the HT team is that it is yet to be declared a heritage institution. It has the status of a ‘Heritage Model School’, but it does not get any budgetary allocation for maintenance and preservation work.punjab Updated: Sep 03, 2018 13:20 IST
A testament to the vision of Dogra rulers, Maharaja Ranbir Singh and Maharaja Pratap Singh, the Sri Ranbir Multi-Lateral (SRML), rechristened as Sri Ranbir Model Higher Secondary School in 2015, stands tall and proud today.
Dating back 146 years to 1872, the school’s building, with Indo-Persian architecture, is sprawled across 40 kanals and 17 marlas in the heart of Jammu city.
The school’s achievements are also towering, with the 21st chief of the Indian Army, General NC Vij, among its alumni.
What came as a surprise to the HT team is that it is yet to be declared a heritage institution. It has the status of a ‘Heritage Model School’, but it does not get any budgetary allocation for maintenance and preservation work. The vagaries of weather and the years of continued neglect, have thus, taken a toll on this institute of academic excellence.
Journey over the decades
Maharaja Ranbir Singh founded the institute in 1872, initially called the Ranbir Pathshala. Maharaja Pratap Singh completed construction in 1884. In 1905, it was named as Jammu Collegiate School and in 1965, it was renamed as Govt SRML Higher Secondary School, where vocational skills were taught.
Till December 2016, the institute had seen 42 principals, all male, when the first woman principal Shafqat Javed Chib took charge.
A daughter of the soil, Chib comes from a family of academicians and has left no stone unturned in renovating the school, out of her own resources and with the help of the alumni, some of whom are MLAs, MPs and former ministers.
“The school was in a shambles when I took over. Since 2017, I have been pooling resources. We rebuilt some collapsed rooms, got floors tiled and roofs repaired to check seepage,” she added.
Radio Kashmir functioned from here
Before independence, the first information department worked from the commerce block for 10 years, Radio Kashmir Jammu aired its programmes for 15 years from the tennis hall. The army used a block as its base camp for seven years.
“Another building was used as a stable for the horses of the Maharaja. Dogra rulers used the present office block to dispense justice. There is a Sangeet Hall, which has a terrace, where queens used to enjoy artists’ performances,” the principal added.
The school has 73 rooms, a library with 5,000 rare books, laboratories, smart classes, an Information Communication Technology (ICT) lab and a botanical garden.
“Headmaster Thakur Dass Bhandari served this institution of academic excellence from 1918 to 1921. I have been told that headmaster Bhandari drew pay equivalent to the head of the state at that time. Such was the respect given to academicians,” the principal added.
Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the second prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir, also worked in this institution, for a few days.
The principal added that before independence, people from Lahore, Sialkot and other areas used to stay in the airy corridors.
Nursery for weak students
For nearly 2,100 students of Classes 9-12 in science, commerce and arts stream, the school has 140-strong teaching and non-teaching faculty. A nursery school which has 77 students for the weaker sections of the society also functions here.
“Here, a fee of ₹100 per year is charged and the child has to be over three years of age,” said Jasvinder Kour, an M Phil in sociology.
A school for special children between 6 and 14 years is running since 2015. Niharika Ghai and another teacher take care of 21 students.
“We have hearing and speech impaired students, and children with mental retardation and autism. We try to bring positive behavioural changes,” said Ghai.
Ex-army chief, famous singer among alumni
“I passed out in 1958. The education was exceptionally good. Being good in academics, I was in the golden section. I was the only one who joined the Indian Army as a commissioned officer at 19 years and six months,” said General NC Vij (retd).
Vij’s grandfather ND Suri served as the principal from 1949 to 1955. The ex-army man fondly remembers RL Bargotra, Tej Ram Khajuria and Narsingh Dass as the teachers who shaped his career. “Science and math were my favourite subjects. The SRML School was the all-round best school in J&K and the teachers were legendary,” he added.
Other prominent alumni are doyen of Dogri language and Padma Shri Prof RN Shastri; political analyst, human rights activist and Padma Bhushan Balaraj Puri; politician Pandit Trilochan Dutt, renowned civil engineer and eminent educationist RN Dogra, renowned journalist OP Saraf and the famous singer and first superstar of the Indian film industry, Kundan Lal Saigal.
Achievers par excellence
Two visually-impaired students, Waseem Akram and Azam Khan, of Class 11 will be participating in a mountain climbing competition in Indonesia this month. Their teacher, Mohinder Kumar Badyal, who is also visually-impaired, and a Hindi lecturer, said, “We don’t teach them in the Braille script because we don’t want to differentiate between them and other students. We provide them scribes. We use advanced technologies like mobile phones, audio recordings and bailers,” he added.
Chemistry lecturer Sunil Sharma said, “In the government sector, this is probably one of the biggest schools in the Jammu province.”
He admitted, though, “We lack in infrastructure, but our faculty is the strongest.”
Social studies lecturer Bheem Bakshi said, “I was the second topper in 2006 from this school and I teach here today.”
Imran Hassan, of Kargil, who studies in Class-12, said, “I took admission after my uncle told me about the faculty. Teachers and other facilities are good.”
Heritage status the aim
The principal added that she was working on at least three to four key proposals.
“We are making efforts to renovate and repair the school, while preserving its heritage outlook. I will submit a detailed proposal to get heritage status,” she said, adding that a residential school with a hostel and canteen facility for students from far-off places, a museum and an indoor stadium were her priorities.
First Published: Sep 03, 2018 13:20 IST