They say that Dilli (not Delhi) has been built and wrecked many times. This structure, now home to Anglo Arabic senior secondary school, has seen it all. On an intersection in Purani Dilli or Old Delhi, lies a school much older than Old Delhi.
With a wholesale machine tools market on its West, a road leading to New Delhi railway station on the East and chaos all around it, the majestic building made of Kota sandstone looks like a freeze frame.Minutely carved arches and beams, elegant jaali work on the windows and two cloisters cannot skip your eyes.
“Founded by Ghaziuddin Khan in 1692 in Aurangzeb's reign, this madrasa is one of the Asia's oldest educational institutions. However, with a weakening Mughal Empire, the Madrasa closed in the early 1790s, but with the support of local nobility, an oriental college for literature, science and art, was established at the site in 1792. It was reorganized as the 'Anglo Arabic College' by the British East India Company in 1828 to provide, in addition to its original objectives, an education in English language and literature. The object was "to uplift" what the Company saw as the "uneducated and half-barbarous people of India."
It was the centre of Delhi's Renaissance of the 1830s and 40s,” read the stone outside the building, steps away from Ajmeri gate.
Mirza Ghalib- the renowned poet, once wished to serve this institution- a story famous among the students here as folklore. “Ghalib saab joined here to teach faarsi (Persian). On his first day of service, he arrived at the school gate in his paalki and expected the staff to receive him. But the then British management told him that he would not get any special treatment. Fuming, Ghalib returned never to come back.
“The institute was one of the earliest platforms in India where scholars weighed Oriental learning against Western theories. Dr Aloys Sprenger, Master Ram Chander and Maulvi Zakaullah took the charge,” says Firoz Bakht Ahmed, member of the governing body which runs the school which has 1900 students on roll. Urdu is the medium of instruction. Students can opt for Arabic and Persian as additional languages.
In 1827, Sir Charles Metcalfe, a British administrator, added English, Mathematics and natural sciences in the curriculum of Ghaziuddin madrasa. After being closed for around seven years due to the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, the institute was reopened in 1867 as Anglo Arabic College.
The school is particularly popular with students from Old Delhi, Jamia Nagar and the trans-Yamuna areas who want to take up science stream after Class 10. Many students from underprivileged backgrounds cannot make it to good schools in the science stream after Class 10, because the percentage required is quite high. The Anglo Arabic school is one where almost every student interested in studying science stands a chance
The school continues to be a chronicler of the city's history though time and government apathy has taken a toll on the school. In the next article we will cover how the school struggling to keep itself afloat.