In the last decade,the number of Urdu medium municipal schools have declined by about 33 per cent in Ahmedabad. While critics cry foul about a deliberate attempt to wipe out Urdu schools from the city,administrators counter saying that the Muslim community increasingly prefers sending its wards to Hindi or English medium schools.
The number of Urdu medium schools was highest (92) in 2001-02. Thereafter the number steadily declined and today it stands at 62. In comparison,Hindi medium schools increased from 50 in 2001-02 to 66. Majority of Urdu medium schools which have been shut down were in the walled areas of the city like Jamalpur,Raikhad,Shahpur,Kalupur,Khadia and Dariapur. In these areas,Hindi medium schools are being opened.
There is more demand for Hindi medium schools now,even among the Muslim community. Given the demand,new schools are being opened in Hindi medium. Parents are also preferring to send their children to English medium private schools. Thus,the municipal board has opened an English medium school in Shahpur,an area in the walled area of the city, said AMC school board chairman Jagdish Bhavsar.
However,what is more surprising is that despite the increase in number of Hindi medium schools,the number of students enrolled has declined from over 30,000 to nearly 25,000,during the decade.
At present,there are over 1.60 lakh students in nearly 450 municipal schools in Ahmedabad. Out of this total number,the dominance of Gujarati medium schools persists with nearly 290 schools.
Dr Satyendrasinh J Thakur,Assistant Administrative Officer of Ahmedabad Municipal School Boards Urdu and Hindi zone,said,There are written instructions from the state government to merge schools that have less students. This year,two schools were merged within walled areas,while two new Hindi medium schools were opened in Kubernagar and Vatwa. Also,a new Hindi medium school till Class V opened last year in Shahpur area has been upgraded till Class VIII.
Going by the incidents and steps taken by the government authorities in the recent years,it seems that there is a deliberate attempt towards diminishing the presence and existence of Urdu medium schools in Ahmedabad, said Dr Mehrunnisa Desai,professor at Ahmedabads RJ College.
Permission to open a new Urdu medium school has been made extremely difficult while the authorities have even failed to provide basic infrastructure and faculty to the existing ones. For the last two years,the students of Urdu medium schools are fighting to get question papers in their mother tongue. The case is pending in the Gujarat High Court, said Dr Mehrunnisa,who is also the president of Ahmedabad Muslim Women Association.
The authorities are very much right in their justification of a decline in enrolment in these schools. If students of a particular medium are not treated at par with the students of Gujarati or Hindi medium,then certainly there will be a shift in enrolment, she added.
Recently,there was a major reshuffle of faculty members in Urdu medium schools that has aggravated the faculty issue in these schools.
After an incident,the authorities woke up to the issue of all female staff in Urdu medium girls schools. This resulted in arbitrary reshuffling and now schools are either with additional staff or lack of it, said one of the principals at an Urdu municipal school in Kalupur area. Out of 62 Urdu medium schools,six are all-girls schools.