Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s Shahpur Public School and Dani Limda Public School are unique for being its only English-medium schools. They also have another distinction.
While the uniform at Shahpur school where most of the students are Hindus is saffron-coloured, the Dani Limda school where almost all the students are Muslims has a green uniform.
The other 454 schools run by AMC, all non-English-medium, have the same blue-and-white uniform.
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“The selection of green (as uniform for the Dani Limda school) was a random decision and has nothing to do with any community. We had other options, of pink and blue, too but, keeping in mind the suitability to children, green was finalised,” AMC School Board Chairman Jagdish Bhavsar said.
He termed the selection of saffron for the Shahpur school as a “non-partisan decision” too, taken without any “prejudice or preference” towards a community or organisation.
Asked if the colour choices had anything to do with the religion of the students, Bhavsar said, “There is no such thing about communities and colours associated with them.”
More than 98 per cent of the students at Dani Limda Public School, located in the middle of the Muslim-majority Kanubhai ni chali slum in Dani Limda village, are Muslims. At Shahpur Public School, more than 95 per cent students are Hindus.
AMC introduced the English-medium schools with the hope of containing declining enrolment in municipal schools. Both the Shahpur school, opened in June 2013, and Dani Limda, opened last year, were till Class I initially, with classes added every subsequent year. Beginning this academic year, the Dani Limda school is till Class II and the Shahpur one till Class III.
The Shahpur school uniform, comprising a saffron shirt and shorts, incidentally is sponsored by a “social organistation” called the Shahpur Seva Sangh, of which Bhavsar himself is a member. Its president is a former BJP corporator of Shahpur ward, Atul Bhavsar.
“This sangh works for education and social causes. Rotary Club and Sharda Trust have also donated uniforms for schools and this time we have requested the Swaminarayan sect to do so too,” said Jagdish Bhavsar.
In case of Dani Limda Public School, money for uniforms has been collected from local donors. It had no uniform till six months after its start, and the decision to have a green uniform was taken in December 2014.
On Republic Day this year, the AMC School Board started distributing the new uniforms, comprising a green T-shirt and black shorts. Recently, the final lot of uniforms was distributed, barring one student of Class I who is expected to receive it soon.
“A factory owner in Narol area, a businessman known to us and involved in charity work, and a few parents sponsored 10 uniforms each. Two Muslim teachers of a Gujarati-medium school running in the morning shift on the same premises gave Rs 2,000 each,” said Principal Kalpana Jadav.
A school teacher and administrator Vaishali Parmar at the Dani Limda school said they were dependent on donations for uniforms as the school does not have a District Information System for Education (DISE) code that is mandatory to get scholarships or grants.
Shah Bano Javed Pathan, both of whose children are enrolled in Dani Limda Public School, says she has no problem with the colour of the uniform. “As the school is different from the remaining municipal schools, the uniform stands out,” she said.
Shahpur Public School, inaugurated by Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama on June 6, 2013, has had a saffron uniform since the beginning. The school building is called ‘Prahlad Patel Shikshan Sankool’ after the BJP leader who fought elections from Shahpur in 1980 and who taught at Ahmedabad’s M N Shukla College of Education.
Said Shahpur Public School Principal Rekha Desai, “At present, the school strength is 233. Out of this, more than 95 per cent are Hindus from lower middle class while less than 5 per cent are from other communities such as Muslims, Jains and Marwaris.”