Thursday, July 10, 2014

Special agency school

In May 1872, Lord Hobart took over as Governor of Madras. Lady Hobart and he were convinced that the best way for impoverished Muslim families to improve their lot was to accept Western education. To this end, Lord Hobart established the 'special agency' system, whereby schools were to be established especially for Muslims. Spurred by the new Governor's enthusiasm, a school for girls was set up at Royapettah. The enthusiasm was infectious and within a short time, the school had outgrown its first location and had to encroach on to the grounds nearby. 

Humayun Jah Bahadur, a descendent of Tipu Sultan, came forward and gave over Shah Sawar Jung Bagh, his property on Whites Road to house the school. Lady Hobart herself chipped in with a personal donation of Rs.18,000 to the school. Her support for this institution would have helped it take great strides ahead; unfortunately, that was not to be. Lord Hobart died quite suddenly in 1875 and his widow had to return to England.

The school went ahead, however. Having started off as a primary school, it was very quickly raised to high school status. Hindustani and Tamizh were added to the curriculum, in addition to Urdu and English. Well into the 20th century, around 1945, these premises were home to a women's college, with 75% of seats reserved for Muslim women. Though the college was shifted out (and its administration changed hands) later, the school still functions from its Whites Road premises. Run by the state government, the Lord and Lady who helped set it up are remembered in its name - the Government Hobart Higher Secondary School for Muslim Girls!

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