How historic Anglo Arabic School failed to catch educationists’ fancy

‘The School at Ajmeri Gate –   Delhi’s  Educational Legacy’ is authored by the well-known academic Azra  Razzack, and also by lawyer-scholar, M. Atyab  Siddiqui. And as to the ‘why’ they decided to write this book, there stands out a definite backgrounder. A book review by Humra Quraishi

Spring saw the launch of the book – ‘The School at Ajmeri Gate – Delhi’s  Educational Legacy’. After years I witnessed such a well-attended book launch, where guests and speakers and invitees from Old Delhi and New Delhi stood out, with their eagerness to hear details to the Anglo Arabic School, situated at Ajmeri Gate. Probably it is one of the oldest schools, started almost three centuries back.

This book is authored by the well-known academic Azra Razzack, and also by lawyer-scholar, M. Atyab  Siddiqui. And as to the ‘why’ they decided to write this book, there stands out a definite backgrounder.  To quote the two authors from the preface to the book, “We were associated with the Anglo Arabic School, Ajmeri Gate, as members of both the  managing committee  of the school and of the Delhi Education  Society under the aegis of which the school  functions. As we worked on the campus in our respective capacities, there was a painful realization about the gap that existed. This historic educational institution, having its originals in the late 17th century and located in the heart of Delhi at Ajmeri Gate, was almost non-existent for many in the field of education.”   

The two authors go on to detail the questions that hit them: “Why was such a historic school not part of the narrative, much less the imagination of well-known educationalists? Even its affiliation with CBSE not given the school a worthy mention. Was its ghettoized existence responsible for its anonymity in the wider world outside? That was the moment we decided that documentation of the story of the school was imperative. In ‘othering’ the Muslim community, somewhere the school seemed to be have been ‘othered’ as well.”

With that take off, stands out this well-researched book on this school. There’s ample mention of the relevant details to the school. And there’s direct and also indirect focus on the related aspects, which could be termed of significance in today’s political climate.

As Professor Krishna Kumar writes in the foreword, “The narrators of the Anglo Arabic School’s story leave us wiser without saying a word that might be termed political. Our troubled times have made that word both meaningless and troublesome, especially when we need to use it in the context of education. The authors of this volume are pleading for harmony: they demonstrate that the Anglo Arabic School was and continues to be a symbol of a way of life based on acceptance and appreciation of diversity.” 


Title of the  book-   The  School at  Ajmeri  Gate –   Delhi’s  Educational Legacy

Authors – Azra Razzack  & M. Atyab  Siddiqui

Publishers – Oxford University Press

Pages – 501 

Price –  Rs 2295