New Delhi: It has been
a tough battle for Faiza Nisar Ali who helped steer the entry of
girls into the erstwhile male bastion of the historic Anglo-Arabic
Fazia and the struggle of many other Muslim women created history
when the school admitted girls for the first time in its over
Faiza's fight began in March when she was appointed to prepare a
feasibility report on why Muslim boys and girls should study under
the same roof.
She had to contend with numerous pitfalls along the way, including
frantic phone calls from community hardliners trying to dissuade
her, being blamed for scripting something "un-Islamic", countless
sleepless nights and also the trauma of a miscarriage.
"After months of research, consultations with educationists,
psychologists and parents, I concluded in my report that
co-education among Muslims would result in greater progress and
help them in the later stages of life," Faiza, who is in her
thirties and is the business studies teacher at the same school
for over six years, told IANS.
She recounted the events with moist eyes.
"After the report was done, the staff became very resistant. The
teachers went against me and I was held liable for being
un-Islamic," she said.
The report spoke on how co-education could boost academic
performance of both the sexes, a feasibility into the structure of
the Anglo-Arabic school and its importance and it also highlighted
that Muslim parents wanted their girls to go to a co-ed
Despite facing internal resistance from the predominantly male
school staff, the managing committee of the school in a meeting on
March 26 decided to open its doors to girls.
The decision was considered historic for the school, located at
Ajmeri Gate, in the old quarters of Delhi.
However, the landmark decision did not end Faiza's agony. While
her family was supportive about the step she had taken, the mental
pressure due to the angry reactions brought her to hospital.
Then eight weeks pregnant, Faiza went through a miscarriage. But
she was gutsy enough to pursue her dream.
"I had this invisible pressure about how to face colleagues in the
school. I had gone through a lot, but I did not want to leave it
in the middle," the mother of a five-year old admits, adding that
her "mother had even suggested her to distance herself from all
Her cause got a stronger voice when more Muslim women joined the
cause. A Jawaharlal Nehru University student, Fatima Alvi, filed a
petition in the Delhi High Court.
On May 24, the court backed their cause. The school management
swung into action and has so far admitted over 30 girls in Classes
6 to 11.
For many Muslim girls studying in nearby girls' government
schools, the move is a dream come true as they can switch to the
Anglo-Arabic School that has produced the likes of Liaqat Ali
Khan, the first prime minister of Pakistan, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan,
of Aligarh Muslim University, J.N. Dixit, former national security
Burqa-clad petite Darakshna Fatima, 17, beams with joy for having
made it to the school.
"I lost my father 6 years back, since then my mother has been the
pillar of strength for me," Darakshna, who aspires to become a
chartered accountant, told IANS.
The Class 11 student added, "Our relatives had reservations, but I
am proud that my mother fought for my education."
Darakshna's sister Gulafshan has also secured admission to the
school, that started off as Madrasa Ghaziuddin around 1692.
While the school management says the facilities for girls, such as
girls' common room and separate toilets, will be strengthened, the
first target for the coming 32 girls is 'equality'.
Jamia Millia Islamia Vice Chancellor Najeeb Jung, president of
Delhi Education Society, under the aegis of which the school runs,
on Friday felicitated the first batch of 15 girl students who were
admitted to the Anglo-Arabic School.
"This is the girls' first step towards better schooling. The
change will come gradually. .. Modern education has started
arriving for girls from the community," Jung said.
"We are expecting more girl students in the coming days. There
will be a female teacher to attend to the special needs of girls
and we plan to recruit more female staff," said Azra Razzak at
Jamia Millia Islamia, who is also secretary, Delhi Education
However, Faiza says the fight is not over yet. Though girls have
been admitted, the resistance among many staff members remains.
"Let's hope there is an attitudinal shift and changes begin to
happen," Faiza said.
She had faced resistance when she was selected among three women
teachers to join the 80-member strong male staff at Anglo-Arabic
School. She remembers facing hostility from her male colleagues.
"Initially it was very suffocating, gradually came better
understanding," Faiza recounted, and hopes attitudes will change
for the girl students too.
(Madhulika Sonkar can be contacted at email@example.com )