The rise and fall of schools

An old buidling bulit in the traditional style of Kerala architecture was once part of the Barton Hill Girls' High School in Thiruvananthapuram. Photo: Achuthsankar S. Nair   | Photo Credit: Achuthsankar S. Nair

In 1897, HH The Maharaja’s High School for Girls was upgraded to Maharaja’s College for Girls with three girls in the college section. Ms. B. Williams who headed the school went on to become the Principal of the College. The college later shifted to the Vazhuthacaud campus but the school remained on the same campus till 1935. In 1898, there were 289 students. Out of six pupils in form VI, three appeared for Matriculation examination and all failed.

How did the administrators view education of women? Sir T. Madhava Rao, a progressive Dewan who even wrote a book on bringing up children, held strong views on women’s education. He felt that girls should be educated in Malayalam and married off by the age of 12.

K.G. Sesha Iyer, a former High Court Judge of erstwhile Travancore, reminiscences about Sir T. Madava Rao in Old College Magazine of 1920s thus: “He was of the view that the education of Hindu girls should be in the vernacular and should not be such as to denationalise them and make them unfit for the position they must fill. In one of his utterances in the press, he wrote; Heaven spare the Hindu women the vexation of exotic useless knowledge!’ He was against too early or too unequal marriages; he suggested boycotting with a view to put them down. He was, however, not prepared to raise the marriageable age of girls generally beyond 12 and of boys beyond 18.

In 1935, the All India Women's Conference took place in Thiruvananthapuram and the group photo show that the Girls’ school was a venue. In the 1930s and 40s there were many reorganisations and transformations that took place in the educational scenario in Travancore. The Girls’ school was not left out of the plans. In 1935, it was removed from the cantonment site and split into three schools, at Cotton Hill, Barton Hill and Manacaud. The schools on the two hills remained like twin sisters, atop hills almost symmetrically placed on both sides of the cantonment. The buildings were of the same style, set up at different levels in the hilly terrain. In 1990-91, the Barton Hill school was closed forever, and the land was taken over by the Barton Hill Engineering College set up by the Government. Some of the school buildings are still used by the Engineering college, but there is no other trace of the school. When the school was closed, its rich collection of books (part of the collection of the Barton Hill Girls’ School and also Normal School, which trained women teachers) were abandoned. Luckily for the school, N. Parameswaran, former deputy librarian of University Library, was the president of the parent-teacher association in Cotton Hill School and he saw to it that all the books were taken over by Cotton Hill School.

Most school libraries tend to perceive old books as a nuisance and many of them have been destroyed. The only remains of the Barton Hill School is a shelf with the name of the school and some old books resting in it, in the Cotton Hill School.

R. Beata, a teacher in the Barton Hill School during 1984-86, recalls that the school was full of students during her times, wearing the same white and green uniform of the Cotton Hill School. She feels sad that the school has vanished into the past. She does not know why government schools are on the decline in spite of teachers and spacious campuses.

Amidst the din of the Cotton Hill School campus brimming with students, the fate of Barton Hill school reminds us how quietly and unceremoniously can schools vanish.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 6:24:52 PM |

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