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Historic Indian school welcomes girls for first time

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Sarah Graham
WVoN co-editor 

A teacher in New Delhi has won a ground-breaking battle to allow girls to be educated in the historic Anglo-Arabic Senior Secondary School.

Faiza Nisar Ali made history when she and many other Muslim women successfully campaigned for the school to admit Muslim girls as well as boys.

The management of the 300 year old school made the decision earlier this year following efforts by Nisar, who was appointed to prepare a feasibility report on why Muslim boys and girls should be educated together.

“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,” she said.

Ali is the school’s business teacher and the first woman teacher to be employed by the school. Today she remains one of only three women on the teaching staff.

She and the school received much resistance, both from the predominantly male staff and members of the community who accused her of being “un-Islamic”.

Ali was hospitalised by the mental pressure of the angry reactions she received and, at eight weeks pregnant, suffered a miscarriage.

However her cause was furthered when Fatima Alvi, a student at Jawaharlal Nehru University, filed a petition in the Delhi High Court, with the support of many other Muslim women.

The court backed the decision at the end of May and the school has since admitted more than 30 girls to classes 6-11.

The Times of India described the change as “a massive step for a school that recruited its first woman teacher only in 2006.”

Nevertheless, Faiza remains conscious of the resistance. “Let’s hope there is an attitudinal shift and changes begin to happen,” she said.

The school, which started in 1696 and is situated at Ajmeri Gate in Delhi’s old quarters, is a sought after institution, boasting alumni including Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, Liaqat Ali Kahn; Syed Ahmad Kahn, founder of Aligarh Muslim University; and a number of Indian politicians.

The school plans to improve facilities such as a girls’ common room and separate toilets, and to recruit more female staff.

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