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20 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 20 September, 2018 12:52:15 AM
OLD SCHOOLS – PART 3 : As September is a month dedicated to ensuring education for all, with International Literacy Day on September 8 and National Education Day on September 17, Y&I takes a look at some of the oldest schools in our country in a series of articles over the next few weeks.

Dhaka Government Muslim High School

Maria Mohsin
Dhaka Government Muslim High School

In 1874, Dhaka Madrasah was established at a rented house in Patuatuli to educate conservative Muslim students of the area. As the madrasah was founded with financial support from Mohsin Fund, an endowment set up by Muhammad Mohsin of Hughli in 1806, it was also called Mohsinia Madrasah.  

In 1880, the madrasah was moved to its own building near Victoria (now Bahadur Shah) Park. To compete with other schools, Dhaka Madrasah opened an Anglo-Persian department in 1906. Arabic, Persian, Bengali and English were taught at the institute.

The Anglo-Persian department was separated from the madrasah in 1916 and the new institution was named Dhaka Government Muslim High School.  

 The newly established Government Muslim High School first started its operation in a colonial bungalow inside the Dhaka Collegiate School compound. In 1945, it moved to its present location near Bahadur Shah Park at Lakshmi Bazar.

The school building was originally a Portuguese fort, but the old red structure was demolished and a new building was constructed _ the exact year is not known. The school building has been renovated several times since. Dafrin Muslim Hostel was a dormitory for residential students and it is still in use today.   

In the beginning, a strict Islamic dress code, with pyjama-panjabi (loose cotton trousers and long shirt) and tupi (prayer cap), was made compulsory for both students and teachers. With modernisation, students were given regular school uniforms, but still had to wear tupi and perform prayers during school hours.

In 1945, the high school ran classes 5 to 10 only. But after becoming a government school, it included classes 3 and 4. The school maintained a rich library and archives from the start, and still, many books from the 18th Century can be found there now.  

Recalling his old schooldays, Mohiuddin Ahmed, 81, a retired government official and a former student of the school, said: “I studied in the school from 1947-52. We wore white shirts with pyjama. The school had huge fields. Even students from other schools used to come and play there. We used to get snacks, like paratha or shingara, even fresh mango during season, for tiffin.”

 “We had elective subjects like hygiene, which was taught by the civil surgeon of Dhaka. We had art lesson, but there was no music, though the Scouts had a band. Urdu was made compulsory, but we, Bengali students, didn’t like studying it. For class work, we would write Urdu in Bangla letters! Our Urdu teacher was nice though _ he would make us stand on the bench as punishment, but he passed us in the final exam anyway. We had a math teacher who always carried a cane, but he would punish us by pulling our ears instead. I passed my Matric (now SSC) exams from the school in 1952, just as the Language Movement was beginning,” he continued.

“There was a boy called Ekhlasuddin, he came from a poor family but he was a brilliant student. He had nowhere to live, so the school authorities allowed him to stay in one of the school rooms. He stood first in the Matric exams and later, became a professor at Dhaka University. Writer Burhanuddin Khan Jahangir was also one of our seniors,” Ahmed added.

From the beginning, the school achieved excellent results and even in 2004, it was elected as the best school in Dhaka by the Education Ministry. It still maintains 100 percent pass rate in SSC (Secondary School Certificate) exams every year.  

Right now, Muslim High School has 698 students, with 18 teachers and three office staff. Though it has been maintaining its good standard, the school is provided with very few facilities by the government.

“The condition of the school is deteriorating, and it will continue so unless the authorities do something. Though we don’t get that many good students now, as parents are reluctant to send their children to a school with poor facilities, we still get 100 percent pass results. The school is still running with the facilities it had before, with no new additions in recent years,” said Mohammad Abul Bashar Bhuian, an assistant teacher of Dhaka Government Muslim High School.

“The school compound is very big, but we don’t have enough classes as we don’t have the funds to build a new building. We only get salary for three office workers. For additional help, we, the teachers, have to pay from our own pockets,” he added.

According to Bhuian, since the school’s establishment, it has been a school for Muslim boys only. The students, as well as the teachers who work there, are all Muslims. When this correspondent asked if there any reason for that, he answered: “The is no rule that only Muslims can study or work here. But it has been like that for so long that it has become an unwritten rule of the school, as we never see any non-Muslim students trying to get admission here, or any non-Muslim teachers wanting to work here. We don’t discourage any non-Muslims to come here, but they usually don’t.”

Rashed Khan, who recently completed his graduation, is a former student of the school. (Class of 2010). “Muslim High School is one of the oldest schools in Bangladesh, and that makes me feel like I am also a part of its history. This school has a historic value and the authorities must appreciate that,” he said.

Riaj Ahmed, a businessman of Old Dhaka, also passed his SSC exams from the school in 2003. “When we were in school, we never realised how much valuable our school was and how it had played a significant role in the history of our country. The condition of the school should be improved and we must give this institution the appreciation it deserves.” 

Photos: File, Internet.

 

 

 

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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