Ram Mohan English School, established in 1917, bears the distinction of being the country’s first ever co-educational school, which allowed boys and girls to study together within the same four walls. The school shut its doors back in 2005, much to the disappointment of its distinguished alumnus. Some eminent residents of the city who call the institution their alma mater have now decided to pool in their resources and rally for its revival.
The Alumnae Association has on its rolls several ex-students who have carved out a niche for themselves in their respective spheres – fiery union leader Sharad Rao, deputy PRO for BEST Manoj Varade, Bal Kurtadkar who is remembered as the first broadcaster for Akashwani, and former Indian cricketer Sudhir Naik, are all former pupils of the school. Keen on reviving their beloved school, they have called for a meeting with the trustees of the school. The association now has over 250 members.
The school shut its doors when fewer and fewer children started registering as students. Other Marathi medium schools in the area too have suffered a decline in student numbers, but have managed to stay afloat – Chikitsak Samuha Shirolkar High School, Aryan Education Society’s Sharda Sadan Girl’s High School, and Aryan School are just a few.
Milind Nagarkar, who is one of the trustees of the association, said, “The school closed down in 2005. It was run by the Mumbai Prarthana Samaj Trust. It was a very old school in this area. When the area became more commercial and the residents started to migrate away from this area, our student strength started falling. Hence we had to shut the school down in phases. The trust has received information that the ex-students who have formed an association wanted to meet the trustees. We don’t know what they want to discuss.”
Ashok Puranik, trustee of the Alumnae association, said, “I passed my SSC in 1961. In October 2011 we had reunion. Bal Kurtadkar, the 92-year-old broadcaster who now lives abroad also attended the reunion. When we learnt that our school had been shut down, we decided to form an association. The formation of the association took six months, and now we want to meet the trustees of the Mumbai Prarthana Samaj. We want our school to open its doors to students again. It was the first co-ed school in India and it is disheartening that it was shut down. We will come up with a solution soon.”
Shivraj Bhujbale, principal of Aryan School, said, “Our student strength from Std V to Std X in 2011 was 966 last year, and this year it has dwindled to 883. It is true that the number of students in Marathi medium schools is declining and the main reason is migration. Members of the Marathi community are selling their homes in Girgaum at extremely profitable rates, and shifting to places like Vasai and Virar. Our trust offers clothes to students to lure them. Our trust school for girls, Sharda Sadan, has only one class each for Std VIII, IX and X. There are hardly 100 students in all these three classrooms.”
Echoing Bhujbale’s sentiments, Rajendra Gosavi, principal of Chikitsak Samuha Shirolkar High School said, “It is true that the Marathi medium schools are getting fewer students every year. But the Marathi families who aren’t migrating want their children to study in English medium schools. Our student strength from Stds VI to X in 2011 was 1,784, which has now dropped to 1,720. To sustain the school, we have started teaching subjects like science and mathematics in English in the secondary section. We have also started offering different sports to attract students.”