CHENNAI: With the city gearing up to celebrate the 376th Madras Day on Saturday, City Express recalls old educational institutions which played a key role in improving the city’s education scenario.
Pachaiyappa’s College, a 38-acre campus located in the heart of the city at Shenoy Nagar was the first educational institution to be established in South India without British funding to benefit economically backward students.
During the 1850s, there were only two colleges in Madras - the Presidency College in Chepauk, Triplicane and the Madras Christian College in East Tambaram. But both these colleges were accessible only to a different class of students. To bring a change in these equations, the Pachaiyappa’s Board of Trustees established a primary school at Broadway — Pachaiyappa Central Institution — in 1842, from Pachaiyappa Mudaliar’s will.
This school started which provided free elementary education to poor Hindu students in their mother tongue (mostly Tamil and Telugu) grew in popularity and was elevated into a high school and later into a college.
Though the college’s growth was sluggish during the first 50 years, it expanded at a brisk phase later, providing Arts and Science education at the Bachelors, Masters and Honours levels.
Professors and college alumni recall that right from the Indian Independence struggle, students from this college actively took part in protests and even went to the extent of lowering the Union Jack (the British flag) and hoisted the Indian Tricolour flag within the premises.
A senior professor from the college said that the college being a political hot bed was because the students were mostly from working class backgrounds. When they found that something wasn’t quite right, they raised their voice against it, whether it was the Anti-Hindi protest or the Tamil Eelam issue or the recent matter of prohibition, the professor added.
The State President of SFI, P Uchimagalai said that this tradition was slowly dying as there are no democratically elected student bodies to raise concerns over lack of basic amenities.
“Earlier the students were much more politically aware, discussed and wrote a lot before engaging in political activities. In recent years, students are used as mere muscle power and these immature protests might not help the first generation learners,” he added.
Academicians praise the college for adopting an almost Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode in education, where the individual who donated the land for the college never interfered with the administration.
The college which once was attracting students from not only Chennai but from neighbouring northern districts for its academic excellence has lost its shine now. For a college with more than 5,500 students, presently there are only 30 toilet blocks and most of them are in bad shape and students either used toilets constructed for faculty or urinated along compound walls. While other Arts and Science colleges developed their infrastructure on par with the increase in student admission, Pachaiyappas failed to do so. No major expansion plans are on the cards even after the classroom strength has doubled within the last ten years.
Annadurai, a former professor of the college said that the College doesn’t engage all the students in sports and there is only one Physical Education Teacher to train the students. Despite government support the sports equipment is worn out and needs immediate replacement, he added.
The Honour Roll
- Mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujam
- Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister C N Annadurai
- Former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kasu Brahmananda Reddy
- DMK politicians Murasoli Maran, Nedunchezhiyan and K Anbazhagan
- Indian cricketers Robin Singh and C R Rangachari
- Poet Vairamuthu
- Playwright Pammal Sambanda Mudaliar