CHENNAI: When a student walked into the Malayalam department of Presidency College last week seeking admission, it brought new life not only to the abandoned classrooms of the department but also to the cobweb-ridden corridors of the languages section of the college.
Jophin, a Malayalam theatre enthusiast, had not only sought a degree but kept alive the ailing section by providing one student to a department which would not have seen even a single student if not for him.
“Last year, we had one student in the second year BA class. But the student discontinued mid-way and since then there have been no students in the Malayalam department,” said A Mohan Kumar, head and only professor in the department. Though the department has a sanctioned staff strength of five, only one professor remains. The rest of the posts have remained vacant since the professors retired over the past few years.
The department was launched in the 19th century when the three Presidency colleges were first established in the country. It had once seen stalwarts of Malayalam literature like poet O M Anujan, erstwhile lyricist Chirayinkeezhu Ramakrishnan Nair, writer, scholar S K Nair and poet Attoor Ravi Varma, among a long list of achievers.
The situation is not much different in other minority language departments offering undergraduate courses. The Urdu department too has just one student, now in the final year, and one professor, while the Hindi department has three students and a lone professor.
But the minority languages department in the Presidency College may just be the more fortunate compared to those in other colleges in the city. The Arabic and Hindi departments in Nandanam Arts College have not had a single student since 2008. In the last two years, two professors, one in each of the departments, have retired virtually shutting down the department. “When the professors were there they didn’t have any students, so there was nothing to teach. Some were given clerical jobs like distribution of Railway concession forms. By 2013, both retired. Since then the books in the library have been shifted to the main library,” said a professor.