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Friday, June 5, 2015

Lady Willington School in bad shape

Triplicane boasts of many historic places laced with spiritualism.  The name Triplicane derived from ‘Thiruvallikkeni’ – the famous pond of Sri Parthasarathi Swami known as ‘Allikkeni – meaning the lily pond – prefix of Thiru added to denote its religious significance.  In 1600s, Triplicane was a separate village. After about a century, British found Triplicane to be a good area for settlement and a large number of people moved there.  In 1841, Ice House was built to store the ice bars imported from America through ships. Ice bars were imported to provide the English a temporary relief from the blistering heat.  In mid-19th century, numerous educational institutions were formed in the area. Hindu Higher Secondary Schoolwas started in 1853 and Presidency College in 1864-65.  Queen Mary’s College, NKT Girls High School, Lady Willington School, NKT Boys High School are some of the century old educational institutions in the area.

The history  [source : http://www.ladywillingdoniase.com]  puts it that during the later part of 19th century, there was a Hindu School for Girls at Ice House, the first of its kind in Chennai, which was managed by the Vijayarangam Trust. It was then taken over by the Government of Madras Presidency. This Hindu School was upgraded into a Training Institution, was renamed as 'Lady Willingdon Training School' after the name of the wife of the then Governor of Madras Presidency in 1922.

A few months back, reports stated that  Madras high court had given the State Govt. 3 months to decide on naming the Lady Willingdon College campus after freedom fighter M V Singaravelar, who was the original owner of the Marina beachfront property on Kamarajar Salai.  Singaravelar, founded the first trade union in India and was the first to celebrate May Day in the country.  An earlier report in TOI stated  that he was divested of the 16-acre property by the British as he funded the freedom struggle and patronised freedom fighters, including radical Tamil poet Subramania Bharathi. While the sprawling property, from Vivekanandar Illam up to the end of the college campus, was taken away from him by force, there are 16 other properties still administered by the high court’s administrator general and official trustee (AG&OT).

Expressing sadness at the neglect of memorials and samadhis of Singaravelar’s forefathers on the college campus and passing orders on a batch of five PILs, the first bench of Chief Justice R K Agrawal and Justice M Sathyanarayanan asked the state to take steps to renovate the memorials and samadhis within six months.  Forgetting the man who helped fight untouchability, the campus as well as the school and college buildings on it were named after Lord Willingdon, one of the “worst governors of Madras,” said A E Chelliah, a senior advocate who filed the petition that led to the Madras high court directing the government to decide on renaming the campus after him. The teachers’ training institute on the campus was not started by Lord and Lady Willingdon either. In the late 19th century, social reformer R S Subbulakshmi built a training institute for widows on the Ice House campus. It was relocated to the present campus and named Lady Willingdon Training College, said historian KRA Narasiah.

A 92-year-old Government school building in Triplicane is on verge of collapse reports Times of India, Chennai edition.  Close to four months after TOI reported about the condition of Lady Willingdon Higher Secondary School for Girls near Vivekananda House, the authorities concerned appear indifferent. Last month, the compound wall collapsed but no one was injured as the school was closed for the summer vacation.

Large parts of the British era building, which is made up of lime plaster, have fallen. The corporation, which received flak for demolishing the heritage wall of Presidency College on Kamarajar Salai, does not seem to be bothered about rebuilding the damaged wall, says the report. “The compound wall didn't fall on any students or teachers because of vacation. But authorities do not appear interested in building a new wall as the students are from poor families. The remaining portion of the wall continues to be a threat for commuters as well as homeless people who sleep on the pavement at night,” said K Sekhar, who regularly travels on Dr Besant Road where the school is located. However, there is some hope. Volunteers from Rotary Club of Chennai (Thiruvanmiyur) and Adayalam, an NGO, visited the school  recently and expressed interest in the restoration. Despite the physical threat to the building, the school's students have been doing well academically . “It's a surprise that the school has secured 93% pass percentage in the recent plus two examinations,” said K Venkatraman, president of Rotary Club (Thiruvanmiyur).

He said they were ready to take up restoration if the school was handed over to them temporarily.  “Being a girls' school, there is an urgent need to raise the height of the compound wall and also to provide facilities to toilets. There are several complaints that miscreants often come and drink on the campus. The anti-social elements also steal and damage property as there are no security guards. “ said Venkataraman.  Adayalam, which lodged a complaint with the CM cell said they got a reply that funds had been sanctioned for the structure. But there are no signs of the restoration work. This heritage building definitely deserves a respect and if the government is not keen on the restoration, they should at least allow others to help the school. Teachers say the crumbling ceiling, dysfunctional taps and toilets remain a concern.  The PWD department, which is responsible for the upkeep of the school, says it needs at least `70 lakh to restore the structure. Officials of the school education department refused to comment on the delay of giving funds to PWD for the restoration.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

21st May 2015.

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