Agra, Oct 29: Hundred-plus not out: educational institutions in this Taj city have enriched India’s intellectual legacy. Many may dispute Agra’s claim to modernity, but when it comes to great and grand educational – infrastructure more than a century old – the city’s record remains unchallenged till date.
It’s not just the medical college which started as the Thompson School of Medicine or the Mental Asylum now called Mansik Arogyashala, that came up in the 1850s. Agra boasts of a dozen other educational institutions that have sent out streams of talented people who have promoted the country’s intellectual heritage.
The oldest convent in Asia, started in 1842 by six nuns of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary founded by Claudine Thevnet, continues to groom homemakers with highly cherished traits in great demand in the matrimonial market. St Joseph’s Inter-College in the neighbourhood also boasts of a hoary history. In 1846 was founded the St Peter’s College by the then Agra Archdiocese that had its sway over half of India right from Tibet to the southern end of what is now called Madhya Pradesh.
The Protestants, the Baptists, the Methodists and other denominations too had their own educational institutions, all more than a century old. St John’s degree and Inter Colleges stand tall even today. The magnificent red sand-stoned edifice of St John’s College attracts notice and inspires awe with its imposing look on the MG Road. In fact, the grandiose and often experimental architectural features of some of these institutions continue to fascinate locals.
“When people from other towns, our relatives visit us, we never fail to take them around to our schools and always the reaction is a wide-open mouth: ‘Oh my god, how much space and what grandeur, something to be really proud of, especially when you compare them with modern-day match-box like structures of schools’,” said Mukta Gupta, a former student of St Patrick’s College.
“Educational temples should automatically inspire awe and respect, the right academic ambiance comes from the structures.” A teacher of Baptist College said: “Our class-rooms are big and spacious with high ceilings, big verandahs, long corridors and open spaces all around unlike some of the modern schools which look like kabootarkhanas.” The St John’s College on Mahatma Gandhi Road is often mistaken by foreigners as the Red Fort.
Then, the Rajput and Maratha-styled Agra College and the spacious RBS College are massive architectural delights. These buildings inculcate a sense of pride in students and connect them with history. It’s little wonder that many of the older students boast to their grandchildren about the grandeur of their alma mater, said ex-St Johnian Sudheir Gupta of Vijay Nagar Colony.
Does the building of an academic institution have any relationship with the quality of output or standards of excellence? “Oh it does a lot to the confidence of the students, their grooming as healthy and mentally sharp human beings. Schools must have open, neat, well-ventilated classrooms for the healthy development of students,” said Rajan Kishore, an ex-student of St Peter’s College.
The SN Medical College and the RBS College have made notable contributions by sending out competent faculty. As the mother institution, the RBS Agriculture College provided trained hands for both the Pusa centre of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in New Delhi and later the Pant Nagar University – both centres of excellence in the sector.
Among others who passed out of RBS are former ICAR head Mangla Rai, Ex-BHU vice chancellor Punjab Singh, Nehru Agricultural University vice chancellor Dhyaan Pal Singh and popular Hindi radio commentator on cricket S.V.S. Chauhan.
Former president Shankar Dayal Sharma, former governor S.M.H. Burney, former foreign secretary S.K. Singh, security chief during Indira Gandhi’s time Ram Krishan Khandelwal, former P&T head Neepesh Talukdar and celebrated British author Reginald Massey, to name a few, are ex-St Johnians.
Both Agra College and St John’s College have the privilege of producing eminent jurists, politicians and professionals.