Not long ago, the schools surrounding the Darjeeling hills were a runaway favourite among people across nations and generations. They deservedly basked in the glory of being the blue-eyed boys in the eyes of many a people. At par with the global best of their times, they attracted teeming thousands of students from across the globe owing to many factors uniquely riveted with their classic aura of nostalgia and majesty. But a few unfortunate events in the last three decades have ensured that they no more a cut above the rest by eating away their vintage esteem and credibility.
The days of yore
The schools of Darjeeling hills were mostly established in the British colonial era. Primarily concentrated around the towns of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong, the establishments were mostly boarding schools which still wore the classic smell and aura of colonial days even in post independence India. The vintage and nostalgic feeling can be still felt in the unique architectural patterns and layouts of the buildings. Presence of eminent teachers who imparted both world class knowledge and learning skills was an added advantage for studying in the hills schools. The discipline and ethical values imparted in the said institutions were in lines with the ideal principles of mankind. Lastly, the environmental peace and scenic beauty of the region promoted education will nowhere else besides generating a sense of wellbeing that were beneficial in the long run.
The winds of change
The situation slowly started worsening with the growing agitations surrounding the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state for the resident Gorkha majorities residing in the region. The Gorkhas are an ethnic group originally hailing from Nepal who had settles in and around the Darjeeling hills many years ago. They felt that owing to their majority in the region, they must be approved a separate Gorkhaland state carved out of the existent state of West Bengal. Their logic was that this would initiate proper development and growth of the region which was till then overlooked by the government and they lay deprived for many years. The agitation gained air in the 70’s and ceased by the 90’s. Once again they gained momentum with the onset of the new century and have hence continued incessantly.
Schools face a body blow
The agitations ensured that outsiders stayed away from the hills for prolonged durations. The students and teachers hailing from faraway places feared about their security besides being concerned about the future too. Intermittent violent disorders slowly put a break on the number of students pouring in from distant lands. Nowadays besides Indian students, only students from Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan come to these schools. The teachers too are now more localized in their origins than before thus compromising with their quality. The numbers are decreasing by each day along with the quality and grace of the institutions.
What the future beholds
As the Gorkhaland storm still rages on, there is little hope of any respite from the catastrophic crisis. Sadly enough, the frail economy and falling standards of the region do not seem to bother the agitators at all. The two objects of pride namely tourism and boarding schools that once were the crowning feathers of Darjeeling are now crippled with apathetic neglect. The old glory of the hills schools will be restored only if the agitation ends but one can only hope for such a happy ending and keep his fingers crossed in the meanwhile.