VIZIANAGARAM: This 155-year-old college in Vizianagaram district is one of the oldest and few colleges in south India offering a degree course in Sanskrit but it has only three students and one faculty member, the principal herself! The student strength is diminishing every year in this college as there are no takers for this ancient language.
Set amidst green environs, the MR Government Sanskrit College of Vizianagaram actually dates back to 1860 when it was set up by the Maharajas of Vizianagaram, to which Union civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju belongs.
The heritage institution was taken over by the Indian government in the 1950s and subsequently, in 2004, it was divided into Sanskrit High School and MR Government Sanskrit College of Vizianagaram. Today, the Government Sanskrit School and College in Vizianagaram pose a contrasting picture.
While the school is running smoothly with 371 students and 13 teachers and new enrollments taking place every year, the integrated (intermediate plus degree) college on the other hand, is left with just three students and a lone faculty member.
The college offers a five-year integrated course meant for students from class XI to graduation in oriental language (Sanskrit) with additional subjects like Telugu and English. Though there are 30 seats for each subject, there are no takers. The old, single-storeyed building too has been neglected and has not got a touch of paint or witnessed any structural repairs since 2003.
“Every year, the number of takers is decreasing. A decade ago, there were at least 20 students of Sanskrit but last year the number came down to five and this year, it’s down to just three. Currently, only two first-year BA students and a pre-degree student are studying in the college. Nobody is taking an interest in converting it into a government degree college offering various subjects with adequate number of students and teachers,” averred college administrative officer (junior assistant) B Rama Rao.
According to the school and college staff, since most of the students in the district are from poor economic backgrounds, they opt for professional courses or for subjects that will enable them to secure jobs. But the job opportunities for a person taking up Sanskrit is negligible and only when they have no option, do they take admission in a Sanskrit college.
Commenting on the lack of students, Swapna Haindavi, who has been the principal of the college since 2004 and has been associated with the college as a lecturer since 1999, said, “The government gives no support, no scholarship, no job opportunity nor special recognition for students studying this ancient and scientific language. Nobody seems interested in promoting the language. Unless these are forthcoming, irrespective of caste and creed of the students, parents too wouldn’t be interested in sending their children to a Sanskrit college.”
The high school offering sixth to tenth classes, on the other hand, has evolved with time. Headmaster M Bhanuprakash said, “In keeping with the tradition, we do teach Sanskrit and have a 200 marks paper for the subject but we also coach students in other relevant subjects such as English, Hindi, Telugu, Mathematics, Biology and Social Studies. Even though, we want to construct new buildings and toilets to cater to more students, and government funds had also been sanctioned for the same, they could not be utilised and we had to return them because the college and school have not been divided infrastructure-wise and there’s some objection from the college end in expansion of the school building.”
Meanwhile, deputy collector of Viziangaram district S D Anita said, “We haven’t come across any proposal to convert the heritage Sanskrit College into any other institute even though it hardly has takers.”