Indian community heaves sigh of relief at getting back IISJ campus

October 10, 2018
Hassan Cheruppa

Saudi Gazette

– The Indian community in Jeddah heaved a sigh of relief at the news of getting back their sprawling Rehab campus where the Boys Section of International Indian School had been functioning for nearly quarter of a century until last Thursday. Many parents and students expressed their joy after experiencing days of agony and anxiety at the near loss of their beloved campus following a court order to vacate the premises before Oct.9.

The resolution of the issue came with signing of a new agreement with the landlord Sayeed Omer Bal Khurram on Wednesday. Deputy Consul General and the School Observer Mohammed Shahid Alam, led the marathon negotiations, representing the Indian community, with the owner of the building that resulted in a breakthrough in the crisis.

The resolution of the issue was the outcome of the hectic all-out efforts made by the Indian community, at the helm of which was the embassy and the consulate, as well as parents, students, alumni and community leaders. Many prominent Saudi figures, including veteran journalist Khaled Almaeena also made interventions to find a settlement to the issue that affected the future studies of more than 4,200 students.

There were several prominent community members in the forefront of the efforts to resolve the issue. Some Jeddah-based Indian businessmen and investors also supported the initiative to save the campus.

It was also the result of an intensive social media campaign, launched by IISJ students. They even approached the landlord, seeking a favorable action in addressing their concerns. Farhan Mohammed Faheem, head boy of the school, Mustafa Hashmi, literary secretary, Maaz Yunus, culture secretary, Mohammed Abdul Gafoor, chief executive of IISJ Reporters, and Sameer Roshan, sports captain, coordinated the campaign with the support of other students.

Daud Arif, former head boy, who is working with the All India Radio in New Delhi and thousands of other old boys from all around the world, joined the campaign to save their alma mater.

In a statement, the school Cabinet thanked all for the unflinching support extended to save the campus. “We are happy to announce that our beloved Boys Section is back and it’s all because of your efforts... It would not have been possible without the efforts of all students, alumnus, faculty members, and countless others who have tweeted more than 7,100 times,” the statement added.

The Head Boy Farhan thanked all members of the community as well as many Saudis for their whole-hearted support to save the campus. “On behalf of the entire students, I thank them all from the bottom of my heart for joining the campaign. We — members of the IISJ family — have proved that ‘unity is strength’ as we rallied together to save our campus,” he said adding, “as long as we’re united, no one can take away anything from us,” he said.

There was tremendous response to the Twitter campaign, titled “Save Indian School,” launched by the students on Friday. An online video campaign had also been kick-started on Sunday. The head boy told Saudi Gazette that the number of tweets surpassed 7,000 in the campaign with hashtags (#Save_IISJ#IISJUnite#Sushmaswarajpleasehelp).

“We have tagged Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, Minister of Human Resource Development (HRD) Prakash Javadekar, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and many other Indian leaders with an earnest appeal for their urgent intervention to resolve the crisis,” he said.

The students were enthusiastic with response from some leaders, including Shashi Tharoor, former minister of state for external affairs and HRD. In a tweet, Tharoor, a member of parliament, urged the Indian Embassy to intervene in the issue with renegotiating the rent rather than moving the school. He also called on wealthy non-Indian residents to support the efforts to save the school campus. Binoy Viswam, a member of parliament, had written a letter to Swaraj saying this unexpected eviction order has put both students and teachers of school in awry and they are anguished about their future.

About launching the online campaign Head Boy Farhan said: “We, the students, did not want to just walk away from the campus which we do believe is part of us.” Recalling the glorious days at Rehab campus, he said: “From being a teary eyed kid, to turning into a confident teen, almost ready to face the world, this campus has seen it all. I do not think any dictionary has come up with the right words to describe our feelings of frustration and disappointment.”

“IISJ has been more than a home to us as long as we remember, as every single place and every single spot has memories attached to it. And on the day when the announcement of vacating the campus came, we went through all those places which we know, we might never return to,” he said adding “We cried as we walked the corridors and went through the labs, the library and that day made us realize what we are going to miss out from now on.”

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