Holding aloft rich legacy

General Gurnam Singh Public School, Sangrur has carved a niche for itself having been awarded the International School Award by the British Council, writes karanvir singh sebia.

nowledge is power. Whoever has understood this, has tried to do his bit for the society by facilitating this tool for empowerment. Here’s throwing some light on one such man. The name is Sardar Bahadur Bakshi Gurnam Singh. And today there is a school that stands in his memory in the heart of the erstwhile Jind state – in Sangrur.

A brief brush with the school gives a reason to dip into the grand history of its genesis. Let us glimpse into some of the pages back into ‘then’. It all began with the dream and vision of one man, Sardar Bahadur Bakshi Gurnam Singh.

The man & his mechanics
Having grown up in the heart of Punjab, Bahadur, Commander-in-Chief of the Jind State Forces, was the son of Sardar Prem Singh, a Minister in Jind State. He received a direct commission into the State Infantry and was gradually promoted as Commandant of the Imperial Service Infantry. The year 1897 saw the title of ‘Sardar Bahadur’ conferred upon him. In 1897 across 1898, he took part in the Tirah Expeditions in command of his Regiment. In recognition of his services, the Government of India conferred on him the Second Class order to British India. In July, 1901, he was appointed General of Local Troops in addition to being Commandant of Imperial Service Infantry.

He went to England with the Coronation Contingent to join the Coronation Darbar in London. In January 1903, the Government of India conferred on him the First-Class Order to British India. He was promoted as Commander-in-Chief, State Forces, on November 6, 1906. And then, it went a longer way towards actualizing his vision, given the fact that he was a well connected man – his aunt being married to his late Highness Raja Raghubir Singh Bahadur of Jind, and his daughter being married to His Highness Maharaja Sir Bhupinder Singh, Sahib Bahadur, G.C.I.E., Maharaja of Patiala.

General Gurnam Singh went on to will his estate, comprising 92 bighas of land, along with the heritage palatial house, for the welfare of residents of the Jind State to be used for educational, technological and cultural purposes without any discrimination of caste, creed and colour.

After his passing away on March 3, 1946 – since the building was lying vacant – his estate was used as a refugee camp in 1947 after the Partition and then as a haven for women.

In 1967, Sardar Gurbaksh Singh Sibia, former Punjab Minister for Irrigation and Power, took the initiative to reconstitute the trust (as per the terms of the will) which had become dormant due to the death of all the trustees. Thanks to his initiative, the School was founded and then formally inaugurated on April 23, 1968, by His Highness Adhiraj Yadvindra Singh of Patiala, who also happened to be General Gurnam Singh’s maternal grandson.

And thus, in 1967, the first batch of 100 students was enrolled and from then on, General Gurnam Singh Public School has grown from strength to strength. Currently, it boasts 3,300 students, enjoying the process of learning in the lap of modern infrastructure.

The road up & ahead
The school aspires to provide qualitative all-round education for multidimensional development of its students. The motto that lords over the premises is – Bal, Budh & Bibek. Translated, the aim reads – to turn out a crop of youngsters throbbing with physical strength, wisdom and perseverance.
And moving ahead with that motto, the school, not surprisingly, has been awarded the International School Award by the British Council. There is also an array of activities conducted under the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme presently known as IAYP (International Award for Young people), in school hockey, cricket, swimming, shooting, football, table tennis, badminton, basket ball and athletics.
Lessons from all around
Learning is a lot beyond what is learnt in the class. The school boasts a well-stocked library with a rich reference collection across encyclopedias, handbooks, dictionaries, atlases, fiction and a whole lot of research material.

There always are the LCD projectors and smart classes to up the information quotient. And besides many co-curricular activities, the students can take up training in western and Indian, classical, vocal music and various dance forms.

The school also lays stress on making the most of the physical strength that Punjabi youngsters come high on. Sports, besides, learning, are indeed an important slice of learning here. So they have a 25/13 mts. indoor swimming pool – the first of its kind in the entire north India.
Then there is a fully air-conditioned rifle-shooting range, matching international standards.A well-equipped air conditioned gymnasium ensures upping the fitness level among the students.

Movers & Managers
General Gurnam Singh Public School is managed by a trust and Capt Amarinder Singh, former Punjab Chief Minister, is the Chairman with these trustees – Col Manjit Sibia (Secretary), Gurjeet Singh Jawandha,
Dr KG Singla, Dr Ravinder Klair, Karanvir Sibia, Bhartander Sidhu, and NS Mann.

Kamla Puri was the first Headmistress of the school, which was initially named Sangrur Preparatory School, Sangrur and then later, was ably managed by Sardar Harpal Singh Brar, 1970 onwards, for many years. Currently Jaswinder Riar is the principal.There’s an emotional moment that smoulders behind the naming of the school. General Gurnam Singh’s wife, Sardarni Niranjan Kaur, during a visit to the school, dipped deep into nostalgia when she saw children busy with varied activities in their classrooms and playgrounds. Sharing her thoughts with the founder of the School, Sardar Gurbaksh Singh Sibia, she said that since the family did not have a male heir, the family may not be remembered in the times to come… That’s when Gurbaksh Singh Sibia decided to rename the school as General Gurnam Singh Public School, Sangrur.

So today, after so many years and thousands of children having passed out from the premiere institution and who proudly carry the name of the school, the legacy of General Gurnam Singh, the great philanthropist, continues to echo in the deepest of gratitude and the highest of praise.

The school echoes the words of a highly revered saint from this part of Punjab. The district of Sangrur has been blessed that Sant Attar Singh Ji, Mastuana Sahib, who’s left an imprint on the lives of thousands of people from the region, took the initiative to spread the message of education and educating the girl child, in particular. His message was ‘every soul should be given a fair chance to get formal education so that he/she may develop his/her faculty through the process of reading and writing in order to pave his/her way to the ultimate truth’. He believed that education opens the door to self-reliance that leads to self-realization. Worldly knowledge should be combined with spiritual intelligence, he stressed.

The Gurbani says it so beautifully: Vidya vichaari, taan paropkaari. It translates into – ‘First empower yourself through education and then help in empowering others through your good work.’

Well, the man called General Gurnam Singh lived out this message enough to gift his entire property to his people for the lofty purpose of education. And sure enough, his gift has gone a long, long way in removing dark patches of ignorance in an otherwise backward area of Punjab. Today, thanks to his vision, thousands of children, stand empowered, to take on the world and create a tomorrow they dare to dream of.