Save the country’s first art school


The government should preserve all buildings and sites of historical significance

Along with the original Maheshwarpasha Art School building, the school grounds are home to two other buildings of the renamed Shashibhushan Shishu Vidya Niketan. Currently, plans are underway to demolish the century-old main building and replace it with one of similar appearance. Photo: Habibur Rahman

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Along with the original Maheshwarpasha Art School building, the school grounds are home to two other buildings of the renamed Shashibhushan Shishu Vidya Niketan. Currently, plans are underway to demolish the century-old main building and replace it with one of similar appearance. Photo: Habibur Rahman

It is sad that the building that once housed East Bengal’s first arts and crafts school, Maheshwarpasha Art School, is about to be demolished and replaced with a new structure. Although the identity and location of the school itself has changed a few times since its inception in 1904, the building where it was first located is recognized by art historians for its cultural significance. . In a statement dated March 14, 1975, poet Jasimuddin and artists Quamrul Hasan and Nilima Ibrahim also stressed the need to preserve the school for posterity. So despite this, why is the Khulna City Corporation (KCC) considering demolishing it?

It should be noted that the building currently houses a school named Shashibhushan Shishu Vidya Niketan. Even if a similar building is erected in its place for the students, it will not be the same, and more than a century of history will have been lost simply because we did not appreciate the importance of preserving the buildings and sites of historical significance. . The decision to build a new building after demolition also exudes poor planning at best and historic amnesia at worst, as the current school could easily be moved elsewhere. In the end, there is no justification for demolishing or modifying such an important structure.

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We would like to urge local authorities to consider how to avoid this outcome and find the best possible way to preserve its rich cultural history. As experts have said, turning the building into an art gallery could be a way to get tourists interested in the local heritage, as well as the school’s own history. At the same time, we also have to see the big picture: this is not an isolated incident. Such buildings and sites are, after all, regularly sacrificed on the altar of development. Therefore, we urge the government to stop this assault and identify more vulnerable buildings and take immediate action to preserve them. With the right plan, these can then be turned into tourist destinations, giving local tourism a much needed boost. We have to understand that buildings like these are more than brick and mortar. It is time we accepted this with the sobriety it deserves.


Kayleen C. Rice