One of the veritable nerve centres of women’s education in north-eastern India, Handique Girls’
One of the veritable nerve centres of women’s education in north-eastern India, Handique Girls’ College was established in 1939, a dream come true for the late Mrs. Rajabala Das, a pioneer in the field of women’s education. The patronage and philanthropy of the late Radha Kanta Handique were also largely responsible for giving shape to the first institution for higher education for women, in the undivided state of Assam. Mrs. Rajabala Das also became the founder principal of the college. Imbued with the fervour of the nationalist struggle for freedom, Mrs. Das was intent in doing away with unjustified taboos and prejudices on the societal, familial and individual levels, pertaining to the womenfolk of Assam. Education appeared to her to be the only weapon to enable a woman to reveal her own identity and to partake of active public life. Mrs. Rajabala Das was herself one of the few fortunate women to have received higher education during the time, and she thus set about with an iron will to start a women’s college in Gauhati. Beginning with just two students in the year of its inception, and housed in the premises of the Panbazar Girls’ High School, the college was initially known as Gauhati Girls’ College.
With the subsequent shifting to the present site, the college was renamed R. K. Handique Girls’ College and was affiliated to the Calcutta University in 1940. By finally naming the college Handique Girls’ College, a well-deserved tribute was paid to the late R. K. Handique, the noted philanthropist of Assam, who donated a generous sum for its development. The Handique family, later on, in the cherished memory of the late R. K. Handique, further donated a considerable amount for the expansion and development of the college. The college is situated on the western bank of the legendary Dighalipukhuri, an ideal location in the heart of the city of Guwahati. The serene atmosphere with its calm green surroundings is conducive to the pursuit of academic activities.
Over the years, Handique Girls’ College has burgeoned, from its nascent stage, to a centre of academic excellence, nurturing simultaneously academic and co-curricular endeavours. The college has proudly established itself as the foremost institution for women’s education in north-east India, and it functions as a meeting point for students from the diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds of the region, and beyond. The present enrolment of the college is around 3300 students. The sixty-seven years of the college’s existence have been filled with a brilliant record of academic performance in the examinations conducted by the Gauhati University and the Assam Higher Secondary Education Council.
The aim of the educational programme at Handique Girls’ College is to foster a spirit of academic excellence, encourage critical thinking, create innovative ways to broaden horizons and discover the liberating power of new ideas and insights. It is the college’s unflinching belief that value-based learning is of great relevance in a dynamic work environment. Faculty and students share a special interactive relationship which provides an emancipatory learning context. Students have easy access to faculty guidance, full staff support, and a caring and nurturing atmosphere. The college provides students with a range of avenues and opportunities for self-expression, initiative and experimentation in both the intellectual and co-curricular fields. Students have a chance to interact meaningfully with distinguished personalities and experts from all walks of life.
Education at Handique Girls’ College empowers young women to assume positions of leadership in society, to think in terms of constructive alternatives, and most importantly, to have a sense of commitment to the larger community, and to be sensitive to the duties and responsibilities that come with the privilege of higher education for women in a country like India. In the final analysis, the educational enterprise at Handique Girls’ College seeks to nurture women who are not just conformers but trail-blazers-women who understand the link between educational and creative citizenship: in short, women who can, and who will, make a difference.