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A hundred years and not out

St. Mary’s School marks the feat revitalising its mission of reaching out to the margins, writes D. KARTHIKEYAN

Photo: S. James

Standing tall A symbol of Christian inclusiveness

“Education is the transmission of a civilization”Will Durant

St.Mary’s Higher Secondary School, East Gate, finds an integral place in the topography and educational map of the Temple city. One of the oldest schools in the city, St Mary’s has been providing good education and has dedicated itself in the nation-building process.

A product of colonial modernity and western idea of enlightenment and rationality, the school celebrated its centenary last Sunday (July 27). It had its humble origins under Rev.Fr.Trincal as “Thinnai Palli” a gurukul form of education in the year 1863, thus sowing the seeds for an educational mission, which has steeped itself in the annals of history and pedagogical practices.

The school has a unique prayer song, which does not refer to God despite being a Christian institution, which highlights the idea of secularism, nationalism, humanism and universalism, says Fr.Vincent Amalraj, Headmaster and Correspondent.

Historical genesis

The Society of Jesus, founded by St. Ignatius Loyola and his first companions in the year 1540 realised that education was not only an apt means for human and spiritual development but also as an as an effective instrument for reforming the Church, so they started a number of Jesuit schools.

Jesuits in India with their educational infrastructure championed and pioneered the cause of western education. In their efforts, they reached the periphery providing education to dalits, women, tribals and other marginalized communities thus demonstrating a potential to initiate a social revolution with greater ramifications.

Among others, Robert De Nobili, (1577-1656) who formed the ‘Madura Mission’ in the year 1606 and Fr. Joseph Constantius Beschi (1680-1747) — known locally as Veeramamunivar (Great among Ascetics) — evinced interest in local cultures, they became pundits in local language and perceived Christianity through indigenous eyes and presented Christianity through local idioms since the middle of the 16th century. This approach eventually contributed to the enrichment of the local languages and philology.

The old Madura Mission was revived in 1834 by the Jesuit priests from Toulouse province in France. St Mary’s school after its service of 16 years in the form of gurukul was transformed into a Government-recognized primary school in the year 1879 and served till 1904.

In 1908, the school was upgraded as high school and there was no stopping back as the school rose to become a full-fledged higher secondary school in the year 1978.

Venerable service

Fr.Arockiaraj, rector and former Headmaster says, “the school runs on the Jesuit principle of “option for the poor” and is aimed to provide good quality education inculcating principles of humanity and societal responsibility to the dispossessed and downtrodden sections in the community”.

The school under Fr. Simon S.J. saw the introduction of English language teaching, based on the Jesuit idea “By Light to Life,” which is the school motto that infers on the social responsibility to enlighten and empower the masses.

This change helped in gaining momentum to educate a person for a productive career developing the individual as a human person in the humanities and sciences with social and political responsibility.

During the years 1961-1965, Rev.Fr.Mathai’s concerted efforts saw library getting modernised and emphasis was laid on effective learning with students excelling in sports at district and state levels. In 1965, R.Ram and N.Subbiah secured state ranks and the next year, which was also the diamond jubilee year saw Ramesh Babu secure State first as a fitting tribute.

Eminent visitors

In an effort to promote religious harmony the school has for quite some time brought eminent religious scholars like Kirubananda Variar, Kundrakudi Adigalar and Thirukkural Munisamy to address the students.

Former Chief Ministers K.Kamaraj, M. Bhakthavatsalam, former Union Minister C.Subramaniam, State Ministers R.Nedunchezhian, former Chief Election Commisioner T.N.Seshan, State legislative assembly speakers Sedapatti Muthiah and K.Kalimuthu have visited the school and lauded the school’s achievements.

The school has a voluntary association called SUPAM (Students Upliftment and Animation Movement) formed in 1989 aimed at promoting compassion and courteousness among the students.

Illustrious alumni

The school has a galaxy of stars in its alumni who have turned out to be achievers in their respective fields. To name a few, P.Mohan Member of Parliament representing Madurai, P.Mannar Jawahar, Vice Chancellor, Anna University, V. Palani Kumar, Coimbatore District Collector, Senthil Pandian an Civil Services officer in Uttar Pradesh, S.Rethinavelu, president, Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce .

A hundred years and still going strong, this school which has taken education to the margins is rejuvenating itself with a strong emphasis time and again to serve the society.

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