St Thomas School has Done Way More than Teach ‘Arabic’?
“Before we started introducing Karate and Arabic language studies for children two years ago, prior to that we had children learning French and German. No one raised a voice during that time. Our intention to start Arabic language classes is only for the purpose that when many of these students go to Gulf countries, it would beneficial for them to communicate with the Arab folks with some basic Arabic words. Also, it was only after the approval from the parents during a Parents Teachers Association (PTA) meeting, that the decision was taken to introduce Karate and Arabic classes. We hope that the parents don’t give into fear and continue to support extra-curricular lessons which are in the best interests of the children” – Rev Fr. (Dr) Robert Crasta-Correspondent of St Thomas Aided Higher Primary School-Bondanthila, near Mangaluru.
Mangaluru: Learning an extra language is always good for the children -then what business do the members of Sri Rama Sene have to barge into the premises of St Thomas Aided Higher Primary School-Bondanthila/Padu, near Neermarga in the outskirts of Mangaluru, and question the management and staff as to how the Arabic language was taught to the children. Indeed it was a shameful act of these saffron group activists to storm into the classes, along with a bunch of media personnel that they had informed prior to their arrival, and made a big issue of it. But was the result, absolutely nothing, other than nearly twenty of them being arrested now for their act, and remanded into judicial custody until further notice. We need to compliment Police Commissioner Chandrasekhar for his stand on this incident and directing his police force to take action immediately, and arresting the culprits. A job well done, comrades!
This school which was started on 14 February 1908 at a place called Bondanthil/Padu in between Neermarga and Malluru, on the outskirts of Mangaluru. Amidst the picturesque surroundings of vast greenery and coconut trees, the school houses presently 160 children, of which 5 are Catholics, 25 Muslims, and 130 Hindus (64 boys and 66 girls). There are 4 full-time salary paid staff through government support, while other 4 teachers are paid by the management. It is learnt that earlier, this place was called Kutrujna Gudde and an agriculturist by the name of Narayanappa started this school and later was handed over to Meremajal church in the year 1908. The school has taught thousands of people in this region and it was one of the prominent schools of those days. According to locals of the area, the school accommodated more than 900 students before the English Medium schools started ruling the region. Later in the year 2003, the school was handed over to Fermai St Anthony’s church, which still continues to run it.
Various students passed out through this school during its nearly 108 years, have reached greater heights in various top positions like entrepreneurs, doctors, engineers, teachers etc, and have remembered their Alma mater by contributing generously to the development of the school. The school celebrated its centenary in the year 2008, during which the former teachers and successful former students were felicitated. Even at present, the management and teachers are putting all their efforts in giving a good education, and also encouraging them to take part in co-curricular activities. The students are happy and enthusiastically learning to be better students, better youth when they grow up, and be the future leaders of the country.
When such is the atmosphere at this century-old school where no trouble had occurred all these years, then why all of a sudden that bunch of goons have to storm into the school premises and create a ruckus and scare the innocent children, who never thought that such an incident would be coming. Many children are still in fear, while many are emotionally hurt. It wasn’t their fault at all to face such a cruel and shameful act by these activists. Many organizations, including Aam Admi Party, have stood in solidarity with the children, parents and teachers of St Thomas Higher Secondary School. A delegation of AAP led by Shanthala Damle, AAP State Co-convener in-charge of Dakshina Kannada district, had already met the headmaster Melwin Braggs and extended their support and shown a keen interest in the welfare of the children after the attack.
Dr Robert Crasta-Correspondent of the School, and also the Parish Priest of St Antony’s Church-Fermai (which manages the school) speaking to Team Mangalorean said, “It was my initiative to introduce Karate and Arabic language. Prior to introducing Karate and Arabic language studies for children two years ago, we had children learning French and German. No one raised a voice during that time. Our intention to start Arabic language classes is only for the purpose that when many of these students go to Gulf countries, it would be beneficial for them to communicate with the Arab community by having some basic Arabic conversation words. Also, it was only after the approval from the parents during a Parents Teachers Association (PTA) meeting, that the decision was taken to introduce Karate and Arabic classes. We hope that the parents don’t give into fear and continue to support extra-curricular lessons which are in the best interests of the children. Learning any extra language is good for a child or an adult – and there is nothing wrong in it. I hope people will understand this and live in peace and harmony”.
Headmaster Melwin Braggs said, “These karate and Arabic classes are conducted during non-school hours, from 9am – 10 am on Friday for Karate classes, and on Saturday from 9 am – 10 am for Arabic classes. Our school timings are from 10 am-4 pm Monday-Saturday. We have never forced anyone to compulsory attend the Arabic classes. There are a few students who stay away from these classes, and we have no problem with that. But the allegations raised by the SRS members that the school management had intentionally forced the students to take Arabic classes is absolutely wrong. And also these classes, both Karate and Arabic are taught free of cost, and the students are very much liking them without any fuss”.
Braggs further said, “I had joined this school in the year 1997 as a teacher, and in the year 2004 got promoted as Headmaster, and to my knowledge, nothing of this kind of incident has taken place during my tenure, or during the 100 plus years of existence of this school. When I saw some of the main attackers of SRS who were the locals who were also former students of this school, I was very much hurt as to how can former students revolt against their school which gave them a good education and discipline. I know that some parents are still fearful after the incident, but I am confident that the surrounding community and elsewhere will stand by them”.
“The police commissioner has told us not to discontinue Arabic classes, so it is still going on in full swing, and the school is well-attended as of now without any hassles or problems. I thank everyone who has stood behind us and supported us during such unfortunate incident. We take good care of the children, provide them free food, and even last year we purchased a school bus for the convenience of the school children, and we charge a nominal fee. The bus which we felt was very much needed for the children since they had to walk a distance to school, was bought by raising some funds and through the bank loan. I very much feel that the school management has done nothing wrong, it was only some baseless allegations put on us by these activists. The school needs your support and prayers, Thank you”, added Melwin Braggs.