Characteristic and motivating memories of my High school days

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Dr Norbert Lobo

“A Jubilee is a time to look back and thank every person who has contributed”  Fr Joseph Carter
Moodubelle, 16 November 2009: To recall one’s formative years in the school is always a pleasant experience. I am no exception to this. It is indeed a rare privilege for me to write my experiences and sentiments on the Golden jubilee of my school.

Dr Norbert Lobo

Going down the memory lane the students of 1980-81 batch of St Lawrence High School have an unusual and exceptional distinction!!  A distinction to call themselves as the last batch students of St Lawrence High School. The reason was positive and a progressive one that marked a foremost and landmark event in the history of my Alma Mater. During 1981-82, my school was promoted into a junior college, with a new name – St Lawrence P.U. College, heralding a new era in the growth of my Alma Mater.  Many of the last batch students of erstwhile St Lawrence High School become the first batch students of St Lawrence P.U. College. I was one among those several students of this batch who was privileged to be apart of this makeover. Nevertheless our batch did have something else also to cheer up!. We were the first batch to write our SSLC board exams in our own school along with students from Aleyoor as our school was chosen to be the SSLC examination centre for the first time.

1980-81 batch of St Lawrence High School

The distinctiveness and eminence of my Alma Mater would be understood by recollecting Belle and its neighbouring villages between 1950’s to 1980’s. An agricultural neighbourhood dominated by hard working, genuine , innocent small and marginal farmers / tenants and agricultural labour families, majority of them were surviving with hand to mouth existence. Many of these families  either could  not afford and a few who could afford were not  bothered to send their children to far off schools in Shirva or Innanje walking several miles back and forth including crossing of several rivulets and a major river for high school studies.  Only a very few, were fortunate to enter the portals of high school education.  So, for most, formal education stopped at primary level. This was followed by out-migration, mostly to Mumbai to take up certain menial jobs. In these circumstances, starting a high school in a predominantly rural setting and successfully completing fifty years of fruitful existence is by no means a small achievement. The vision, efforts and sacrifices of priests and the parishioners of Belle have very much dispelled the darkness in many houses and brought the light of learning and benefits of formal education to the aspiring children of the surrounding rural areas. I earnestly express my deepest gratitude to all those personalities lead by Most Rev Fr Abundias  D’Souza, who have been responsible for starting and building this wonderful institution.

In these golden fifty years, not less than twenty to twenty five thousand young boys and girls have come and gone out of the threshold of this magnificent campus. Majority of them, especially in the first three decades were first generation learners. In these 50 years, the school  has contributed many administrators, advocates,  agriculturist,  artists, businessmen, chartered accountants, hoteliers, industrialists,  journalists,  political leaders,  officers,  priests, nuns, researchers,  teachers, soldiers, social workers, writers , etc,. They have gone to places far and near; in India as well as abroad. Some may be occupying high positions and others may be just carrying on.  More outstandingly, majority of them have been remembered for being responsible parents and noble human beings leading contented family and social life demonstrating high moral and human values in life.

During my student days, Belle was still very rural in all ways, typical replica of any other Indian villages. Those days’ radio and bicycle were still a luxury, TV was only heard never seen, and telephone was seen but never used. People were living with traditional wisdom and mouth to mouth news!!. There was only one motorable road connecting Belle with Udupi and Karkal.  Many of our parents understood our performance in exams and schools in the existence or otherwise of a red line in our marks card!!  Students without red line in their marks card were praised as intelligent. Very often our goal was to see that there was no red line in our marks card!!   Many of my schoolmates were from far and remote villages, who were required to walk daily, for over an hour to reach the school. As students, we felt neither insecure nor inferior as all of us had the similar background.

Absolutely there was no attempt to create any “identities” inside or outside the school. Religion, language, caste, class or any such personal attributes were never used, either to differentiate or to discriminate.  Only discrimination I could remember is between or among so called dullards    ( Badda makkalu) and intelligent  ( Hushar makkalu).  It would not be exaggerating if I write that for most of us, especially for the Badda students, attending school and learning was secondary and agricultural and household work was primary. In those circumstances, the role of teachers- the co-creators- during those days was to not only teach us but also see that we realise the push for learning. In fact, Teachers were the only source of knowledge and were treated with reverence and their opinion about us was Bible truth for our parents. We were not allowed to complain nor criticize our teachers! Blessed tribe!!!. Unfortunately, for the present day parents and students, a teacher, very often is the last or least source of knowledge!

The Great Headmaster Fr Lobo!! :

Fr Alexander Lobo

My hobby of career counselling has provided me an opportunity to visit over hundreds of educational institutions across the state. My experiences and beliefs have lead me to hold strongly the view that an educational institution is as good or bad as the head of the institution. The progress and dynamism of an educational institution is synonymous with the progress and dynamism of its head.  I am one of those fortunate students to study at St Lawrence High School, when Fr Lobo was the Headmaster. Fr Alexander Lobo is simply a great visionary and institution builder, an excellent educationalist, champion of team building concept and above all a firm believer in hardwork and well-being of the weakest of the weak students. He did everything to see that all slow learners and low performers pass, and the better ones achieve excellence. St Lawrence High School has achieved much of its glory during his term.

The reminiscences of my school days serve as a source of inspiration to me even now. Memories are still afresh about the volley ball matches Fr Lobo and other teachers used to play everyday after the class  (Team building through games- highly advocated by modern management thinkers was quietly practiced by him 30 years back),  producing and staging Tulu/ Konkani dramas with staff and local people acting in them,  distribution of Bundhi Laddu on December 12 ( his birthday) ,  extension  of the sports ground by levelling exclusively through  shramdaan by the students and staff during their PT and WE ( work experience) classes, the grand annual sports meet imitating the Olympic style of lighting the “Kreeda Joythi” in the Cross Hill and sports persons carrying in rotation till the ground, arrangements for lunch in school by way of “ sajjige (rawa) for a mere Rs 3 per month ,   the residential study camps organized in the school premises for the SSLC slow learners and low performers during annual public examinations. It was because of his earnest efforts, notwithstanding the fact that, 1980-81 year’s SSLC results were one of lowest in the State and District, our batch secured the second highest overall percentage results in SSLC in the entire undivided D.K. district. Fr Lobo and all the teachers were genuinely worked for our betterment.

Students - the brand ambassadors!
St Lawrence High School has shaped the future of several disadvantageous rural boys and girls. The school has been a gateway for dreams, money and positions. The School can always boast of the fact that its brand ambassadors have always made a mark in whatever fields they have chosen.  “Belleavaru Olleavaru” ( Belleans are good people) is the compliment I have received quite  often, which I consider very genuine and apt. I treat this as a collective reflection of how others view the students of St Lawrence High School in particular and the people of Belle in general. The venerable faculty of St Lawrence laid the early foundation for this brand building. The products of this brand have been ever appreciated and admired by all those who work closely with them.

On this occasion, I look back to my Alma Mater with pride, affection, and gratitude.  The School has not only imparted a fund of knowledge which served to lay the early foundation on which the material success of many a student could be built. More importantly, it has succeeded in building up persons of sound character based on a high and noble moral discipline. Times have changed and men / women have changed with changing times. Let the school move with the time. What was best for others and me during those days is certainly redundant now. With changing equations, aspirations and opportunities, the importance and implications of St Lawrence High School will be much more. May the Golden Jubilee Celebrations serve as an opportunity to bring together all like-minded people to study and share their experiences. Insights obtained thus, may help to plan and prepare this powerful rural institution to meet the future challenges and attain ever-lasting glory in the task of educating rural boys and girls.   I am confident that St Lawrence has the strong will and strength to confront the disadvantages facing a rural student in a globalised and market dominated society.  I congratulate the management, principal, staff and students - both former and present - on Golden Jubilee. May St Lawrence, the patron saint bless and guide us all.

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