They built St. Lawrence high school with sweat on their brow, prayer on their lips


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By Eugene Moodubelle

Bellevision Media Network

Moodubelle, 27 December 2009: The present generation of Moodubelle in general and the students in particular may not be aware of the circumstances that led to the foundation of their beloved St. Lawrence High School, the way it was built and provided the vast open ground in front of it extending up to the present Pre University College building. While Fr. Abundius D’Souza, the Parish Priest of Moodubelle initiated the idea of having the high school in the village and a number of prominent persons supporting the idea and even volunteering to donate and collect possible funds for the construction of the high school building, it was the common people of Moodubelle, most of them illiterate and few with meagre education, rendered their free voluntary labour in ‘shramadhan’ also known as ‘sarthi’ and worked for nearly two years with sweat on their brow, prayers on their lips and hope in their heart  so that the dream of having a high school in the village would be fulfilled and their children, grandchildren and the later generation would get secondary education in their own village.

If one has a keen observation of the geography and topography of Moodubelle, especially the village centre around the church and the ‘pethe’ he would definitely understand that the region is made up of hillocks and shallow valleys. The church itself was built on the edge of the hill known as the ‘Cross Hill’ (Cursa Gudo). Similarly, the location of the ‘pethe’ is somewhat on the middle of the hillock that slops up towards the ‘Santhe katte’ and slops down towards the Higher Primary School.


High School Building

As there was lack of any plain ground, when the idea of starting the high school in Moodubelle was mooted, to find a location to lay the foundation for the high school building became quite difficult. The space available was the hillock that was behind the Higher Primary School rising to a considerable height and sloping down towards the cemetery in the east, into a deep valley towards the west from where one of the two Red Hills (Kempujora) has its elevation and towards the Babbarya Kere in the south.

There was considerable deliberation as to where the high school building was to be located. While some suggested that the foundation should be laid on the top of the hill, others suggested that it should be on the southern side and still others on the western side. If the foundation was laid on the top of the hill, the high school would have been deprived of the vast space that was created later by practically demolishing the hillock. Better senses prevailed and finally it was decided that the foundation for the high school should be laid on the western side of the hillock facing the eastern direction.

For the plinth, the trenches had to be dug deep as the building was to be entirely of the granite blocks. As the funds were slow in coming and comparatively meagre, the parishioners volunteered to dig these deep trenches under the direction of the contractors and some knowledgeable parishioners. As the construction of the high school building was in progress, it was felt that the hillock right in front of the upcoming building blocked not only its view but also deprived of any open space for the students to move or play. Thus, it was through free voluntary labour (sarthi) that some kind of opening was provided just in front of the high school building.


Corridor of the High School

As the high school classes progressed in the new building, the people of Moodubelle felt that their long standing dream of having their own high school was fulfilled. However, their task was not yet over. The massive hillock in front of the high school had to go so that the ground could be extended to provide facility for the students to have games and sports. Thus, began the marathon task of moving the soil from the hillock to the lower areas around the high school building.

As the parish was divided into different wards (vado), people from each ward were asked to render voluntary labour from morning around 9 o’clock till around 1 o’clock in the afternoon. People were required to bring their own spades, pickaxe, baskets, sickles, etc. People would have their morning ‘conji’ meals and proceed to do the ‘shramadhan’ and return home for their lunch. It was not possible to provide any kind of refreshment to these volunteers as there was no means of providing anything due to the paucity of funds. Thus, people worked without complaining with sweat on their brow, prayer on their lips and hope in their heart that the work they were doing was for the good of the institution where their children and future generation would take education and would have a better future.

                   
Alice Rebello                                                                     Magdalene D’Mello

For nearly two years people from different wards worked in rotation and succeeded in moving the maximum amount of soil and extending the ground. Assistant Parish Priests, first Fr. Theodore Lobo and later Fr. Valerian D’Souza worked along with the people in order to give them encouragement and inspiration. According to Magdalene D’Mello, when people, after hard work of the day, pointed out to Fr. Valerian they were exhausted, Fr. Valerian would say in light heart that they had to work once in a week where as he had to work practically every day and that too  in his white cassock. It was chiefly due to the initiative taken by Fr. Valerian and Head Master B.A. Samak that the volunteers were provided some kind of refreshment.

                   
Diego Alva                                                                                   Paul Albert Alva

The voluntary labour (sarthi) went on intermittently till Fr. V.G.F. Rego’s arrival as the Parish Priest and Head Master of the high school. Realising the difficulties that the parishioners have been facing in contributing the voluntary labour, he discontinued the practice and hired labourers on daily wages to clear the ground and finally got a bulldozer to remove the remaining soil and levelled the ground.

                    
John Baptist Mendonca                                                                           Helen Mendonca

The hundreds of parishioners who contributed voluntary labour to see to it that the high school building was erected and the hillock in front of it was removed and the ground levelled felt extremely happy that their mission was accomplished and their village was proud of having a high school for their children. These simple and hard working people with sweat on their brow, prayer on their lips and hope in their heart contributed their mite in the form of free voluntary labour that went a long way in the establishment of St. Lawrence High School in Moodubelle.

                      
Severine D’Souza                                                                              Veronica Saldanha

In order to collect information for writing the history of the high school, Fr. Paul Sequeira and i visited and interacted with all those persons whose pictures are given above. These persons who had rendered free voluntary service provided useful information, narrated interesting anecdotes and incidents which they could remember. We visited areas right from Padubelle to Kattingeri and Arbi to Kappandakarya to meet some of the persons who had participated in the ‘sarthi’ and gathered whatever information we could get from them regarding the foundation and later development of the high school. It was not possible to meet each and every person who had rendered their service for this noble cause.

                    
Casmir Menezes                                                                               Emmanuel Alva

Many elderly people who did ‘sarthi’ on the ground of the high school fifty years ago might have departed from this world. Many of them who were quite young and energetic at that time may be presently quite old beyond the age of 70. However, no one can deny the fact that while Fr. Abundius D’Souza conceptualised the idea of having a high school and provided the leadership and while Fr. Theodore Lobo and Fr. Valerian D’Souza as assistant parish priests provided encouragement and inspiration, it was the people of Moodubelle who built the high school not only by donating whatever they could but also by the sweat of their brow and energy of their body with prayer on their lips and abundant hope in their heart that the high school in the name of their patron saint, St. Lawrence would stand firm and provide education to the children of the village.

Hence, it may be said that St. Lawrence High School was of the people of Moodubelle, by the people of Moodubelle and for the people of Moodubelle.

Though it was not possible to meet each and every one who had rendered free voluntary labour and publish their pictures, the above persons represent the hundreds of such volunteers and this article is a tribute to all those people who sacrificed a lot and worked hard for St. Lawrence High School. On the occasion of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of this great educational institution, Bellevision remembers with gratitude all those people who did the ‘shramadhan’ and salutes their sacrifices, dedication and hard work.

 

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