St. Lawrence High School, Moodubelle: A Journey Through 60 Years of Education (Part I)

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By Dr. Eugene DSouza
Bellevision Media Network

The Beginning: 

As St. Lawrence High School of Moodubelle celebrates its Diamond  Jubilee on 20 and 21 December 2019, it would be appropriate to know at least in brief, the history of this great institution that gradually transformed a sleepy village into a progressive and vibrant community. However, it cannot be forgotten that the foundation of St. Lawrence High School was not an easy task for the people of Moodubelle. It was during the most difficult times that the idea of having a High School in the village originated and in the foundation and building of this high school the entire community of Moodubelle had rendered its labour of love and sweat so that the children of the village would have their own High School.


Being surrounded by rivers such as Arbi, Alevoor and Udyavara, Moodubelle had a peninsular like existence with uninterrupted approach only in the eastern direction towards Karkala and beyond. During the monsoon season the communication with the neighbouring villages and townships like Udupi, Shirva and Katapadi used to be completely cut off and even during other seasons, residents of Moodubelle had to avail the service of the boatmen  to cross the rivers. Lack of proper roads and bridges had imposed a kind of isolated existence on Moodubelle. At the turn of the twentieth century people of Moodubelle hardly had any facility for education.


The Primary School:

The history of education in Moodubelle can be traced to the first decade of the twentieth century. There was lack of formal institutionalised education till Dasapayya, the grandfather of B. Sadananda Rao (Sadananda Master) started a school. Following the establishment of the St. Lawrence Church by Fr. Casmir Fernandes in 1910, a need was felt to educate the young children of the village and plans were made to start a primary school. Meanwhile, Dasapayya who had been running a primary school volunteered to hand it over to the church so that it could be managed in an organized way. This led to the beginning of the Church Aided Higher Primary School in Moodubelle from 1913 that completed its centenary in 2013.


Till the foundation of St. Lawrence High School in Moodubelle in 1959, children from the village  either had to give up education or travel long distances to Shirva, Katapadi, Innanje or Udupi to continue their studies after the 8th standard. Very few students could take up the challenge of walking long distances or taking the risk of crossing the rivers during the monsoon and going to these destinations for continuing their education. Most of the children gave up their studies after 8th standard and either helped their parents in farming activities or migrated to Mumbai in search of employment and odd jobs. Lack of higher education deprived the young children from the village in acquiring better jobs, good opportunities and adequate income.


Dream of Fr. Abundius D’Souza:

Realising the difficulties faced by the children of Moodubelle and neighbouring villages in the pursuit of high school education, and respecting the keen desire of the people of Moodubelle to have their own high school, Fr. Abundius D’Souza, who had arrived as the Parish Priest of St. Lawrence Church in 1957 following the transfer of Fr. Jerome Pinto, had a dream of  establishing  a high school in Moodubelle. As a great visionary, Fr. Abundius D’Souza realized that providing an opportunity to the young children to continue their education in the village itself would increase the level of intelligence among the people which in turn would give them better opportunities in life.

Fr. Abundius D’Souza (Founder of St. Lawrence High School)

According to some accounts, realising the need to have a high school in Moodubelle, in 1958 some of the prominent residents of the village irrespective of their religion and caste held a meeting in the Church Aided Higher Primary School hall under the leadership of Fr. Abundius D’Souza and floated the idea of having a high school in Moodubelle. Among those who were present at the meeting, Francis D’Souza (Sila Soz) of Kodangala (Grandfather of Elias D’Souza and Sigfred D’Souza, Founder Editors of promised a donation of one thousand rupees that gave momentum to the process of having a high school in Moodubelle. The other prominent persons who supported the idea of having a high school included two Immanuel D’Souzas, popularly known as ‘Bahrain Monna’ and ‘Monnu Master’, Salvador Barboza, Lawrence D’Souza (Post Master) and (Pthe teachers of the Church Aided Higher Primary School. Other persons present in the meeting also supported this idea and 


Francis D’Souza (Sila Soz)

promised to do whatever it needed to have a high school in the village. It is also said that the members of the St. Lawrence Club in Mumbai also felt that there should be a high school in Moodubelle for the benefit of their children.


Being assured of moral and material support from the parishioners of Moodubelle, and confident of the assistance from his uncle, Fr. Hilary Gonslves, Parish Priest of Shirva, Fr. Abundius D’Souza approached the Bishop of Mangalore, Dr. Raymond D’Mello for necessary permission to start a high school in his parish of Moodubelle, which was readily granted. The proposed high school was appropriately named as St. Lawrence High School after the patron saint of the Moodubelle Parish. 


Commencement of High School Classes-2 June 1959:

After acquiring the provisional government permission to start the high school classes, students were admitted to the IV Form (9th Std.) and classes were held in the Church Aided Higher Primary School premises from 2 June 1959 as the high school building was yet to be constructed. According to Victor Castelino, the first batch students of the newly established St. Lawrence High School, the first class of the new high school started from 9th standard or Form IV with a strength of about 40 students. After a few months, a three room structure was constructed next to the primary school to be used as temporary classrooms for the high school students before St. Lawrence High School  could have its own building. Formal inauguration of St. Lawrence High School was done a little later by Bishop Dr. Raymond D’Mello. The guests of honour included  Denis Pinto, MLA of the Kaup Constituency and T.A. Pai.


Construction of High School Building:

Having started the high school classes, it was necessary to have a separate building for St. Lawrence High School.  Collection of funds for the high school building was a daunting task. It was a period of austerity and the people had hardly anything in surplus which they could spare as donation for the construction of the new high school building. Most of the villagers were farmers or landless labourers and those few who had migrated to the cities like Mumbai had meagre salaries with which they had to maintain their families back home and survive in Mumbai. In spite of these difficulties people volunteered to donate according to their capacity. Some people donated in terms of paddy or rice which was sold in the market and converted into monetary donation. According to B. Sadanada Rao, retired teacher from the Church Aided Higher Primary School and a member of the Building Committee, some of the Hindu traders and philanthropists contributed in various ways for the construction of the building of the high school. 


The construction of the high school building was taken up in right earnest. It was quite difficult to collect funds. The marble planks at the main entrance of the high school building indicate the names of persons and institutions and the amount paid by them  towards the building fund. In today’s terms the amount seems to be meagre. However,  in terms of value of the money at that time that amount was quite significant. 

List of Donors of St. Lawrence High School

As the classes were progressing, an earth mover was hired to demolish the hill behind the elementary school. This earth mover toppled the trees, uprooted the bushes and moved the soil in order to make an opening at the edge of the hill just behind the elementary school which extended to the west and then to the south of the hill, thus making enough space to  lay the foundation for seven rooms.


Those parishioners of Moodubelle, who could not afford to give monetary donation offered free labour in levelling the hillock that was in front of the proposed high school building. As the parish was divided into wards, residents of each ward were required to do free labour from around 9 am to 1pm. 


While Fr. Abundius D’Souza provided the much needed leadership for the establishment of the high school and construction of the building, it was Fr. Theodore Lobo who came as the Assistant Parish Priest in Moodubelle was instrumental in mobilizing funds. Visiting the houses of the parishioners, Fr. Theodore Lobo would persuade them to donate whatever they could in the name of St. Lawrence for the noble cause. If people expressed their inability to donate money he would plead them to donate anything including paddy, rice, teakwood or any other timber.. Parishioners of Moodubelle still remember the fact that Fr. Theodore Lobo did not hesitate to take up any kind of physical work related to the construction of the high school. He along with some young men would accompany the trucks or bullock carts with lanterns or gas lights to the river banks at Attinja to fill and transport sand. Fr. Theodore Lobo did not hesitate even to carry cement bags on his back to the storage space. He was the right hand of Fr. Abundius while the construction of the high school building was in progress.

Fr. Theodore Lobo

According to Boniface Barboza (Benny Master), retired Head Master of the Church Aided Higher Primary School, the contract for constructing the high school building was given to Tamilians. Nearly thirty of these Tamilians were working on the construction project. However, after completion of the plinth work, the Tamilian contractor abandoned the work. While, most of the Tamilian workers went away, Fr. Theodore Lobo managed to convince a person named Amavasye and eight members of his family to stay back and continue the work of the building. Amavasye along with his family members and the local labourers eventually completed the structure of the building with the help of local labour force.


For the development and progress of any educational institution, it is not only the building that is important but also the Correspondents, Head Masters, teachers and students have been of utmost importance. They collectively make the institution. In fact it was the successive Correspondents with a foresight who provided the necessary infra structure to the institution, the Head Masters with their experience gave the leadership, the teachers who by their commitment and devotion shaped the lives of their students and of course the students who by their willingness to study hard and work for the progress of the institution laid a strong foundation on which the institution stands firm.


After the transfer of Fr. Theodore Lobo, the next Assistant Parish Priest, Fr. Valerian D’Souza (who later came as the Parish Priest and built the new Church of St. Lawrence) also actively involved in the development and progress of St. Lawrence High School. As the hillock in front of the high school had to be levelled, Fr. Valerian joined the people in the work of digging and transporting the soil.


Materials required for the construction of the high school building such as granite stone blocks, sand, cement and wood were transported through the bullock carts. Practically all the bullock carts right from Dendooru to Palli were employed in the task of transportation. People who rented their bullock carts included Camil Menezes, Appi Martis, Benny Mendonca and Monnu Martis. A number of people donated their trees. Tiles for the roof of the high school used to be brought by boats up to the Amavasya Ferry and from there were transported to the building site by head loads as well as bullock carts.  While the high school building was being constructed and even later, late Immanuel D’Souza (Monnu Master) had been quite active in supervising the construction work and the accounts.

Immanuel D’Souza (Monnu Master)

The new building of the high school was ready within a year and the first batch of the students whose 9th standard classes were earlier held in the higher primary school premises shifted to the new building for 10th standard. The inauguration of the new building of the high school was the realization of the dream that Fr. Abundius D’Souza had for some time and the occasion of great joy and satisfaction to the people of Moodubelle that their money and labour were put to good use and their children and grandchildren as well as future generation would be able to complete their education up to SSLC in their village itself. However, their task was not yet over. The huge pile of mud in the hillock in front of the high school building had to be cleared and a proper playground had to be created which would take many more months of voluntary labour (sarthi).

St. Lawrence High School Building

Contribution of Head Masters:

The first Head Master of St. Lawrence High School was Denis D’Silva who was transferred from Milagres High School, Kallianpur. He taught English and Maths. Sundar Ram Nayak was his assistant who taught Kannada, Social Studies, drawing and Hindi. Alban Rodrigues from Shirva joined the staff  as the office-in-charge and also taught Science for some time. The first attendant of the high school was Albert Noronha, who was later promoted as clerk.  Mukunda Puranik joined the high school in 1960 as Kannada teacher after Sundar Ram Nayak left the school. Denis D’Silva worked as the Head Master for one year and was succeeded by Deju Uchil, a retired education officer.  He was an experienced person and a strict disciplinarian. During his tenure teaching staff expanded with addition of new teachers.

Remembering his student days, Victor Castelino further says, Deju Uchil taught by example how to be honest to the core, Mukunda Puranik and Hebbar taught the students how to cultivate vegetables and fruits using the rich and fertile soil of the school compound and cow dung which was available in plenty around the school premises. Most of the recess and games and crafts periods were used by the students to level the ground.

The first batch of the students appeared for the prestigious SSLC examination in 1962, the only batch to take the examination under the Madras Board of Education, which was considered to be very strict. The high school had an overall percentage of 62.5 and Late Fr. Denis Castelino  became the top scorer and the first student to adorn the roll of honour at  the top of the list.

Fr. Denis Castelino

The efforts of the Head Master, Deju Uchil, teachers and students bore fruits academically when St. Lawrence High School, Moodubelle had the distinction of scoring a hat trick by securing cent percent results for three consecutive academic years from 1963 to 1965. Wilfred R. D’Souza (presently retired as the Professor and Head of the Department of Commerce, Milagres College, Kallianpur) was the top scorer in 1963, Murari Hebbar in 1964 and Vinodnanda Kamath in 1965.  The top scorer in 1966 was K. Vadiraja Bhat (presently retired as lecturer in Kannada at Shri Sharada College, Basroor).


Following the retirement of Deju Uchil in 1964, B. A. Samak who was retired as the Head Master of Belman Board High School became the Head Master of St. Lawrence High School. He was a resident of Padubelle and continued to be the Head Master of the high school till 1969.

The greatest academic achievement during the tenure of B.A. Samak was that for the first time in the history of Moodubelle, a student of St. Lawrence High School, Philip D’Souza secured the first rank in the SSLC examination at the Karnataka State level. According to Albert Noronha, Philip D’Souza secured the first rank in the State due to the fact that Philip was not only intelligent and hardworking but also due to the efforts of the entire teaching staff who took extra care to teach the students. 

Philip D’Souza with Late Shirthady William Pinto

Following the retirement of B.A. Samak and transfer of Fr. Abundius D’Souza to Kirem parish, Fr. Valerian G.F. Rego came to  Moodubelle parish in 1969 with twin responsibility as the Parish Priest and the Head Master of the high school. Prior to his arrival in Moodubelle, Fr. Rego had been the Head Master of Padua High School in Mangalore. Thus, he had a lot of experience in administering an educational institution.


During his tenure as the Correspondent of the educational institutions run by the parish and Head Master of St. Lawrence High School up to 1976, Fr. Rego undertook a number of measures for the expansion of the high school building and clearing the remaining portion of the hillock in front of the high school, thus providing open space for sports and other activities. In SSLC examinations held in 1970, one of the students of the high school, Narasimha Acharya secured 19th rank in the State of Karnataka.

To the great relief of the parishioners, Fr. Rego discontinued the practice of volunteer labour (sarthi).  As he had good contact, Fr. Rego managed to get funds for clearing the hillock in front of the high school building. He employed labourers to do this work and even hired a bulldozer for levelling the ground. According to Benny Master, the bulldozer did only two day’s work as it was taken to Suratkal to level the ground of the Karnataka Regional Engineering College which was started that year. If the bulldozer was available for a few days more the entire hillock would have been levelled much earlier.


Before his transfer, Fr. Abundius D’Souza had added another building to the original high school building which served as a hall with the stage. Presently a laboratory, library and high school staff room occupy the space. The need for additional classrooms due to an increase in the number of students was fulfilled by Fr. Rego by constructing three classrooms towards the northern side of the high school campus next to the Higher Primary School. Though Fr. Rego started one year Pre University Course (PUC) in 1970, unfortunately it was closed the very next year.


           Dr. Eugene D’Souza



Comments on this Article
Ronald Sabi, Moodubelle Thu, December-5-2019, 6:46
Keep it up Dr Eugene for opening up the whole history of our institution! Wonderful, love it!
Dr Gerald Pinto, Kallianpur Thu, December-5-2019, 5:37
Very good informative article. I still rember first batch highschool student getting a rank in sslc. I am happy that you rember one of my admirer Denis D Silva founder H.M even though he was ther for only one year.
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