By IJ Saldanha Shet
Mangalore, July 29, 2011: Since ancient times - Dakshina Kannada - Mangalore and it’s hinterland, have been a great resource of culture, learning,arts, literature, trade and also the fore- runners of education. The sixteenth century Tuluva dynasty of the Vijayanagara Empire was favourable to the entry of Christian Europeans into Kanara. Today the entire region is a vortex for education. The Germans of the Basel Mission and Roman Catholic clergy set up formal education and immediately thereafter great institutions like BEM School, St.Aloysius College, Rosario, Milagres, St.Ann’s, St.Agnes, Govt.College, Ganapathy School, Besant, Canara and several educational centers gradually came into existence. Education is now a major part of the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) of Kanara.
The spectrum of institutions and the education at all levels and disciplines in Kanara are an unmatched mosaic. Young scholars from not only most parts of India and Asia can be spotted, but students from over 50 nations across the globe are present. Nearly all of them are satisfied that they have this advantage to gain a future and be of service to humanity. Add to this the millions of our own youth who are finding a foot hold through formal recognized education. In this scenario one single component that has played a significant and undeniable role through centuries are the European Christian Missionaries who have contributed in immeasurable ways. The synthesis they created was totally harmonious and compatible to the local needs and culture. The attitudes provide the altitude. The history is captivating.
St. Aloysius College
SOUTH KANARA’s EARLY TIMES:
South Kanara of old: Kasargod in the South to Kundapur in the North, the blue Arabian Sea to the West and on the East flowing natural hills where sacred rivers are born....are today Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts. Is nature still the same in this region with the atmosphere and environment rapidly altered? But surely the education scenario is vast wide and potent as ever though it’s goal posts have been moved! Prior to 1836 the gurukulas, the mutts, the portico church school or the madrasas may have been the education hubs with ’home classes’ the source of learning. Perhaps all by rote or memory with ’Gurubrahma’ the teacher priest next only to God himself! In any case then education was not the modern brand where one learns only to earn and degrees are only for making money!
South Kanara as long as memory goes has been known as a land of milk and honey - it’s creativity and activity in all possible arenas, be it culture, social, economic, military, political or religious, is prodigious. South India was not a stranger to Christianity it having been brought to the peninsula by Christ’s own disciple Thomas as early as 55 AD. So, when the Portuguese entered Mangalore through Goa in the 16th Century the people of Kanara were not taken by surprise; many accepted the new beliefs with little reservation. At that point in time the Europeans were not too keen on introducing education in it’s whole form as they wanted to keep the locals as a source for menial workers. German Evangelical Missionaries from Basel in Switzerland, set foot in Mangalore in October 1834. They brought a concept of ’Social Service’ to evangelize positively gaining trust and respect - education, medical aid and trade created a bridge with the common people.
The Anglo-Vernacular School (later called the Basel Mission High School), started in 1833.
The Christian churches whatever the label they bore were clear about change or conversion. Invariably it was inclusive of the three vitals - preaching, teaching and healing.
It has never sounded right to accuse them of ’conversion’ alone ignoring all the good results. The missionary works included teaching/learning as a high scholarly form, so schools and colleges were started and without discrimination; a cross section of the natives benefited and future generations were resurrected from the mire of ignorance and poverty. A multifaceted task that is consistent with the liberation task in the fullest sense today, irrespective whether originating from the Jesuits -1878 (Catholic) or Basel - 1834(Protestant) missionaries. To these is due credit in no small measure for what Mangalore or Kanara are today which contributes immensely to the current Indian ethos positively! The aim has always been to develop an Indian Church. As per the first ever census in 1901, the percentage of Christian population in South Kanara was 7.5%, in 1951, it was touching 9%, in 2011. - the fact spelled out is that no disproportionate growth is evident. It is the non-Christian population who benefited and so it is today too. Donations, high fees and expenses are drawing the attention of all sections with transparency a serious question of late - how is this going to be settled? A brief look at the two main Christian groups and their pioneer efforts will go a long way in providing a deep perspective.
In the year 1834 AD, the band of German Missionaries from Basel Switzerland, included Reverends’ John C.Lehner, Christopher Greiner, Samuel Hebich, Dr.Moegling and Kittel. They landed at Bokkapatna, in Mangalore. Even before they started their work they were surprised that no ’formal Schools’ existed to impart education. It is believed that BEM School was the first to be established in these regions in 1834 at Mission Street; then Coorg,Hubli and Dharwad followed. Later, a collective administrative body that was set up in "South Kanara" becoming the fore runner of Organized and/or University education in Karnataka. Basel Mission soon went on to open other centers at Mulky, Karkala, Udupi, Bolma, Uchila, Basrur, Jeppu and Puttur.
The pioneer Missionaries are also credited with great service to the local languages; they mastered Tulu, Konkani, Kannada..... and churned out literature which even today is a great treasure. The pro-active pioneer educators of Basel Mission also set up the first printing presses which brought out state-of -the-art books for education and worship of diverse followings. Their singular initiative in bringing out books in local languages, English and others too in time, are an unparalleled service to the people and country. The first newspaper and dictionaries were introduced in Kannada and Tulu by these missionaries. Dr.Moegling translated Kannada classics into German making it a two way process. Their contribution to Medical services too are second to none. These generous and compassionate missionaries did not stop there, they were the first to introduce handloom weaving with ’the fly shuttle looms’ in 1851, which came to be called ’Mission loom.’ This became a boon for the people of the region irrespective of their origins. The widely used fabric colour ’Khaki’ was discovered and made popular in Mangalore by German missionaries. They went on to be the pioneers to set up and develop the indispensable ’Tile’ industry in 1865. All these brought a degree of dignity and livelihood to the people here, and even today they are able to hold their heads high in the world scenario.
BEM High school, Car Street
The BEM High school took firm shape in 1838 at it’s present location near Car street. It was only in 1888 that it was raised to the status of a High School under the ’Madras Presidency’. Some time in mid 2010 it lost quite a bit of it’s original facade for the widening of the road and we see it in a truncated mode today. In 1967 it got a PU College. Many illustrious local people from all communities had studied and/or have been teachers in this institution. In it’s history of over 175 years it has served the common people of Mangalore and has always been known for it’s lowest possible fees and serving the poor in many ways. Now it is seen serving as major SSLC,PU and center for many competitive exams and competitions throughout the year. The South Kanara Education & Cultural Society Mangalore is now the main body managing the institutions and certainly needs better support from all concerned. The Mission has become CSI "Church of South India"
ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONS:
Rosario School is one of the oldest Catholic Schools in Mangalore founded in 1858, near the first and only full fledged church near the old port of Bunder. In the year 1849 Bishop Antony who came from Rome invited the Congregation of Christian brothers from France to found a primary school at Mangalore to provide education to the children of the vicinity. The school was administered by the Parish Priests of Rosario Cathedral. The School played a very significant role in the destiny of thousands of Mangaloreans of all religions and castes.
Saraswathi paintings at St. Aloysius Chapel
Initially only primary classes were held . From1948 it was named Rosario High School. The first Batch of VI form (SSLC) students appeared for their Public examination conducted by the erstwhile Madras Government in the year 1948 -49. From the year 1968 the Management of the School was taken over by the Catholic Board of Education, based at Bishop’s House Mangalore, now a major body administering institutions in the Diocese. In 1983, it celebrated 125 years jubilee and in 2008 it’s post centenary Golden Jubilee -150 years. Taking into account the educational needs of the people of the locality, the Rosario P.U.College was started in the year 2002. Presently, these Institutions impart education in Kannada and English Medium from Primary to PUC. A full fledged degree college now functions as an extension of this institution. The Roman Catholic Church of Mangalore diocese has similarly set up several institutions in the 160 parishes of the diocese, which now are historical monuments and offer a complete range in educating the individual.
The Jesuits landed in Mangalore at Bunder the old port, in different batches in 1878,79 and 80, they were mostly Italian,German,British and so on. To name a few: Fr.Maffei, Fr.Mutti, Fr.Sani, Fr.Muller, Fr.Stien and many more who in their own right were great achievers. Under the pioneer Jesuits, Fr.Willy was the head of the school who started classes on January 12,1880 in a large bungalow at Kodialbail with about 150 students; this was the beginning of the great St.Aloysius college of Mangalore. In the year 1889, students were first sent up for the BA degree exam under the Madras University. In June 1882 construction started on the present site on Lighthouse Hill modeled on an oratory in Rome. The continuous expansion thereafter is very visible today.
In 1921, the first College for women St.Agnes at Bendore was started under Apostolic Carmel management by upgrading the existing school and Rev.Mother.Aloysia was the first to head it. It is another flagship educational center of Mangalore seen to continuously develop and evolve. The same year just next door at Bendore, the first parish priest of the nascent St.Sebastian parish church -Rev.Fr.R F C Mascarenhas, presently the first and only Mangalorean to be considered for sainthood - laid the foundation for a convent of the ’Sisters of the Little flower of Bethany’ the only indigenous order of nuns with the chief aim to establish education for girls. The Ursuline sisters started a ’Vocational School’ for girls thus commencing their work for the spread of local education. In the meanwhile ’Sisters of Charity’ from France chipped in with their own contributions. All these can still be seen in expanding and diversifying forms today.
CASK -Catholic Association of South Kanara, came into being in 1914, a representative body of the Laity of Mangalore, devoting it’s influence to further education and uplift the community mustering funds and devising training of teachers and skilled trades. The Mangalore catholic diocese which is celebrating it’s 125 years are all the main stay of the education empire which has even spread it’s contributory work far and wide in the cause of education. Konkani was always prominent. Today professional institutions, medical and nursing colleges Engineering colleges, Management Institutes and much more are part of this evolving effort. The contribution of the Catholic Church in all spheres of Social Welfare has been extolled time and again by Mahatma Gandhi the Father of the Nation and every leader of India from times immemorial. The services of the Roman Catholic Missionaries to the development of India through it’s development of education and uplifting the down trodden can never be chronicled to it’s legitimate extent.
EDUCATION AT CROSS ROADS:
The latest turn of events particularly in Asia is a struggle for quality democracy, to eliminate corruption and ill-gotten-wealth. In India too a definite focus is becoming visible. There is also a move to confront the ’donation-culture’ in most educational institutions and the Government is hoping to bring in measures to combat the menace which is giving rise to several of society’s corrupting ills. Certainly, the European Christian missionaries aim in setting up education with schools and colleges was to enhance human values and eliminate materialism and a rat race for wealth. What is happening today is perhaps unexpected and surprising! It is the onus of the larger society to define roles and responsibilities of religious and the institutions; which is today reversed. A cleansing of the many negative aspects is the need of the hour and will go a long way to usher in a better India in the future.
"Education is a liberating force, and in our age it is also a democratizing force, cutting across the barriers of caste and class, smoothening out inequalities imposed by birth and other circumstances" said Indira Gandhi. Generally the educated are expected to be better cultured humans, socially concerned and humane. What is seen today is that it is significantly creating self centered greed and scheming tendencies - a foul rat race. A well known local personality commented, "Every new born is a genius to be converted into an anti-social in school" there are deeper points to ponder.
The educated seem to be constantly plotting to amass money and material; commercializing education is the fad of the day bringing out the worst proportionate to the high qualifications obtained by hook or crook. The semester and other parameters followed currently by the institutions have become a source for profit and commerce, the sole domain of those that can afford to splurge unaccounted money.
Who are the people masterminding the big scams, scandals........et al that are currently swarming the media? Only the high and mighty on glass ceilings, highly educated, the top honchos. Most, if not all are products of reputed institutions. How many common folk do we see in this scheming? The hundreds of crores of black money that gets into circulation is causing unimaginable damage to the economy and the nation, killing off the have-nots. what about all the looted money stashed away? All the glamour is only for the scheming and plotting intelligentsia......who have education of the superior kind, super powerful education. Currently there is a clear tendency towards a revolution for transparency and truth. It is time that education is recognized for it’s true purpose ’to seek and find the truth’ and put values back in the rightful place to uplift mankind closer to the GODS!
IJ Saldanha Shet