mangalore today
Thursday, November 30
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Fight for Survival

Fight for Survival

Fight for Survival

I J Saldanha Shet, Mangalore

Mangalore: Scenes of earth quakes have become very familiar these days! The confusion, mess, dust, shock and most of all the loss and the pain that follows. Identical scenes are today visible in our own city of Mangalore. Only recently  the real scene of destruction and chaos that existed on the beloved ‘Car Street’ with so much history and ancient sentiment was more shocking than any after-shocks. It seemed a whole world was passing away.


BEM School April28 4

Mission School Street, the narrow road from New Chitra towards Gokarna Mutt was full of traffic. On this stretch the old quaint buildings, shops, cinema and particularly the very picturesque ‘BEM School & College’ are prominent! Yes, soon the bull- dozers would be in action here too, immemorial relics and monuments will soon become memories, tears may be only shed in private. This is the inevitable price to be paid for progress and development. 

BEM School April28 1  
The ‘Basel Evangelical Mission’ (BEM) High School and now PU College,  got it’s  shape in 1838.The oldest ‘formal school’-”Basel Mission Kanarese School” was started with four children in 1836. It was later moved to this location where it has taken firm roots. Soon it’s shape will change  and it will be unrecognizable. During a  chance encounter with the current President of the Trust, Walter Maben, it became evident that he was quite vocal to the fact that no substantial assurance of assistance in rebuilding this beloved 170 plus year-old-structure was coming forth from the authorities or any quarter. Also no material compensation or assurance has come forth. The commitments from the  authorities need to be properly documented, in view of the fact that the space lost is significant.

The aged massive antique edifice built with German know-how, is solid, mud, stone, wood and tiled structure. The facade of this structure which is about 250 ft long, will lose about 25 to 30 feet portion off-set from the existing road. This would mean that  the old structure will lose the ability and support to keep standing and it’s utility and safety will be seriously jeopardized, and also will not meet regulations. The only solution is to demolish the entire old structure and build a modern building to serve the future. But, who is to foot the bill is not yet clear, while  fairness and balance is awaited.


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The means are paramount and finance is the key. This institution which has served the weaker sections of the area since its inception, for over 170 years, without taking into account caste or creed is now cash strapped and needs support, to overcome this unforeseen situation. The authorities and the generous need to step in to rescue this historical institution that has churned out citizens of all walks of life for the nation and the World. Many of its old students are leaders, doctors, lawyers, engineers, churchmen, teachers, merchants, technicians, tradesmen, administrators, actors, sportsmen, artist and you can name many more! To name just a few of the illustrious past pupils, according to the management: Dr. Ratnavarma Heggade, Dr. Kayyara Kinhanna Rai, Dr. BR Hegde, Justice KS Hegde, K R K Shet, Mr. B V  Baliga and so on. Sebastian Furtado who was the first local person to be ordained as pastor in 1866, too has been associated with this institution. The School and College have participated and excelled in all kinds of extra-curricular and sports activities at various levels and won recognition. The list is too elaborate to narrate. Results wise at the Government exams of SSLC and PUC there has been consistently a high percentage, considering that opportunity is given to the weak students without being selective.

Sometime in the year 1834 AD, a band of German Missionaries from Basel, among whom were Reverends’ John C. Lehner,Christopher Greiner, Samuel Hebich, Dr.Moeling and Kittel landed at Bokkapatna, in Mangalore. Even before they started their work they were surprised that no ‘Schools’ existed to impart formal education here. It is believed that BEM School was the first  one to be established in these regions; Coorg,Hubli and Dharwad followed, with support from German Christians who arrived in India. This followed the setting up of  schools by other generous groups. Later a collective administrative body that was set up in “South Kanara” of old has been 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 pro-active pioneer educators of Basel Mission also set up the first printing presses which brought out much desired books for education and worship of diverse followings. Their singular initiative in bringing out books in Kannada, Tulu, English and  other languages too in time are an unparalleled service to the people and country. Their contribution to medical services too are second to none.  These generous and compassionate leaders 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 these 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 livelihood and dignity to the people here, and even today they are able to hold their heads high in the world scenario.  

Tracking back to the BEM High School; in 1888-1889, this School was raised to the status of a High School, and the first batch of students appeared for the Matriculation of the ‘Madras Province’
. It is recorded that during war times these institutions faced many trials. Since 1918, there have been Indian Headmasters who have done good work for the School, and it was a co-educational school since very early times. In 1967 it became a PU college with the introduction of 11th standard. Many illustrious teachers can be named  who served this School with dedication to bring it to the best of standards all through it’s history. It served the common rung of people without difference all through it’s history of over 170 years!

Since it’s beginning, the BEM School has been known for the lowest possible fees and many poor students received encouragement with needed support too. The school is dependant on generous and philanthropic individuals for regular sustenance. In April 1959, South Kanara Educational Cultural Society, Mangalore took a bold step and formed an Administrative Council for this yeoman school which is still it’s back bone.  

 Further, to all visible reasoning it is but fit that the authorities carefully consider the restitution requirements as this is one institution that is used  consistently as a major SSLC and PU exam center and for all sorts of government, competitive and recruitment exams and the like on a regular basis.

The celebration of it’s 150th years Jubilee on December 16,1988 was indeed a land mark day for the whole of district and the Karnataka state. Recently a few schools such as Milagres, Rosario, Canara,Aloysius, Ganapathy, Agnes, St.Ann’s, Govt.College and so on went on to celebrate mile stones in Mangalore.

“The South Kanara Education & Cultural society. Mangalore” that is the key body managing the institutions under it’s banner,  is keen to draw the attention of all generous and philanthropic peoples for the on-going welfare of this ancient service institution and it’s growth. Among the main short and long term plans are: To bring the infrastructure and running of the institutions along with the HR parameters to a state-of-the-art level or at least with the best examples in the education sphere around. Among it’s wish list the priority is to provide need-based support for the least of the students to facilitate the development of every individual without discrimination.

The President of the School society has clearly stated to this correspondent that a piecemeal patched building cannot be accepted for the reasons put forward hither to as well as the very vital health, safety and security norms laid down for educational institutions as statutory requirement prescribed by regulation and law.
The road widening project here would mean the loss of the main ancient buildings that are presently the mainstay of this institution are a serious set back. The support, backing and voice of every just member of the society is the need of the hour, to immediately settle the issue amicably in an atmosphere of understanding empathy from all concerned. The management of the institutions are committed as always through it’s history towards magnanimity and generosity, with the loftiest of human spirit held up high for the good of the people and the nation, in times to come. The renowned scientist Thomas Edison Alva had mentioned that a reasonable discontent is the first necessity to progress. May the motto of BEM -”HEAVEN’s LIGHT OUR GUIDE”- be a constant guide to this great heritage institution always.

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