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Cultural fest to Celebrate 25 years of Catholic Education

Avik Chakraborty

It has been 25 years since the first Catholic school was started in Arunachal Pradesh. The first Catholic school and hostel in Arunachal Pradesh were opened on 3rd July 1992 in Borduria village in Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh. The land for it was offered by Mr. Wanglat James Lowangcha. Saint Mother Teresa visited this place on 2nd August 1993. As the school and the number of children grew up, the school had to be shifted to a bigger area, the present location and the Missionaries of Charity run a shelter for women at the original location today.

25 years ago Bishop George Pallipparambil SDB, who was courageous enough to open the first Catholic school in a small hut in Borduria village, which literally means bahut-dur (very far) with much difficulties and non-cooperation from every department.

“I feel privileged to be the one to take this daring step 25 years ago”, recalled Bishop George.”It would not have been possible without the help of Wanglin Lowangdong   and family. They not only donated the land but also provided all the support to set up the school. I thank Mr. Wanglin’s family, Mr. Wangman Lowangcha who had to face a lot of difficulties because of his support to setting up the school, Mr. Wangling Lowangdong who gave us the required permission to start the school, Mr. T. L. Rajkumar, who helped in so many ways and all the people of Borduria village and the first teacher Miss Martha Kapalomie and Mr. George Joseph”, said Bishop George.

The first school that began 25 years ago in a small hut has grown into 46 schools and a bachelor degree college in east Arunachal Pradesh.  All these schools have been registered and work under an umbrella-body called Newman Educational Society (NES) which came to exist in the year 2001.

The annual Cultural and Sports Fest of NES, Radiance, was clubbed with the celebration of this landmark occasion this year. The fifth Radiance held at Light of the World School, Miao in Changlang district from 24 September saw about 550 students from 22 schools camping at one place and competing on various cultural items. Speaking at the inaugural function of Radiance 2017  Tirong Aboh, MLA West Khonsa Constituency lauded the contribution of Christian missionaries in the field of education in Arunachal Pradesh. “I feel greatly honoured to be the Chief guest of this landmark event and I place on record my highest appreciation to Bishop George and his team for their contribution not only in the field of education, but also to the promotion of culture, local dialects, environment, healthcare and development in eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh”, he said. “Radiance celebration is a fine example of its effort to promote culture and education.

To mark and to take stock of the of the progress it has made in the field of education for the last 25 years, the NES undertook a survey-cum-study on the effectiveness of the schools and hostels run in the eight districts of east Arunachal Pradesh. The educational wing of the Diocese, NES led by its Secretary, Fr. Thomas Erambil with his expert team Sr. Jacinta FMA and Fr. Roy SVD went around every school and hostel, collected and collated the data to come to a comprehensive summary of the progress of service of education the Catholic Church has rendered for the past 25 years in east Arunachal.

The study was a multi pronged one and covered every possible area of the life of the students and staff in the school. The students as well as staff actively participated in the study cum survey. The facilities, implementation of the juvenile justice act 2000, Right to free and compulsory Education 2009, Prevention of children from sexual offences (POSCO) 2012 etc., also were studied.

Today, the Catholic Education has reached almost every village in east Arunachal. “Earlier we used to hunt for good schools in far way places but today it is like a good school has walked right into our door-step”, said  Mungtang Mossang, one of the first to receive Catholic education.

According to the latest survey done at the beginning of this academic year 2017, the NES has over 16,000 students studying in its 46 schools. The schools have reached the last villages of east Arunachal, with TCL (Tirap, Changlang and Longding) districts having 31 of the 46 schools. Changlang has maximum schools with 11 NES run schools and Tirap and Longding has 10 each. Lohit District has six schools, Namsai District has five and Lower Dibang Valley District has four of the 46 Catholic Schools.

The remoteness of the places, the inaccessibility, being cut off by landslides, and the poverty of the parents are big constraints. But the students and staff manifest a general sense of satisfaction and the parents are very appreciative of the help. “Looking back at those days 25 years ago, in a temporary bamboo house, with no water, electricity and thing that can call facility, with 28 small boys in the hostel and 58 in school and the physical and mental agony that we went through, I feel it was all worth as we see two generations of young men and women climbing the ladder of life. It was a challenge, there were threats, elements of jealousy but faith and love helped us to surpass all those. My hats off to the people of Borduria who made it all possible” reminisces Bishop George.

The remoteness of the villages and absence of good schools there render hostels an absolute necessity for the students. “Without these good hostels, we would be left far behind in education”, says Nepha Wangsa, another past pupil of NES and Gold Medalist from Rajiv Gandhi University.

The 62 hostels spread across the eight districts of east Arunachal are home to 1632 boys and 1374 girls this year. Our boardings are not just hostel but our family, our home, says a 10th grader. “We have fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, teachers and friends here. Our hostel is a home away from home. The best thing about our hostel is its emphasis on discipline and moral values of peace, equality, respect or elders, environment and our local culture”, he adds.

Together with the promotion of culture, dialect, and environment, NES also organizes various annual events like Spectrum, an inter-school science exhibition cum competition, Quiz, Scout and Guide Training, games and sports and Manuscript Magazine making competition to promote all-round growth and to bring out the best out its students.

The little school that began 25 years ago in a small hut has grown into more than 80 schools and 4 degree colleges in Arunachal Pradesh.

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