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EREBB Pre-Congress Immersion Programme

Edmund Rice Education Beyond Borders
(St. Patrick’s Higher Secondary School, Asansol)
DAY: 1
(29th September, 2016)
 
Edmund Rice Education Beyond Borders is a global initiative which aims to provide an opportunity to schools to network, share and learn from each other’s experiences and for our youth to build a better world locally and globally through faith and justice. Launched in 2014, the programme lays the platform for us to benefit from a variety of cultures, while elevating our role from our local context to being part of a global coalition.
As part of the programme, St. Patrick’s Higher Secondary School, Asansol was privileged to host the Heads of Institutions from around the world on 29th and 30th September, 2016. The proceedings began with a short cultural programme organized by the students in honour of the visiting dignitaries. As is customary, the programme started with a traditional welcome followed by dances, songs and presentations aimed at giving the visitors a glimpse of Bengali culture and tradition. From rituals at weddings to festivities like Durga Puja our students truly brought to life the spirit of Bengal, resplendent in its diversity and infectious energy. The programme ended on a high, with the tribal dance, when everyone including the visitors, teachers as well as students joined in, to dance together to the rhythmic beats of the tribal music. This was followed by an interactive session with our students, where they got to address questions to the visiting Principals.
Some of the questions discussed included – “How are you leveraging technology to make learning more engaging and enriching in your school?”, “Is more importance accorded to science than other streams?”, “Are most schools co-ed in your country?”
It was heartening to see the students engage with back – to back questions making it an interesting session.
After this, we headed to the Junior School where our students had prepared another welcome for the visiting Principals to showcase the culture of Bengal. The programme consisted of the traditional welcome, Dhunuchi dance and presentations on Swami Vivekananda, Satyajit Ray and Mother Teresa. To depict Bengali rituals and customs there was an enactment of Bhaiphota, Bengali marriage and a Baul song. Thre was also an exhibition of art and craft of Bengal. Finally our guests were served the exclusively Indian “puchka” which some found to be spicy while others enjoyed its tangy taste. Traditional desserts – ‘misti doi’ and ‘rosogolla’ were served, which were much appreciated by one and all.
The visit to the Junior School was followed by a trip to St. Vincent’s Technical School, Asansol, a vocational training institution for school drop-outs and students with limited academic inclination or aptitude. The visitors were given a fascinating tour of the tools and machinery used for teaching students carpentry, photography, mobile repairing etc.
Next followed an interactive session with our teachers over lunch (we arranged  ourselves in groups of 7 – 8 at each table, along with one visiting Principal) The discussion was very interesting and spanned several topics ranging from questions on whether a similar outreach programme for students exists, the importance of counselling services in schools , etc. Apart from the stimulating conversations, the visitors really enjoyed the typical Bengali fare they were served for lunch, much to the delight of the hosts.
In the evening the guests were escorted to the Burnpur Baari Maidan to participate in the evening town puja. They were briefed about our deities – Lord Shiva, Lord Shani, Goddess Durga etc. as well as our customs, some of which like removing one’s footwear came as a surprise to our foreign friends. The fact that each custom was reasonably explained, for example ringing of the bell to ward off evil and seek God’s attention, was much appreciated. Their genuine interest could be gaused by the fact that some of them actually danced with a pujari while some others took to chiming cymbals during the “ kirtan’. With this the first day eventually drew to a close.
DAY: 2
(30th September, 2016)
 
The next day began with a visit to “Nai Disha”, St. Patrick’s School’s social outreach programme for teaching platform children. The initiative began in 2002 with just twenty students but grew steadily over the years and was shifted to inside the St. Patrick’s School campus in 2007. Today, with almost 85 students and four teachers, Nai Disha stands testimony to our commitment to give back to the society and make education truly inclusive. The institution now accepts not only platform children but anyone in need and willing to learn. It is a matter of pride that 10 of these candidates appeared for their 10th standard examination under the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) Board and achieved success.
In honour of the visiting delegates, the students presented a short cultural programme. A beautiful “rangoli” adorned the entrance, as the students dressed in red bordered sarees ushered in the guests. After the customary “tikka”, in a much appreciated gesture they were presented with handmade woollen mufflers and pillow cases. This was followed by a skit based on a true story – about three siblings who were suddenly left orphaned, destitute and had to fend for themselves.
At a time when they were hungry and homeless and all hope seemed lost , Nai Disha came  to their rescue and gave them a new life! The touching depiction moved the guests to tears. This was followed by some dances in which the visiting Principals sportingly joined, to the delight of the children.
The next stage was St. Vincent’s School’s “Asha Niketan” a school for the differently abled children. The students here had painstakingly put together a musical titled “The Arc”, prepared and presented with the help of the students of St. Vincent’s High & Technical School, Asansol. The visiting Principals were both moved as well as awed by the beautiful presentation.
We then headed to a santhal village where Mr. Debobrata Ghosh runs a self funded school for tribal girls. Apart from preparing them for competitive examinations, classes are conducted in jute article making, embroidery, stitching etc. thereby enabling these girls to be self sufficient. Needless to say the experience was unique for our guests, who were visibly fascinated. The students here presented songs, recited a poem and performed the typical santhal dance with the tribal dholak et al.
After an eventful morning, the party visited a “Gurudwara”. On entering the premises, the guests were apprised of the religious customs of covering one’s head and washing feet before paying obeisance inside. The atmosphere inside was serene, replete with the chanting of the “Guru Granth Sahib” echoing off the temple walls. The guests savoured the moment by sitting here for a while. Once the chanting was over, they were told more about the Sikh religion and beliefs which they were very curious to know more about.
The visit to the Gurudwara was followed by lunch. In the evening St. Patrick’s School hosted an informal dinner on campus which witnessed a lot of song, dance and merriment. Since the visiting delegates had to leave for Kolkata for the Pre – immersion Congress the next morning, this was their last evening with us. As we bid our adieus and promised to keep in touch, a memorable visit was brought to an end.
The names of the visiting Principals are as under:
  • Mr Nakachana Mambula ( Zambia )
  • Ms Ximena Beyhaut ( Uruguay )
  • Ms Gaby Salazar ( Peru )
  • Mr Asani Phiri ( South Africa )
  • Mr Thapelo Pisto ( South Africa )
  • Mr Darren Flood ( South Africa )
  • Mr Peter Zawot ( USA )
  • Ms Marie Barton ( Australia )
  • Mr Michael Ronchetti ( Australia )
  • Mr Chris Mayes ( Australia )
  • Mr Jose Santos ( Peru)
  • Mr Paul Conn ( Australia )
  • Mr Hogo Ariza Icho ( Peru )
  • Mr Daniel Lola ( Australia )
  • Ms Patricia Ponce DeLion ( Uruguay )
  • Mr William Cunyas Atao ( Peru )
  • Mr Jorje Tavera Silva ( Bolivia )
  • Mr Chris Smith ( Australia )
  • Mr Shaun Kenny ( Australia )
  • Mr Jim Antos ( USA )
  • Mr Wally Vorchard ( South Africa ).
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