The state has the lowest literacy rate in north-eastern India. Students at the Newman Educational Society, which runs 46 Catholic schools, have a pass rate of 96 per cent. Some 18,000 students from every religious background are enrolled. Students “study together, learn together, eat together, play together and pray together,” says priest.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – What Catholic schools "have been able to achieve in 20 years is nothing short of a miracle,” said Mgr George Palliparambil, bishop of Miao and founder of the Newman Educational Society (NES), an organisation that runs 46 schools in six districts of Arunachal Pradesh.
Thursday was the feast day of Mother Teresa and Teachers’ day in India. In a message to teachers, the bishop noted that “Mother Teresa of Kolkata, the Saint of the poorest of the poor, whose feast coincides with Teachers’ Day, who spent her life for the marginalised, is a shining example of dedication. May she be our role model and inspiration to commit ourselves totally to the task of educating the last, least and the lost children of Arunachal Pradesh”.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Felix Anthony, spokesman for the Catholic Church in north-eastern India, said that the state has the lowest literacy level in that party of the country with about 66 per cent against a national average of 75 per cent. By contrast, the most literate state is Christian majority Mizoram with 91.6 per cent.
In the NES-run Catholic high schools, 96.45 per cent of students passed the examination this year. In government-run schools, only 21.22 per cent did. For this reason, the NES represents a "beacon of hope” amid the “dismal educational scenario of the state”.
The Catholic organisation “has brought education to smaller, remote villages of Arunachal Pradesh” in the districts of Changlang (11 schools), Longding (10), Tirap (10), Lohit (6), Namsai (5) and Lower Dibang Valley (4).
The NES, which was created in 2000 before the diocese (2005), today has 473 teachers and 18,000 students. Of these, 451 students took the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) examination, with 435 passing. In government schools, out of a total of 11,153 who took the exam, only 4,944 passed.
In NES schools, Fr Anthony explained, students are taught English, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, Hindi, history, geography and ethics. “Most of our schools begin at 8 in the morning and end at 2 in the afternoon with a couple of small breaks in between.
“Most of the children have to walk back home before it gets dark as some cover a distance of minimum of 10 kilometres up and down.” However, “Due to this distance, most of the schools also have a hostel,” a “home away from home.” Here, “The boys stay with the priests in the mission and the girls with the nuns.”
In the hostels, students “have extra classes, lessons on hygiene, etiquette, singing on a daily basis and spiritual guidance weekly or monthly on a regular basis.”
Lastly, most NES students are not Catholic. "Out of the 451 students who appeared for their board examination, only 141 (31.2 per cent) were Catholics”. The others were “Buddhists, Indigenous faith followers, Hindus and Christians from other denominations.
Despite their difference, “They study together, learn together, eat together, play together and pray together.” What is more, “Most of the students are first generation school goers from the community and so boarding is an important aspect of their growth” and society’s. (A.C.F.)