It was in 1847 that Reverend Henry Brereton, Karachi’s first chaplain, established Karachi Grammar School whose 175th anniversary was recently celebrated with great fanfare at their Saddar campus. It’s not every day that one of the schools started by Christian clergy in the early days of Pakistan and even before that makes news.
Their style has always been to serve with dedication and in silence. Karachi High School is not the only school established by them; there are many others whose similar service to the cause of education helped the country to stand after partition and provided the much needed educated individuals to lead the country.
St Joseph’s Convent Girls’ School was founded in 1862 by Belgian nuns while St Patrick’s Secondary School, one of the oldest schools in the city, was established in 1861, St Lawrence (Karachi) was founded by the sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.
Mother Mary Britwald was its first director. St Lawrence Boys’ School (Karachi) was established by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in 1950, St Peter’s Secondary School in 1978 by St Peter’s Education Society. St Paul’s High School, run under the auspices of the Catholic Board of Education Pakistan, was founded in 1941.
St Michael’s Convent School (Karachi) was established in 1986 under the leadership of its main founder, Bishop Anthony Theodore Lobo. St Jude’s High School (Karachi) was established in 1955. The Convent of Jesus and Mary Girls School was established under the direction of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary, in 1952. Apart from the schools, there are also colleges like St Patrick’s College (Karachi), St Joseph’s College for Women (Karachi) and St Lawrence’s Girls College (Karachi).
The contribution of these institutions is immense. Not only did they provide quality education at affordable prices, but they also trained their students in everyday manners and instilled in them qualities that made them stand out and succeed in their practical lives.
These schools have produced well-known leaders and public figures, entrepreneurs, social workers, civil society leaders, top sportsmen and athletes, high-ranking officers in the armed forces, and politicians.
These schools have produced so many luminaries including six prime ministers including the late Benazir Bhutto, six CMs including outgoing chief minister Murad Ali Shah, two chief justices and two army chiefs.
Missionary schools in Pakistan suffered a great setback due to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s nationalization policy under which 3,334 institutions were nationalized on March 15, 1972. Nationalized institutions included 1,826 schools, 346 madrassas, 155 colleges and five technical institutes. 118 of these were Church-run institutions.
In addition to the consequences, both financial and social, the quality of education in these establishments has also suffered. One thing that distinguished these institutions from others before nationalization was their strict adherence to merit.
No person in authority anywhere could influence the decisions of admissions officers who strictly followed test results with impartiality. The policy of nationalizing mission schools was nothing but a cardinal sin, to say the least. It was reversed after the Bhutto era, but the damage was done.
For those who were lucky enough to study in one of these schools, there are many memories that they will cherish all their life and not everything is related to the field of education. In Karachi, for example, who can forget the school canteens such as ‘Mr and Mrs Vellloze’s shop’ in St. glass jar the unforgettable milk caramels.
The boys who passed out on St. Patrick’s Day have similar memories, but they are all associated with “Andrew’s Canteen” which also offered hot and spicy Samosas. A popular haunt during recess. Also the annual elections of student associations which took place in a festive atmosphere.
Supporters on both sides would make the most creative posters for their candidates and solicit passionately for them. It is hard to believe today that such a disputed election took place without violence or intimidation, but it is so.
Fair and free ballots were held and the winner would sit on the bonnet of a garlanded car and parade through nearby streets. I remember the winner’s first stop at St. Patrick’s College would be St. Joseph’s College and as the parade outside sounded bugles and slogans, the college principal, Sister Mary Emily, would forbid her students from do not respond to the celebrations.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to the mission schools which have built up, generation after generation, well-educated, well-mannered and responsible citizens, some of whom have made valuable contributions to our society and our nation. Their greatest achievement is to give the middle classes a chance to rise to the next level through the education and discipline that only they could provide.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022