It was in 1847 that Reverend Henry Brereton, the first Chaplain of Karachi, established the Karachi Grammar School whose 175th anniversary was celebrated with great fanfare on their Saddar campus recently. It is not every day that any of the schools established by the Christian clergy in the early days of Pakistan and even before that are in the news.
Their style has always been to serve with dedication and in silence. Karachi Grammar School is not the only school established by them; there are many others whose similar services to the cause of education helped the country stand on its feet after Partition and provided the much needed lot of educated individuals to run the country.
St Joseph’s Convent Girls School was founded in 1862 by Belgian nuns while St Patrick’s High School one of the oldest schools in the city, was established in 1861, St Lawrence’s Girls School (Karachi) was founded by the sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.
Mother Mary Britwald was its first principal. St Lawrence’s Boys School (Karachi) was established by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in1950, St Peter’s High 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 its founding principal Bishop Anthony Theodore Lobo. St Jude’s High School (Karachi) was established in 1955. Convent of Jesus and Mary’s Girls School was established under the management of Sisters of Jesus and Mary, in 1952. Besides 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 have they provided quality education at affordable prices, they have also groomed their students in daily mannerisms and instilled in them qualities that have made them stand out and achieve success in their practical lives.
These schools have produced well-known leaders and public figures, entrepreneurs, social workers, civil society leaders, top class sports people 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 the incumbent Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, two chief justices, and two army chiefs.
Missionary schools in Pakistan faced a great setback due to the nationalisation policy of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, under whom 3,334 institutions were nationalised on March 15, 1972. Nationalised institutions included 1,826 schools, 346 madrassas, 155 colleges and five technical institutes. 118 of them were church-run institutions.
Apart from the consequences — both financial and social — the quality of education in these institutions also suffered. One thing that distinguished these institutions from others before nationalisation was their strict adherence to merit.
No person in authority anywhere could influence the decisions of those in charge for admissions who strictly followed the results of tests conducted with impartiality. The policy of nationalisation of missionary 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 had the good fortune of studying in one of these schools there are many memories that they will treasure all their life and it is not all related to the education field. In Karachi, for instance who can forget the school canteens such as ‘Mr and Mrs Vellloze’s shop’ at St. Joseph’s, where you could get stationery items, biscuits, sweets and displayed prominently in a big glass jar the unforgettable milk toffees.
The boys who passed out from St. Patrick’s have similar memories but they are all associated to ‘Andrew’s canteen’ which also offered hot and spicy Samosas. A popular haunt during recess. Also the annual elections to the student bodies that were conducted in an atmosphere of festivity.
Supporters from both sides would make the most creative posters for their candidates and canvass passionately for them. It is hard to believe today that such closely contested elections were without violence or intimidation but that is how they were.
Fair and free polls were held and the winner would be seated on the bonnet of a car garlanded and paraded through the nearby streets. I remember that the first stop of the winner in St. Patrick’s College would be St. Joseph’s College and while the parade outside sounded bugles and slogans the college principal, Sister Mary Emily, would be prohibiting her students not to respond to the revelry.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to missionary schools who built generation after generation of well educated, well behaved and responsible citizens some of whom made valuable contributions to our society and nation. Their biggest achievement is giving the middle classes a shot at rising to the next level through education and discipline that only they could provide.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022
The writer is a well-known columnist and Head of Corporate Communication at Nutshell Communications