DE LA SALLE SCHOOL
1. The Scheme.
(Adapted from the Souvenir Issue of the Golden Jubilee (1887-1937) of Brother James, Visitor, Far East)
In 1917, the Director of St Paul’s Institution at Rangoon, issued a general statement to the public in which, after alluding to the excellent work being carried on by the Brothers of the Christian Schools, especially for the orphans and the poor boys of the Community, pointed out that, though the education imparted was excellent, it was chiefly of a literary nature. It fitted boys, said he, for such posts as clerkships in mercantile offices, for government situations and subordinate positions on the Railway and similar establishments. Apart from that, he felt that the average Anglo-Indian boy was lacking in thrift and in the capacity to use his hands in his own home. He (the Director) had evolved a scheme which he thought would be an improvement on the present system. To carry out this scheme he had purchased 1600 acres of land in the Twante Township. Of these 1200 acres would be used for rubber planting, 200 for gardening and the remainder for buildings and playgrounds connected with an Institute intended for Anglo-Indian orphans, poor children and boarders. The course of studies in this Institute would be up to Standard VII. At the same time all the boys would be taught gardening and the art of looking after a rubber-estate and would also be given useful elementary knowledge of a trade or profession.
After passing the Standard VII examination, intelligent boys would be sent to St. Paul’s Institution at Rangoon to study for the High School Final Examination and then to College and, in some cases, even to Europe to learn a profession. Those boys who could not pass the Standard VII Examination would be perfected in their trade. He thought that a great number of these would eventually become Assistants and Overseers on Rubber Estates. The Hon’ble Mr. Thompson, the Financial Commissioner, together with the Revenue Secretary and the Secretary to Government, whom the Director had met, in order to consult them about the scheme, had assured him that in the near future there would be a great demand for Assistants on rubber estates, as it seemed to be the policy of Government to encourage the planting of rubber. He (the Director) had the full support of the local Government which had promised loans and grants, but as these would cover only a portion of the initial expenses, which would amount to three lakhs, he hoped that the public would assist him in every way.
In connection with this statement, the Director had consulted not only the Hon’ble Mr. Thompson who had expressed the opinion that the scheme would afford an excellent training for Anglo-Indian boys, and the other gentlemen mentioned above who had expressed the same opinion, but he had also spoken about it to Mr. Covernton, then Director of Public Instruction, and Mr. Sharpe, who had come across from India in connection with educational matters. Both these gentlemen were quite taken up with the scheme and drew the attention of the Local Government to it. The Local Government, through the Education Department, then wrote to the Director asking him for the details of his scheme, with the results already mentioned.
//. Launching the Scheme.
The time had at length come to launch the scheme and this the Director at once proceeded to do in 1916, so that on the 31st of August 1919 he was able to issue a Report showing that up to that date 295 acres of land had been planted with rubber, and that the trees were growing well. The ‘Deputy-Director of Agriculture had reported favourably on the quality of the soil and had said that the estate was an ideal one for rubber-planting and also for gardening.
During the three years for which the Report was issued, Mr. W. F. Graham, I.C.S., Commissioner of Hanthawaddy, Mr. S. W. Cocks, Deputy-Director of Public Instruction, Mr. F. D. Flint, an engineer, and Mr. A. Kerral, Deputy-Director of Agriculture, had paid visits to the estate and had expressed themselves quite satisfied with what they had seen.
The Rev. Father Bonnet, of Nyaunggon, had in the meanwhile taken over for the time being the general management of the estate, while Mr. John D’Silva, who had but recently completed his studies at St. Paul’s, supervised the estate very conscientiously and satisfactorily. The Rev. Brother Mark, of St. Paul’s, acted as Honorary Secretary and Treasurer. The Director, who was also the Director of St. Paul’s Institution, was able to visit the estate about once a month.
On the 31st August 1920, the Director issued his second Report, in which, after thanking the public for the help they had given him, pointed out that an additional 125 acres had been cleared and planted during the previous year, so that 420 acres in all were under cultivation. A bungalow, sufficiently large in which to start the School, had been erected, as well as two large cow-sheds and a godown. A dam had also been constructed across the stream that flows through the estate, but that had been swept away during a storm of exceptional violence. Another bungalow, intended to serve as an office and for the accommodation of the Brothers, as well as out-houses, were under construction.
During the year Mr. B. W. Perkins, Deputy-Commissioner of the Hanthawaddy District; Colonel Thane, O.B.E., Manager of the Para Rubber Estate; Mr. F. D. Flint, Executive Engineer; Captain Poulet, the famous French aviator; Mr. Benoit and Mr. R. C. Beale, Government Botanist, visited the estate and seemed quite pleased with what they saw. The good progress that had been made was very largely due to the Rev. Father Bonnet. His keen financial sense ensured the right expenditure of money on the work being carried out. Under the careful and clever supervision of Mr. John D’Silva, excellent work was done by the coolies employed on the estate. Great kindness had been shown by Colonel Thane, Manager of the Para Rubber Estate, and Mr. W. Toynton-Reis, Manager of the Sookalat Rubber Estate, in pointing out to Mr. John D’Silva, the best methods of carrying on the work connected with rubber, and in affording him help in many other ways.
///. The Opening of the Institute.
The work carried on between 1916 and 1920 was, in its very nature, pioneering. By the beginning of 1921 it was felt that the time had come to open the Institute. So on the 2nd February 1921, Rev. Brother Director accompanied by Rev. Brother Julian and followed soon after by Rev. Brother Barnabe, with thirty-eight boys, left St. Paul’s Institution. Rangoon, for their new home on the Estate. School work and field work were soon commenced and carried on throughout the year. The first three months were fairly easy ones, although they did not pass, without anxiety being felt by the Director, for he had to find food and clothing for the boys, and the buildings had not been altogether completed. With the South-West Monsoon the difficulties increased. Huts were blown down. In the meantime staff and boys of the Institute had to find shelter for themselves in nooks and corners. But when this happened, all set to work to put them up again, and thus early, began to learn the art of helping themselves. In spite of all this there was not much sickness, a fact that may be accounted for by the strenuous and healthy open-air life led by the boys, and the care taken of them.
On the 1st of July, Mr. A. Mariot, an experienced engineer, joined the staff and soon after made a start with mechanical engineering, a certain number of the senior boys being made apprentices. This work was at the commencement, necessarily on a small scale, being confined to instruction in the use of tools, in filing, chipping, etc.
The School Department had, in the meantime, been augmented by the arrival of Mr. John Chrysostom, who joined as Master on the 12th of June.
At the beginning there was no resident Priest, but the Rev. Father Bonnet or his Assistant Priest visited the Institute as often as possible to hear Confessions and say Mass in a temporary Chapel. When they could not come from Nyaunggon, the Staff and boys went there to hear Mass. Rev. Father Lucius was appointed Chaplain later in the year. Mr. Sandy a Master of the School died on the 29th October, 1921. R.I.P. Nothing of importance occured during the rest of the year. Work was steadily carried on in the School, and in the Workshop. More boys began to arrive, so that at the end of the year there were fifty on the roll. Mr. F. Shallard joined the Staff in January 1922.
In April 1923, Rev. Brother James, Visitor of the Christian Brothers’ Schools in the Far East, visited the Institute, where he spent three days. In reply to an address of welcome read by the Senior Apprentice, W.Smith, Brother James said that what he had seen at the Institute had come as a great surprise to him. The fine buildings that had been—or were being—erected, the large estate and the work being done on it, the healthy atmosphere of the surroundings, the wonderful entertainment that had just taken place, and above all, the happy faces of the boys, had filled him with great hope for the future which, under their Brother Director, would, he felt sure, be a very bright and successful one. Before leaving Rev. Brother James treated the boys to a picnic in the forest.
A few days later the Right Rev. F. Perroy, Bishop of Medea, and Co-Adjutor Bishop of Rangoon, visited the Institute, accompanied by R. R. Fathers Le Salle and Roy. His Lordship was met on his arrival by the boys to whom he gave his blessing. Later, in the evening, an address of welcome was read by W.Smith and a concert held in His Lordship’s honour, at the conclusion of which the Bishop characterised the Institute and everything in it as "wonderful". He had been impressed by the happy faces of the boys of that wonderful family. He had seen them at work and had been surprised at how much had been accomplished in a year. Wonders had been done in a very short time. He would carry away very pleasant memories of them. On the following day His Lordship administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to a number of boys. His Lordship presented the senior boys with a cricket set and the Juniors with a fine compendium of indoor games.
In the Inspector’s report for 1936—1937 we read:
"This School is probably unique in Burma and I was favourably impressed. It is an orphanage for orphan and destitute boys and aims at giving them a practical training for life and to become useful citizens. The training and activities outside the class-room are therefore probably more important than the small amount of book learning that the pupils receive inside the class-rooms. The boys do practically all their own work under supervision including baking their own bread and washing their own dishes. They receive a useful training in wood-work, metal-work, gardening, and the care of livestock. Habits of industry, self-activity, and discipline are instilled into them early and survive late.
A system of apprenticeship in more advanced manual work, in rice milling, and rubber planting is a feature of the Institution and both boys and apprentices are kept hard at it all day by the staff of Brothers who do not spare themselves in the process. Theirs is a noble and heroic task. The School is therefore full of life and activity. I saw an invigorating boxing display and an impromptu concert in which the boys showed both versatility and originality. The gymnastic and physical training display was good, the singing tuneful, and the boys even managed to raise a band."
No. of baptisms in the School Chapel up to date … 294
Vocations to our Institute … … … 6
Seminarists … … … … 4