CSI St. Thomas English Church School:
Located within the campus, our Church school is one among the many prominent educational institutions in Santhome, Chennai. Recently upgraded to the higher classes, the school offers quality education to children belonging to the marginalized sections of society.
The 1980s was a landmark period in the history of our church, and one such activity was the founding of the school. Planned without any funds on hand, the classes were initially held in the old parsonage. In the early stages, Dr. Richard Ponniah, Cdr. C. W. Venglet and J Clement Moses were instrumental in collecting funds to meet the financial requirements.
While the Tamil Nadu Government accorded recognition in 1983 for starting a CSI St. Thomas Matriculation School for imparting English medium education, the school was officially founded in the year 1985 with the motto – “Arise and Shine”. Dora Richard was the first headmistress, followed by Iris Manoharan after a few years, both setting the trend for a long list of devoted teachers who have served here.
One of the dreams of St. Thomas English Church in the year 1985 was to run an English medium – Nursery and Primary – School for the benefit of the children of the fisherfolk and domestic helpers who lived in and around our church. Most of them were aspiring to put their wards in an English medium School at an affordable cost.
Late Dr. Richard Massillamani perceived this dream along with late Mr. M. Samuel Chandrakumar, Mr. Angel Ponniah and Mr. Clement Moses. Slowly it became a collective dream for our congregation and the possibility of running a school sprang to life.
Finding the seed money, deciding on the location of the school in the campus, finding committed Teachers and collecting children to join the school were the initial challenges. A school committee was formed to widen the circle and work in union, pursuing the vision. We borrowed the required seed money from our members, free of interest. Late Mrs. Ananthakrishnan and Late Col. Venglet advanced the required amount, along with few of our members. The then Pastorate Committee could not allocate any amount for this outreach project. However, this amount was repaid later in full and some of the donors graciously declined to take back the amount.
We chose to use the old parish hall to accommodate the school. The building required renovation and a face lift, which was done with minimum expenditure. The rooms had to be furnished to the requirement of 50 children. Many innovative ideas sprang up. Small chairs and square tables were made and painted in different colours. We were able to procure a few desks, chairs and indoor play articles and a lovely merry-go-round from a nursery school in Foreshore Estate that was closing down, for just Rs. 10,000/-.
Finding dedicated teachers with an open mind, who would love to teach small children, not minding the remuneration, however small, was a task. Mrs. Dora Richard became the first Headmistress of the School and a few of our members and Mrs. Maria D’Cruz, a trained nursery teacher joined the staff. Sexton Mani’s wife was Ayah and Mani was peon cum gardener cum watchman. They made a good pair at that time!
God rewards small acts of sacrifice and the school made a modest increase in strength as the years went by.
Late Mr. D. Soundrapandian who was in charge of an Industrial School at Danishpet got us a few jungle gym products such as the existing snail climber, monkey catchers, see-saw and swing from his school at a moderate cost and transported them here.
The wooden tree house with slide and steps around the tamarind tree was a treat for the children. These embellishments with the back drop of our Open Air Altar made passers-by pause for a moment at the gate.
The School motto ‘Arise and Shine’ and the School song were conceived by the teachers themselves and were readily approved by the Committee. The logo depicting our motto and our values was designed by Tryphena, daughter of late Rev. Ebenezer Immanuel. The school uniform was blue on blue which merged which the sea and the sky.
Our children enjoyed the ambience of the natural setting. The trees kept our campus cool and beautiful, and classes were conducted under them. The children spotted Kingfishers, Woodpeckers, sparrows and creatures like mongoose, squirrels and butterflies often. The Assembly was conducted outside and the students worshipped the Creator in the cool of the day with songs.
The old parsonage was modified into classrooms during Rev. Vijayakumar’s time. Rev. Ebenezer Immanuel, Rev. Francis Rajadoss and all the Pastors showed keen interest in the development of the School. The formalities regarding its registration, permission from the Diocese and the Government were obtained by the tireless effort of Mr. Angel Ponniah and Rev. Vijayakumar. They visited the Inspector of Matriculation Schools who warmly received them and recommended the approval of the school to the Director of School Education.
When the strength of the school increased, so did the number of staff members and the expenses. We supplemented the income through small increases in the fee structure, and by conducting fund raising programmes – ‘We are the Children’ at Narada Gana Sabha and ‘Around the world in Eighteen Minutes’ at the University Auditorium. Both the programmes were professionally planned, well-rehearsed and staged. Mrs. Shirley Kumar roped in her friend Ms. Mascarenhas who trained the children to perform the traditional dances of various countries. The auditorium was packed with the entire congregation of our Church and their friends, apart from parents. The standing ovation is not forgotten even today. We realised a handsome amount of Rs. 70000/- from both the programmes, which were also telecast on Doordarshan. We were even paid for it! By this time the School became self-supportive and we came close to the fulfilment of our dream. May it increase!