The jewel of the Salesian congregation which administers 306 institutions across the country, Don Bosco is among the commercial capital’s most well-known education landmarks
In Matunga, a neighbourhood in Mumbai dominated by Tam Brahms (Tamilian Brahmins) and sundry other communities from peninsular India, there is a sylvan spot thatâ€™s forever Turin. On a small patch of green is the headquarters of the Salesian congregation in India and their most famous educational institution â€” Don Bosco School, named after the Italian saint of the church of Rome who founded the Salesian order (originally known as the Society of St. Francis de Sales) in Turin in 1868. Within the campus between the primary and secondary sections of the school is Mumbaiâ€™s famous shrine of Don Boscoâ€™s Madonna. The Salesian congregation, which is celebrating 100 years of existence in India this year, administers 306 education institutions across the country.
The Maharashtra state board (SSC) affiliated class I-X Don Bosco School is the jewel of the Salesian institutions, and among Mumbaiâ€™s most well-known landmarks. It began its existence as the Catholic Educational Institute of the Immaculate Conception in Tardeo in 1915. In 1928 it was offered to four Salesian missionaries â€” Fr. Joseph Hauber, Fr. Austin Dehlert, Bro. William Haughey and Bro. Michael Devalle â€” who took over the school with an enrollment of 189 day scholars and 98 boarders. Two years later in June 1930, the schoolâ€™s name was changed to Don Bosco High School. However, eviction notices of the landlord at Tardeo forced the school management to relocate the school to a spacious plot in Matunga in central Mumbai. On January 31, 1942, the construction of a new school campus under the leadership of Fr. Aurelius Maschio was completed to house both the primary and secondary sections. In January 1965 accommo-dation for about 150 boarders was additionally provided.
“Since its foundation, Don Bosco School has been committed to the all-round development of its students â€” drawing out of the best in body, mind and spirit. From the primary section onwards, we strive to not only develop the cognitive and psycho-motor skills of our students, but also to enrich their individual and social lives,” says Fr. Crispino Dâ€™Souza, a mathematics graduate of Pune University who took charge as principal in 2001.
According to Fr. Dâ€™Souza, the school is alma mater of several of the commercial capitalâ€™s celebrities including Bolly-wood actors Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor, directors Mahesh Bhatt and Anant Mahadevan, and former test cricketers Ravi Shastri and Farokh Engineer, among others. Though over the years the schoolâ€™s student profile has changed with the cityâ€™s haute bourgeoisie enrolling their children in more elite schools, Don Bosco continues to enjoy a good reputation for academic excellence and all-round development.
For instance a Times of India survey (October 14, 2004) rated the all-boys Don Bosco as the most socially conscious school in Mumbai and fifth in India. Some 150 children from neighbourhood slums attend special night study classes at the school. “We have identified three focus areas: faith and value education; promoting peace and social harmony; and education for livelihood,” says the schoolâ€™s rector Fr. Ronald Menezes, a triple postgraduate in sociology, biblical theology and human rights from Pune, Rome and Mumbai universities.
“Moreover we have tied up with a technical school, which imparts vocational training in trades such as welding, plumbing, carpentry etc. Thus far two batches of 40 students each have been vocationally trained at this institute and are gainfully employed in India and abroad,” says Menezes who adds that the boarding house accommodates orphans and children from underprivileged backgrounds.
Don Bosco School, which has 3,000 boys on its muster rolls instructed by 150 teachers, receives a block grant (Rs. 3 lakh per year) from the Maharashtra state government. Consequently tuition fees at the school are heavily subsidised (see box on admission and fees). Despite this, the school management has ensured that students are provided excellent academic and sports infrastructure. The chemistry lab was upgraded recently and the physics and biology labs are next in line. Don Bosco is the only school in the city (possibly the state) to boast seven playgrounds where students play football, cricket, hockey, basketball and tennis. All year round, as many as 25 professional coaches put classes II-IX through their paces. The school has a special sports division with a specially tailored time-table to enable gifted sportsmen to excel in various tournaments. Don Bosco also boasts a substantial library which is equipped with 15 computers loaded with educational programs.
Academically, the schoolâ€™s performance has been consistently good. Last year, pass percentage in the class X SSC examination was 99 percent. Remedial classes are held everyday during summer vacations to help laggard students catch up. Considerable emphasis is also given to co-curricular activities including music, elocution, dramatics and environmental awareness.
The Don Bosco School campus houses a National Open School affiliated to the Union ministry of human resource development. More than 150 students including the physically disabled and dyslexic are enrolled in the open school which runs simultaneously with the regular school.
Future plans include examining affiliations with the CISCE, Delhi and IBO, Geneva examination boards. “In the coming years I would like to see the inclusion of human rights education and environmental studies in the schoolâ€™s curriculum. In the second century of our presence in India, we want to promote the values and heritage of the Salesian order more widely. One way to do this is to complement the emphasis on knowledge and IQ (intelligence quotient) with EQ (emotional quotient) and SQ (spiritual quotient) education. Ecology is another concern. Our students will have to learn to protect our precious resources of earth, water and air. The education system must focus greater attention upon these important issues,” says Fr. Menezes.
Admission & fees
Admission applications into junior kindergarten must be submitted on January 9-10 every year. The price of the form and processing fee is Rs.50. Admission into other classes is against vacancies which may arise.
Fees (per month): Since Don Bosco receives grant-in-aid from the Maharashtra government, tuition fees are heavily subsidised. For instance class I-II: Rs.15 and class III-IV: Rs.20. In the secondary section, fees are charged according to the class â€” Rs.5 for class V, Rs.6 for class VI and so on. No deposit is payable but fees for extra-curricular activities are extra. Primary section students are required to pay an annual fee of Rs.900 and secondary school students Rs.1,100 for computer usage.
For more information contact Don Bosco School, Matunga, Mumbai 400019. Tel: 022 241452 28.
Ronita Torcato (Mumbai)