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School CP - February 2004

Corpun file 12971

Arab News, Saudi Arabia, 27 February 2004 (07 Muharram, 1425)

St. Patrick's -- Alma Mater to the Great and Good

By Sameen Tahir-Khan
Special to Arab News

KARACHI, 27 February 2004 — What do Pervez Musharraf and L.K. Advani have in common? They both went to St. Patrick's School in Karachi. The school, founded in 1861 also counts Daud Pota, Jam Sadiq Ali and Shaukat Aziz among its alumni. In its heyday and before the oil boom, many Saudis also attended “St. Pat's”, as it is known.

St. Patrick's Principal Joseph D’Mello is popularly known as Father Joe. The day I visited, I spoke to two young boys in the playground.

“Is your school any good?” I asked them. “Oh yes, of course ma’am,” one of them replied politely, the convent's discipline very visible. “Any famous graduates?” “Pervez Musharraf,” they answered in unison.

“Is he a good President?” I asked. “Yes he is.” “How do you know?” “Well,” the fourth graders thought for a moment and said, “Because he went to our school. Fathers would have taught him to be good.”

So what kind of a student was Pervez Musharraf?

School Principal Father Joseph D’Mello said: “Pervez Musharraf went to school here in 1959 I think for four years. He was an above-average student and in the science group. He has since visited our school and has always expressed happiness at having been a student here. He said that he never forgot some of the lessons he learnt at St. Patrick's, one of them being, ‘The clothes maketh not the man.’”

Musharraf also remembers the thrashings he got at the school. Once he threw chalk at a boy while the class was in session. His discipline master, Father Todd, gave him a sound caning. “I wanted to sit on a block of ice after that,” Musharraf told father Joe.

Caning was part and parcel of a convent school. Is that still used as a disciplinary tool?

“No, no,” Father Joe said. “Caning was stopped in 1998. The old school of thought believed that sparing the rod meant, spoiling the child. Today we believe in respecting the child and talking to him.”

Convent schools in Pakistan always had a reputation for being excellent, especially in teaching English. Is the standard being maintained? Pakistan's literacy rate is only 45 percent. Education appears to be totally commercialized, with schools opening in every alley, yet the standard seems to have deteriorated. What does D’Mello think of all that?

Father D’Mello, who has a Masters in English Literature and a B.Ed, describes himself as disappointed since not much had changed from the time he first entered the field of education in 1959. “I blame the government for that. It has not done much to improve the system.


Copyright: Arab News 2003 All rights reserved.

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