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  DEVOTIONAL  
 
   
Letter to Metropolitan
  By Rev A.P. Jacob and five other priests  
  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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  COUNSELING
 
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  By Shaheen Chander  
  ENJOYING a relaxed weekend, I was checking updates on the Facebook page. I came across a b  
     
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  EDUCATIONAL  
     
 
Brick by brick
  By Elizebath Philip  
  PRIME MINISTER's Principal Secretary T.K.A. Nair was in the second batch of students at St. Thomas College, Kozhencherry. Later, he taught in the college before he was selected for the IAS. At a time when education has become big business, it is worth recalling how Nair's alma mater was established. The following is extracted from 'Ormakalum Kurippukalam' (Memories and Notings) by the late Dr Yuhanon Marthoma:

AFTER the passing away of Abraham Mar Thoma, many felt that a college should be established in his memory. I had no interest in it. This was mainly because we did not have the financial ability to set up a college.

In Thiruvananthapuram, Bishop Mar Evanios had invested a lot of money in setting up a college. Around the time, St. Berchmen's College was set up at Changanacherry. Many of our students were studying in these two colleges.

Right from the beginning of SB College, it was a practice to hold prayer meetings of our students at the college hostels and the Students Christian Movement (SCM) building.

When I went to Thiruvananthapuram as Bishop, I met many of our students there. We prayed together under a tree.

I told Bishop Mar Evanios that I would be grateful if he could make arrangements for the Marthoma students to meet and pray together. Mar Evanios put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Bishop, there are many students from different churches studying in this college. If I make a special concession to any particular group, all of them will ask for similar facilities. I won't be able to handle the situation. We have a chapel. All can join the worship there."

When I visited the college again, our students had a prayer meeting on the college veranda. We wished we had a college of our own. It was against this backdrop that the idea of starting a college germinated in my mind.

From the beginning of Union College, Aluva, I used to visit the students as priest and later as bishop. I also used to visit Madras Christian College and its hostels. When many people suggested that we should have our own college, I gladly welcomed the proposal.

As a follow-up, I made an appeal for funds from within and without the country. It was Dr. T K Varghese of Puthencavu, who gave a push to the college by donating Rs. 25,000. Mr K K Kurien and Mr. P. Kurien John contributed Rs 7000 and Rs 5000 respectively.

With these funds we could construct a five or six-roomed rectangular building. Thus under the Principalship of Rev M G Chandy (the late Alexander Mar Thoma), the Mar Thoma College, Thiruvalla, was started.

The thought that there should be a college at Kozhencherri also occurred to many of us. Since the Mar Thoma Church did not have the capability to run two colleges at the same time, the idea of setting up a college at Kozhencherry was temporarily dropped.

The church members under the leadership of Kurumthottickal Achen came forward for setting up the Kozhencherri college. Rs 1 lakh which was in the Kozhencherry school fund was made available for this project. I also took an interest in the project and gave all assistance to Kurumthottickal Achen and the church members.

Since it was decided that the college should be under the aegis of the Eastern parishes and not under the Kozhencherry parish, a letter was sent to nearly 60 parishes, east of Maramon, seeking funds. The necessary land for the college was obtained from Poyyanil Kutty at a low price. The people of Kozhencherry came forward to build a road to link the college with the town. In a rectangular asbestos-roofed building, under the aegis of the eastern parishes, St. Thomas College, Kozhencherry, was started.

Mr Kochukunjachan of Mulamoottil offered to spend Rs 20,000 to construct a part of the main college building. The college grew rapidly under the able leadership of Prof M J Cherian as Principal. He got a group of able teachers with marked loyalty to the college. After a brief period, the management of the college was given to the church.

When we were running these two colleges, an idea occurred to us that we should have a Teachers' Training College also. We were sure that we could run the T.T. College without much financial difficulty. Thanks to Mr. P. S. George, who was a member of the University Syndicate, we got permission for starting the college. Classes were held in the Kovoor Achen memorial Hall by separating the classrooms with jute curtains.

Though the Training College did not cause any financial burden, it was quite a task running the other two colleges. We had to seek outside help. When Bishop Theophilos and I were in New York, we made an appeal for funds to several organisations and individuals. It did not evoke a good response. We could get only Rs 2.5 lakh mainly through the good offices of Dr. Stanley Jones, Dr. Pearson and the 'Friends of the Mar Thom Church', set up by New York Union Seminary Principal Dr Pitt Wanderson. This amount came in handy.

It is a standard practice for those establishing colleges without much financial backing like us, to collect donations from teachers and students. But some communities and managements did not follow this practice.

The Kozhencherry College Building Committee decided that those who did not contribute to the college building fund should donate Rs 100-200 at the time of admission of their wards. Of course, such collections were made only from the financially sound.

We were able to collect Rs 30,000 in this manner. In the process, we also got the 'stigma' of collecting funds for admissions. The committee was, therefore, asked to stop the practice.
There are colleges, which take huge sums of money from the teachers at the time of appointment. What respect will the teachers have for the management of such colleges?
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Translated from the original in Malayalam by Elizebath Philip.
 
   
Education as business
  By A.J. Philip  
 
A RECENT report in the Times of India about two medical colleges in Tamil Nadu demanding capitation fees of Rs 20-40 lakh from some students seeking admission is the tip of an iceberg. What had made the report salacious is that one of the colleges involved -- Balaji Medical College -- is linked to S Jagathrakshakan (Saver of the Universe), Union Minister of state for Information and Broadcasting.

Demands that the minister should quit the UPA government till he is able to prove his innocence have already been made by civil society organisations like the Federation of Anti-Corruption Teams (FACT). The expose was based on the secret video recordings of the negotiations between the college authorities and those posing as students.

The minister has denied his connections with the college. A visit to the college's website showed that it is well-endowed in terms of infrastructure. It is not clear whether the capitation money would have gone into the coffers of the college or shared by the people concerned.

Legally, charging capitation fees is banned. On a recent visit to Mangalore, I realised how this sleepy town in south Karnataka had grown into the capital of higher education in the country. There are several medical and engineering colleges in this town, which is not far from Manipal.

Manipal is famous all over the country as it is the home of the Pais, bankers and entrepreneurs who have set up banks like the Syndicate Bank and medical and engineering colleges. The sprawling campus on a hillock was amazing. A state-of-the-art medical college beckoned students from all over the country. When I ate food at the college canteen, I realised I was surrounded by North Indian students.

Nearly three decades ago, one of my relatives had paid a couple of lakhs of rupees to gain admission to the college. Of course, he was a brilliant student, scoring very high marks. Unluckily for him, the year he sought admission, the Kerala Government had introduced a new system of admission whereby every candidate had to appear for an entrance exam. He did not qualify in the exam. Until then, the marks scored at the plus two stage were the sole criterion for admission.
So my relative had to go to Manipal.

The whole campus was built with capitation fees. Many such colleges soon came up in states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. When it dawned on the Kerala government that many Keralites were seeking admission outside the state, it also allowed private managements to set up medical and engineering colleges.

The situation was so laissez-faire that private managements began to fleece students. It no longer mattered whether a student had the necessary qualifications to get admission. What mattered was the financial capacity of the parents to pay capitation fees. The state governments did not bother because those running the colleges had strong political connections.

Most such institutions were run by various caste organisations and their chieftains. Since the governments could not afford to antagonise them, they turned a blind eye to the goings-on. Finally, it was left to the Supreme Court to streamline the situation.

Under a court order, capitation fee was declared illegal. Instead, a system of variable fees for different categories of students was introduced. Of course, the court also insisted that admission should be solely on the basis of merit. General candidates who got admission on the basis of merit had to pay lesser fees than those who got admission in the management quota and the quota reserved for non-resident Indians (NRI).

By and large, this has been a justifiable system and has worked quite satisfactorily. Nonetheless, some unscrupulous managements have been able to find ways in which they could extract capitation fees from some students. Since all this happens in secret, little is known about such transactions.

Rev Valson Thampu, Principal of St. Stephen's College, New Delhi, has in a recent article mentioned a story about the famous Christian Medical College, Vellore.
The CMC has one of the cleanest and transparent admission records. It has a foolproof system of admission. Yet, rumour spread that some people were charging money from the students. It later transpired that some unscrupulous elements would contact every student and demand money on the condition that the money would be returned if they could not arrange admission.

They kept the money of those who cleared the interview and got admission while they promptly returned the money to those who failed in the interview. Nobody complained because the ones who paid got admission and those who did not get admission got back their money. What they did not realise was that the touts played no role at all in the admission process.

Rev Thampu was responding to allegations that the college authorities were charging illegal fees from admission-seekers. However hilarious his story may be, it is an incontrovertible fact that education has become big business in this country.

In 19th century, Christian missionaries were pioneers in setting up educational institutions in the country. Take the case of Kerala. The first colleges were all set up by various Christian denominations. Moneymaking was not their aim. Rather, they collected money from church members to set up such colleges. In fact, the Malayalam word for school is "pallikoodam" which means "that which is attached to the church". This continued till the middle of the 20th century.

I remember paying a different kind of capitation fee when I took admission in Catholicate College, Pathanamthitta. The college was in urgent need of money to construct a new building. It introduced a lottery, the first prize of which was an Ambassador car or Rs 20,000. My father had to compulsorily buy lottery tickets worth Rs 250, not a small sum those days. Of course, we had the liberty of selling the tickets.

Today when I go to Pathanamthitta, I can see the building constructed with the lottery money. Prof M.P. Manmadan, who was Principal of Mahatma Gandhi College, Thiruvananthapuram, for a long period, has in his autobiography describes how the Nair Service Society leader, Mannath Padmanabhan, collected money to set up colleges all over the state.

One of the strategies he adopted was to ask every Nair family to donate at least one coconut tree to the NSS. Most Nair families obliged him, some with several coconut trees. These trees became a source of recurring income for the society. Mannath Padmanabhan was not after money. His colleges were not for Nairs alone. Lakhs of non-Nair students have passed out from such colleges.
Other organisations like the Sri Narayana Dharma Paripalanam (SNDP) and Muslim Education Society (MES) have also set up colleges. Small wonder that once Bhagwan Sahay, who was Governor of Kerala, was heard saying that in any town in Kerala, the most impressive building was that of a college. The situation is no longer the same. If social concern was what motivated the church and organisations like the NSS, SNDP and MES, money is the sole consideration for those who enter the field of education now.

The other day I read about a protest in Kolkata. Former cricket captain Sourav Ganguly wants to set up an English-medium school in a particular locality in the posh Salt Lake area. The local people are up in arms against him because they say the area already has three big schools. One more school would add to the traffic congestion.

It is obvious that Ganguly is not guided by altruism when he wants to invest the money he earned playing cricket in a venture that brings in more money. He cannot be blamed if he finds education as the best bet. You may have heard about 'Lovely Professional University' in Jalandhar. I noticed a hoarding of the university at a Metro station in Delhi. It claims that Lovely (what a name!) is the largest university in the country with a campus spread over 600 acres and 24,000 students on its rolls.

The university was set up and promoted by the owners of Lovely Sweets, a landmark in Jalandhar. One often had to stand in a queue to buy sweets from this shop. It was so famous that when my son got married, it was from this shop that I procured sweets to be distributed along with the invitation cards, a Punjabi tradition I adopted with relish.

There is nothing wrong in successful businessmen investing money in education. In the US, institutions like Harvard and MIT were set up with private money. But their intention was not to make money. Can the same be said about our educational entrepreneurs? When I shifted to Dwarka in New Delhi early this decade, I saw a new school coming up in the vicinity of our apartment. What came up first was a huge signboard which said, "Indraprastha International Public School: Fully Air-Conditioned".
From our balcony I can see that all the classrooms are air-conditioned. All their school buses, too, are air-conditioned. But I have not been able to understand what is "international" about the school. Maybe, it refers to the smart tie the students wear. Why blame the school? In less than a year, a brand new school came up in the same area. It belongs to the G.D. Goenka group.

What I found fascinating is a signboard in front of the school building. It depicts a school student carrying a "briefcase" (no school bag). That is the kind of value it wants to impart. In the same area, there is another school, which calls itself "Brats and Cuties". The Encarta dictionary defines "brat" as an "unpleasant child". The synonyms it lists for the word are "little monster, little horror and spoiled brat". "Cutie" means somebody who is "charming", "beautiful", "attractive" etc. It is a physical attribute.

Every time I see the school's signboard, I am reminded of the "Mother Teresa Academy of Classical Dances" that I came across once. Names like "Saint Jesus School", "St. Xeverin’s School" (S and T in St. stands for Singh and Tiwari, who run the school.) and "Apostle Christ Academy" are not figments of my imagination.

Parents who want their children to study only in air-conditioned schools are not bothered by the thought that such schools produce "brats" and not well-rounded personalities. I have traveled extensively in north India and have found that the most thriving industry today is education. New technical institutions are coming up in every nook and cranny of the region.

There is nothing wrong in it. Australia is now in the news because of the attacks on Indian students there. Why do Indian students go there? There are two types of students going there. Some go there in the guise of pursuing higher education but with the intention of finding a job and settling down there. There is the other group, which wants to do specialized courses. I had a colleague, a Sikh, whose son was doing a course in hair-cutting and hair treatment in Melbourne.

Compared to China, we are woefully short of educational institutions. In terms of quality, our institutions are far behind their western counterparts. The IITs and IIMs, set up by the government, continue to be India's brand ambassadors. I was once invited as chief guest at a function at an engineering college. The management also runs a journalism course.

Since I showed an interest in interacting with the journalism students, they made arrangements for it. I was impressed by the uniform the students wore. Yellow shirts, blue trousers and matching tie. The girl students were equally smartly dressed. Some of the students were from Africa.

They had only one full-time journalism teacher who confessed that she had never seen the inside of a newspaper office. In terms of infrastructure, they had a small studio where the only equipment was a handycam and a microphone. They did not have more than 100 books in the library. Yet, people were willing to take admission there and pay high fees.

The question is who can bell the cat. We have seen in Jharkhand, the government allowing a large number of private universities to come up there. I will end this story narrating my own personal experience. I was once secretary of a society that ran, among other things, a school in New Delhi. The school did not get recognition from the government.
We fulfilled all the conditions for recognition. But each time the inspection team came to inspect the school, they found something or the other to deny us recognition. Finally, we employed a middleman styling himself as a 'Consultant', who demanded Rs 1 lakh for the job. We paid the consultancy charge and soon the school got recognition. Is it any wonder that S Jagathrakshakan (Saver of the Universe) stays in the UPA Ministry?

Courtesy: Indian Currents
 
   
Laicizing priests now easier for clergy congregation
  By By Gerard O'Connell, Special Correspondent in Rome  
  VATICAN CITY (UCAN) -- Pope Benedict XVI has granted "special faculties" to the Congregation for the Clergy responding to a problem that has been faced in all continents, including Asia.

This makes it easier for the congregation to dismiss priests involved in scandals and to grant dispensations from celibacy to those who have left the priesthood for five consecutive years, contracted a civil marriage, or are living with a woman.

Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the Brazilian-born prefect of the congregation, informed bishops of these new authorizations in a nine-page letter dated April 18.

In the first part of the letter, the Franciscan cardinal offers two reasons for the papal decision: to reaffirm priestly celibacy as "a gift that the Church has received and wishes to protect" and to assist bishops "in their daily task of preserving and promoting ecclesiastical discipline."

In other words, the Pope wants the more than 400,000 Catholic priests in the world to live a celibate and upright life, and wants bishops to ensure that they do so, or else dismiss them from the ministry.

A third reason for the new administrative procedures also emerges from the letter: The Pope wishes to restore order in the Church by regularising situations of priests who have left the ministry without requesting dispensation.

According to Cardinal Hummes, "the vast majority of priests live out their priestly identity with serenity and exercise faithfully their proper ministry." However, he insisted that "when situations of scandal arise, especially on the part of the Church's ministers," the bishop must act promptly and decisively "according to the laws of the Church."

The letter makes clear that if a priest is not abiding by Church laws, that is, if he is living with a woman, has contracted civil marriage, or engages in other behavior that causes scandal, then the diocesan bishop has a duty and obligation to intervene and restore good order in the Church.

The bishop can begin by admonishing the priest to change his life but if it is clear that the priest has no intention of doing so, then the bishop must initiate a procedure for his dismissal.

The bishop can also initiate the process in the case of a priest who has left the ministry for five consecutive years or more with no intention of returning to the ministry, as well as in the case of a priest who is no longer living a celibate life and has no intention of changing.

In such cases, the bishop will carry out a thorough investigation at the diocesan level, always respecting the priest's legal rights. The bishop will then transmit his conclusion and request for dispensation to the congregation, which now has the power to dismiss the priest and grant the dispensation with or without recourse to the Pope, depending on the case.

Once the congregation dismisses the priest and grants dispensation, the former priest can be fully reconciled with the Church and be able to live a full Christian life and receive the Sacraments.

The new faculties and the more streamlined administrative procedures do not apply to priests who have been involved in the sexual abuse of minors, however. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith handles all such cases.

In an exclusive June 3 interview with the US-based news agency, Catholic News Service, Cardinal Hummes explained that the new procedures were necessary because the 1983 "Code of Canon Law" appears to be inadequate at addressing "new problems."

For example, when a priest leaves the priesthood, he "usually" informs his bishop and eventually requests a formal dispensation. Other priests, however, "just leave, marry (in a civil ceremony) and have children." In such cases, the bishop has no way of proceeding as it is up to the priest to request dispensation.

"If, however, the one who left is not interested (in regularizing his situation)," Cardinal Hummes said, "then the good of the Church and the good of the priest who left" would require that "he be dispensed so that he would be in a good situation, especially if he has children."

He said, "The children of the priest have the right to have a father who is in a correct situation in the eyes of God and with his own conscience." One of the reasons for the new procedures is to help such persons, and in these cases, "the initiative lies with the bishop."

The congregation headed by the 74-year-old cardinal oversees more than a quarter of a million diocesan priests worldwide. Since Dec. 28, 2007, it has been responsible for handling dispensations from the priesthood and diaconate of both diocesan and Religious clergy in the Latin and Oriental Churches.

Cardinal Hummes told Catholic News Service he did not have statistics on how many priests left the priesthood without requesting a dispensation but that bishops had raised the matter with his congregation.

Records show the exodus from the priesthood began at the end of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).

Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) was greatly distressed by this phenomenon but generally granted dispensations to those who requested it. Pope John Paul II (1978-2005), alarmed at the rising numbers, sought to halt this exodus by making it difficult for priests to obtain dispensations. By 2000, organisations working with priests who had left the ministry claimed the number of departures had reached 100,000.

In mid-2007, the authoritative Italian Jesuit fortnightly magazine, "La Civilta Cattolica," (Italian for "The Catholic "Civilization) challenged that number in an article, published with the approval of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

It reported that 69,063 priests left the ministry between 1964 and 2004 but said 11,213 of them later returned. It revealed that these statistics were based on information provided by the bishops to the Vatican but did not clarify if the figures reflected all departures or only those who requested dispensations.

It furthermore revealed that an average of 1,000 priests had left the priesthood each year between 2000 and 2006 but that only half of them requested dispensation.

Using the most recent figures available, it reported that between Aug. 1, 2005 and Oct. 20, 2006, the Vatican had received 904 requests for dispensation, including some from deacons.

The requests came from the following countries: 185 from the United States, 119 from Italy, 60 from Spain, 59 from Brazil, 52 from Poland, 48 from Mexico, 32 from Germany, 31 from the Philippines, 29 from Argentina, 27 from India, 26 from France, 23 from Ireland, 22 from Canada and so on. "La Civilta Cattolica," however, gave no indication of how many left the priesthood without requesting dispensation.
 
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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