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HISTORY OF ST. GEORGE’S H.S SCHOOL
The European Missionaries had begun the evangelization of Tibet long back in 1700 but no Catholic Mission made any attempt to enter Tibet in the whole century until the “French Fathers” of Foreign Mission Society of Paris called Missions Etrangeres de Paris, MEP in French were entrusted the holy task of spreading the word of God to Tibet. So, in March 1846 the mission of evangelizing Tibet was started by the French Fathers with the creation by the Holy See of the Apostolic Vicariate of Lhasa. Its Missionaries made several attempts to enter Tibet, ”The Forbidden Land” through different routes.
After 35 years of attempts and endeavors in the Chinese border of Tibet, and having established a few mission-posts there, the MEP Fathers decided to try to enter Tibet again through the Indian border (the Southern border of Tibet) and thus The South Tibet Mission began.
Father Auguste Desgodins who had worked for 20 years (1859-1880) in different mission post on the Chinese Tibet border was sent to India in 1880 to explore the possibility of entering Tibet by the south. He along with his companion Fr. Mussot reached Darjeeling on 24th March 1881 where they were heartily welcomed by the Capuchin Fathers. On 24th Oct. 1881, Fr. Desgodins and Fr Mussot left Darjeeling. From Darjeeling they went down to Lopchu, crossed the Teesta river that night and pitched their tent above the forest just below the Poshyor near 7th mile. On the next day, 26th Oct. they reached Kalimpong but went further on, following the mule track up to Pedong a small bazaar where market was held on Thursdays. They found Pedong to be a less rainy place than Darjeeling and very suitable to establish a mission post. Pedong was the closest out- post of India to the border of Sikkim, Tibet and Bhutan. Tibet was Just 40 miles away. The village of Pedong seeming to be the most suitable place for such purpose. They based themselves in Pedong for this quest but upon being unsuccessful to getting in Tibet, Fr. Desgodins decided to settle down in Pedong on 11th November 1882. Soon in 17th August1883, Fr. Desgodins and Fr. Mussot, were joined by a young 25 years old MEP priest Fr. Jean Marie Martin Her vagult and immediately on 14th January1885another young MEP priest Fr. Seleur joined them, The people of Pedong were able to recognize the wealth of knowledge that these foreign priests carried with them and hence requested for a small school to be built where the locals could be educated. So Fr. Desgodins, Fr .Hervagult and Fr. Seleur decided to start a small school. So the “Small School” was started in February 1885. Fr. Hervagult became the first Head master of the future St.George’s school with six pupils three boys, one girl and two of the Fathers’ Young house helpers. A humble beginning of the St. George’s that people far and wide know today. Six months on, the number of students dwindled to just one. The little 8 year old girl was the only student as all the boys dropped out of school. This did not deter the priests from imparting education to the village children. Fr. Hervagult worked as head-master for six (Feb 1885-1891) years than he went to Maria Busti toestablish a new Mission with one dozen Christians and remained there for 47 years. He never went back to France in his 53 years of mission and died in Maria Basti on 23rd May 1936. Fr. Jules Douenel arrived in Pedong on 22 Oct.1892 from France and took charge the post of headmaster (Feb 1893- 1925) vacated by Fr. Her-vagult. Fr. Douenel constructed the old church (Sept.1895-March 1896), opened a school in Sakyong in 1897, established a hospital (1898) rebuilt the crumbling Presytery (1901) in the present state, rebuilt 2 houses for old aged and disabled people (1908-1910) .They carried on working hard to educate children and adults both and in 1909 Fr. Douenel was given some land beside the Presbytery by the Government where the English Middle School (upto Class VI) dedicated to the patron saint- Saint George was inaugurated in 1911. St. Georges’ was now a popular school with a very good reputation. In 1919 Fr.Douenel opened a Tibetan section in his school so that it would be more useful to spread the Gospel if ever Tibet got accessible one day and he had similar plan for the Lepcha speaking children. Same year he started a Co-Operative Bank in Pedong.. In 1922 Fr. Douenel started Girls’ School (Keti or Ladki School a girls wing of St.George’s with 22 pupil. It was named St. Theresa’s School. In 1926 it had 27 girls students and a night school with 22big boys of age17-30 working in day time and studying at night. The number of girls’ students increased to 42 in1928-29and 48 by1930-31.The school building was no longer big enough to house these young scholars and so a bigger and better building was soon built. On 23rd May1926 he left Pedong where he had worked so hard for, and began to stay at Kalimpong. He was replaced by Fr. Benzamin Stolke (1925-26) a diocesan and he was replaced by a MEP father Fr. Gatson Gratuze .In Kalimpong he worked with same zeal and enthusiasm, and played main role in establishing Mission there. He built convent and a school for Cluny Sisters (old building of St. Joseph’s Convent), a small chapel (St.Theresa Church), St. Philomina’s Girls’ School. The MEP fathers being not enough in numbers to develop the Mission as much as they wanted, talks were held between their Superior General, Msgr. De Guebriant and the Abbot of St Maurice Abbey (Switzerland) Msgr. Burquier who agreed to send few of his Canon Regular (CR)to the Sikkim Mission. On 17th Dec 1934, the first two CR Fathers Fr. Fox and Fr. Gianora arrived in Kalimpong. On 2nd January 1935 Msgr. Douenel brought them to Pedong.Fr. John Roger Fox M.A.from Oxford was immediately (1935-36) handed over the response bility of running the school by appointing him as the Headmaster to80 Georgians.The whole Mission (Perfecture Apostolic of Sikkim and Kalimpong) on which MEP fathers had worked so hard for so many years was handed over to Swiss Fathers (CR) on 30th June 1937.A new era of Swiss Mission began with the arrival of the Swiss priests. The little school that was created simply with a few enthusiastic children had grown up and it was time to let her go into the hands of the Swiss Priests. With a heavy heart, the MEP priests handed over the complete mission over to them. They fondly remembered how they had created and nurtured this Mission. As Fr. Fox was leaving for England to collect fund for Mission. In May 1937. Fr.Shyrr had been called from Maria Busti to Pedong to be parish priest and look after the School (80boy students in St George’s and 50 Girl students in St. Theresa’s Girls’ School) From 1938 onwards, Diocesan Priests began to work with CR fathers, Fr. Benzamin Stolki a local Diocesan father worked in the school under Fr. Shyrr as a English teacher for two years. The number of students in St. George’s had increased to 100.The orphanage run by the priest right from the beginning of their coming to Pedong was dedicated to ‘Donbosco’ by Fr. Buty in and around 13.7.1941-7.4.1942. In 1943, the Headmaster then, Fr. Shyrr was required to spend more of his time towards his apostolic journey to Bastis, and a lay man, Denis Singh, who was one of the first boys at theFathers’ Orphanage, took over this responsibility. He acted as the Headmaster of St.George’s from 1944-46.Under his administration, the orphanage was converted to a paying boarding. In 1947, Denis Singh handed over the role of the school’s Headmaster to his younger brother, Gilbert Singh.(1947-1958) Gilbert put his heart and soul to build up the school to higher standards. He successfully upgraded the school to class VII in 1949, class VIII in 1950 and class IX in 1951. By1952, St. Georges was a Government recognized High School. An additional floor was constructed on the existing school building to cater to the higher classes which was inaugurated on 12.11.1951. St.Georges had 11 students as its first batch of school passers. Some of the students of the first batch were Bernard Singh, Paulus Karthak, Henry Pradhan, Mathias Suberi and Jerom Lucksom. On 21.10.1952 the governor of Bengal Mr. Mukerjee and his wife came on a visit to Pedong. The Headmaster of St. George’s Mr. Gilbert Singh gave a welcome address in which he requested the Governor for funds and development for the school. Mr. Mukerjee replied “We’ll do what we can. But you too do what you can….You are requesting from me a lot of things; I too request from you more co-operation, love, service, sacrifices it was written in your motto; Ekta Prem Sewa.” Fr. Shyrr had been planning to go to Switzerland to get more Funds and during this time, Fr. Martin Rey was appointed Headmaster of St. George’s in February 1957-June 1963 replacing Mr. Gilbert Singh. St. Theresa’s Girls School was up to class IV only in 1952, had been upgraded to class V in 1953 class VI in 1954 and as it could not be upgraded to class VII in 1955 The girls’ division of the school, St. Theresa’s hadn’t been able to be upgraded like St Georges’ which was solely a boys’ school then Fr. Rey with the desire to give equal education rights to the girls made St. Georges’ a co-ed school in 1957 and discontinued the girls’ school. The school building for St. Theresa’s now became ‘Primary Section’ of St. George’s.he two teachers of the St. Theresa’s Girls’ School, Bhotini Gurama and Albert Sir were appointed in primary section of St. George’s. In 1957 there were 350 students, 370 in 1958 (260 boys107 girls) 390 in 1959 271boys and 118 girls); 40 boarders in the Hostel, 500 students in 1964. Fr. Hofstetter who came to St. George’s as a vice principal in 1952 became Headmaster of the school. (1963-66) there were 500 students in the school. He was much loved and respected by the teachers, students, guardians and the public. Feared and revered by all he was both firm and gentle to all. The school made outstanding academic progress under his able guidance and efficient administration. In June 1966, the Headmaster’s role was taken over by Fr. Rene Singh who went on a study break soon after joining as the Head-master Fr. Michael Rai took his Position (July1966-June 1967)while he was away to study his BT (BEd), and Fr. Rey in 1970 (800 students) when he went away again to complete his M.A., Fr. Rene was back into administration of the school in1972 and spent his years working very hard for the betterment of the school till his official retirement in 1994. The numbers of students were increasing year after year and Fr. Rene saw the need for a modern proper school building. With the help from Misereor Germany Fr. Rene Singh in a new location, built the new St.Georges’ school building that we know today. In 1987, the school shifted to the new building and upgraded to 10+2 Arts in St. George’s High School was now a Higher Secondary School. he rapidly growing school now needed a School Hall to host different school functions and events. Fr. Rene again worked very hard in seeking financial help from various agencies in Europe to help build the school hall. In1991-92 he received help from Cebemo; a catholic charity of Holland, and Fr. Rene Singh was able to add ‘Cebemo Hall’ to the St. George’s. It was inaugurated and blessed on 10.3.1992. Fr. Rene Singh retired from service in August 1994 after 27 years of dedicated service and Fr. Peter Lingdamo an ex-Georgian replaced Fr. Rene Singh. Immediately after Fr. Peter Lingdamo became Headmaster he with the help of Fr. Gex built the Principal’s residence in 1995.So far, the students were constrained to studying only Arts subjects in the Higher Secondary. Fr. Peter successfully opened up the path for students wanting to study Science further by introducing Science branch for 10+2 in 1997. He also saw that students who dropped out of regular schooling were still able to appear for the 10 and 12 board exams through the Open School wing of St. Georges’.Fr. Peter was transferred to St. Roberts School in Darjeeling as Headmaster in January 2012. Fr. Francis Crasta succeeded Fr. Peter as the Head master in February 2012 and he continued to contribute towards the school like his predecessors. Taking a step forward from he 10+2 Science dept. that Fr. Peter had established, Fr. Crasta was able to secure funding from MP fund and open a Science lab in 2003. St. George’s till now only had boys as a boarding student. Fr. Crasta constructed and opened a Girls Hostel in 2015 which houses girl students from the neighboring remote villages. the girls’ hostel is looked after by Fr. Charles Sada. Now the St. George’s School has grown quite old almost 130 years, has its children spread far and wide engaged in various walks of life. Many come and tell their stories of their school days, tell about the teachers, fathers, fellow students boys and girls, classmates their crush. Many like to find occasions to come back to their school to see it grown so old, big and beautiful and want to share the things they had and did not have in their days in school. All these made the old students, now the teachers, to do something so that a bridge may be made to join the past students with the present day school, its activities and the current students. So, under the guidance of Fr. Peter Lingdamo, who himself an alumnus, Dr. D.B. Dewan, Sri. Udaiprakash Rai and Dr. J.B. Subba formally formed the St. George’s Alumni Association on the 10th November 2000. A long felt need of having an association of old Georgian students was at last fulfilled with Rev. Fr. Peter Lingdamo as the President, Dr. D.B. Dewan as General Secretary, Sri.Udaiprakash Rai as Joint Secretary, Sri.Nagey Tshering Bhutia as Assistant Secretary, Smt. Shanti Moktan as Treasurer and Mr. Dhanpal Rai and Rt. Rev. Bishop Stephen Lepcha as the Chief Patron. The school that started more than 130 years ago has since been the icon of Pedong. St. Georges’ has been able to sustain the livelihood of the people of Pedong directly or indirectly. It’s also only because of such a good school in our small village that the common people are mostly educated which makes Pedong one of the better villages to live in, in our District. The school has produced mass number of educated human beings who are globally placed today in different walks of life. The Alumni Association is about16 years old and has been quite active in organising social activities. The reunion Programme organised by the Alumni Association every October/November is a beautiful opportunity to see adult Georgians re-living their school days.
The Assistant Headmasters of the school:
Dr. Dick B. Dewan
Fr. Charles Sada
Name of lay Headmasters appointed by fathers indifferent times when they were need more to the apostolic works:-
Mr. Johny Lepcha, Headmaster 1917.
Mr. Stanilas Ekka 1st master (.1923-25)Mr. Mys 1st Master 1928.
Mr. Jagatdal Dewan, Headmaster (1929-30)
Mr. Francis Kispotta, Headmaster (1931-32)
Mr. Peter Subba, Headmaster 1933.
Mr. MadanKumar Pradhan, Headmaster 1934.
Mr. Tek Prasad Pradhan, Headmaster (1935-36).
Mr. Nar Bahadur Gurung, Headmaster 1937.
Mr. Gyendra Bahadur Rai, Headmaster 1938
Mr. Tarsis Samling, Headmaster (1939-1940).
Most of the information and photographs are from the books :- The South Tibet Mission and The Sikkim Mission by Remy Riagnoux, France and a note given by him to Dr. D.B. Dewan, compiled by P.N.Lohar
President: Sri. P.N. Lohar
Secretary: Sri. Pratap Khati, Advocate
Treasurer: Smt. Bidhya Singh
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