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St Joseph’s Convent, the jewel in the crown of knowledge town of Kalimpong | Mio Kitchen


SANDIP C. JAIN, EOI: Kalimpong over the ages has been called by different names-some have called it the ‘Nest of Smile,’ some have labeled it the orchid town while others once called it the gateway to Tibet.

In my opinion temple of knowledge would be the apt name for this beautiful town, for this town has excelled in the art of educating young minds. 

This town boasts of several historical educational institutes who have had illustrious pasts and are well known across the region. Dr Graham’s Homes, SUMI and St Augustine’s School are some of the better known one but one school which has gone about its way, without any fuss, without any noise, without any publicity and worked with the utmost dedication and sincerity towards not just educating several generations of students but towards shepherding the society towards a better tomorrow, is the jewel in Kalimpong’s crown: St Joseph’s Convent. 

Established in 1926, by the sisters of St Joseph’s of Cluny, in times when female educations was still looked down upon in this part of the world, the vision of the founding sisters of this temple of knowledge, has provided inspiration and motivation to hundreds of future teachers and administrators of this great institution to take this school to greater heights. 

On the threshold of completing a century of dedicated service, St Joseph’s Convent stands on that decorated platform which very few schools in India can share. 

While many schools not just in Kalimpong but across the region have completed a century of existence, St Joseph’s Convent, stands on a pedestal very different from most because of its emphasis on quality value education and emphasis on character building. 

Ever since those saintly brave heart sisters of Cluny envisioned the concept of this schooling in Kalimpong, educating young minds who would fashion a new progressive society was the top most priority of this school. 

This history of this school and the Catholic community in Kalimpong is one of dedication, struggle, grit, and deep passion towards creating a society that was educated, progressive with women being equal partners in it. 

The pioneers of the Catholic community in Kalimpong were of course great souls like Father Desgodins, Father Mussot, Father Douenel and Father Hervagault who made Pedong their initial base under immense hardships and challenges and later spread their field of services to surrounding areas like Kalimpong, Maria Busty, Kagay and Gitdabling. With their untiring and dedicated efforts, the Catholic community in Kalimpong grew in leaps and bounds, and by the mid of the 20th century, it had established itself as a vibrant and popular community in Kalimpong. 

Their popularity was not by chance- they worked their way into the hearts of the people in Kalimpong with their indefatigable work in the field of education, health and childcare. St Joseph’s Convent was one such effort of the Catholic pioneers in Kalimpong. 

The initial reluctance of Mother Ursala, Mother Superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, based in Chandernagore(near Kolkata), to start an educational centre in Kalimpong, later turned into a missionary zeal for the sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny. 

After receiving a land grant of 1.85acres from the SDO, Kalimpong, on July 23, 1920, the construction of the school started in December 1921.Mother Ursala bore the entire expense of Rs 125,000 which she had collected by literally begging for donations from friends, well-wishers, and the entire Catholic community in Kolkata. 

Father Douenel and later Father Durel supervised the construction work, and with65 to 70 workers and 10 Chinese carpenters working on the project, the ground and first floors of the school were completed by May 1922. By March 1923, the construction was completed. 

The SDO Kalimpong, excited at the prospect of seeing a Catholic school open in Kalimpong, granted a further one acre for a playground and the free use of water. The St Joseph’s Convent made a humble beginning onJuly15, 1926, with just three boarding and seven day scholars. The reputation of this new school grew rapidly, and by the next three years, there were already 60 boarders with six sisters and two other teachers guiding children.
On the August 3, 1931, St Joseph’s Convent received permanent recognition as a secondary school. 

From this humble beginning, St Joseph’s Covent is today one of the premier institutes in not just Kalimpong but across the region with an international reputation. It has positioned itself as a school that is different, which besides giving topmost priority to total character construction of its students also strives for academic excellence. 

The current school administration under the leadership of Sister Mary James is ushering in a new era in which students are kept abreast of the latest trends in international education. Her modern approach towards education is not only making learning less stressful for the students but also helps them realize their social and community responsibilities. Innovative ideas like “stress buster sessions” every Wednesday afternoons, two “break-times” of 10 minutes, one each in the morning and the afternoon, swimming sessions for boarders every weekend, celebration of grandparents day, playing of soothing music as the school starts, striving to make the school into a zero waste institution and various other such visionary idea have been introduced in the school not just so that learning is fun but more so to inculcate a sense of bonding amongst the students. 

Another innovative idea that has been implemented is the nature walks that the students are taken on. On these nature walks, the students are guided by the accompanying teachers of the fine art of harmonizing with nature, identifying medicinal plants, and classifying various varieties of flowers and trees. The students also clean the road and drains of garbage and plastic as they enjoy their walk.

(The writer of this article is the Editor of Himalayan Times, Kalimpong

rasasalsa166@gmail.com

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