“Dropout rate among Christians alarms church official” – Dissection of the report

Isaac Gomes from Kolkata gives a clear perspective on  Dropout rate among Christians alarms church official

Father Manipadam Secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India's Office of Education and Culture observed in connection with the above-captioned article that the majority of the 62,000+ Christian dropouts in 2014 were of Dalit background. He said dalit students often struggle both socially and academically, which provokes many to leave school.

Isaac's views:  Fr Manipadam is a well-known educationist and an exponent on Career Counselling. However, with all due respect to him, his observIGation that the dropout rate was the highest among Dalits is debatable.  In Calcutta Archdiocese,  where casteism is non-existent, there are many general category students who are failed from Class VI  onwards in elite missionary schools mainly in St Xavier’s and Don Bosco.  Most schools (except Park English School and the Frank Anthony Public School where remedial class students are given extra tiffin and even house-drop)  do not have remedial classes.  Some schools have a psychologist but only for namesake.  In the name of discipline, Catholic students are victimised, their diaries loaded with remarks, forcing the parents to give an undertaking that if their child does not improve in behaviour, he will be given a transfer certificate at year end. This is how Church-run institutions practise "Mercy"!  Catholic students who are passed on “Consideration or Trial”, are not even given their report cards.  This denial of  basic human rights, humiliates a child to no end and tells on the psychology of both the child and the parents.  Discipline has become a fixation with some schools which forget that a student needs outlets to let go of his / her exhuberance through sports and games or through creative activities like music, art and culture. They just fail to understand Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore's precept of teaching without the use of cane (Corporal Punishment).  So, many schools have replaced Corporal Punishment with psychological torture even to the extent of making students go home barefoot in hot summer!        

"The data will force us to change our approach to education patterns," said Father Manipadam, who coordinates the work of more than 18,000 Catholic schools and colleges across India.
The Catholic Church operates the country's second largest network of educational institutions — after the government — from kindergartens to universities.

DSCN2599Photo showing hapless study centre students and teachers standing near Auxilium Church gate with the notice of closure of study centre "until further notice"

Isaac's views: Yes but for whose benefit are the Catholic Church-run institutes operating? In most Church-run institutes, the percentage of Christian students is less than 10%.    So  “the Catholic Church operates the country's second largest network of educational institutions  — after the government — from kindergartens to universities” not to serve students from its own community for which it was granted Minority Institution status and enjoys all the tax sops, but for the benefit of non-Christian elite or middle-class.  No wonder 99.5% of the future leaders (whether captains of industry or political) produced are non-Christians.  Our Catholic Church institutions have totally deviated from the vision and mission of their founders.  Being a noted educationist Fr Manipadam must be aware of this failure on the part of Catholic Church Institutions in tending to its own flock. Jesus said to Peter “Look after my sheep”.  The Catholic Church has remorselessly violated this basic commandment of Christ day in and day out!  Every year its schools make sure that more and more Catholic students are humiliated and thrown out.  In their place, non-Christian students (who can pay plumb donations) are taken in. Why are our Catholic institutes not reserving at least 40% quota for its own students?  Supreme Court of India has allowed it (case in point St Stephen’s College, New Delhi).  The "alarming" rate at which Catholic / Christian student ratio is dwindling might soon result in our institutes losing their Minority Institute privilege.

DSCN2597Regarding Colleges and Universities, so many Catholic meritorious students are unable to get a chance into the self-financed courses in St Xavier’s College just because they come from poor or middle-class families and can't afford the fees.  A look at the college fee structure for 2016-17 will make it evident.  For M.Sc. Multimedia (a five-year course now from the earlier 4-year BMM Course) admission fee is Rs 56,900.  Monthly fee works out to Rs 7,400/- (revised every year) and Annual Fee which includes Lab. Fee Rs 13,000/- is Rs 17,900/- (this too goes up every year).  So in the first year itself a student has to pay minimum Rs 1,20,000.  Even if this amount remains constant, which it will not, a student has to be prepared to shell out Rs 6,00,000/- for the 5-year course.  How many Catholic students can afford it?   So the declaration of Fr Manipadam "There will be no denial of admission because of financial or social status of the family of the students," is cold consolation. Admission is missionary schools for Catholic students may be assured, but there is no in-built mechanism to arrest failure and dropout.  Admission in elite colleges is possible, but with the rider “able to cough up the sum” which goes up by a minimum of 10% every year.  So the very concept of Self-finance courses acts as a stumbling block for most Catholic students, nipping in the bud their dream to come up in life through the straight path of higher education.  There is no denying that some students do get fee concessions but very few and even then the shoe pinches. There is no concerted attempt to build a corpus fund out of the donations collected, especially from overseas alumni friends like Laxmi Mittals to partly offset fees payable by not only Catholic students, but deserving students from weaker sections of the community.  No such Corpus fund has been proposed by the Archdiocese of Calcutta, either by the Archbishop or by the more than 100-year-old Catholic Association of Bengal, which prides itself on annual affairs like Corpus Christi Processions, Voluntary Blood Camps and one-time Educational Aids and Merit Awards, visit to old age homes and Christmas time blanket distribution.  It is bereft of any vision on Sustainable Development Concept. Contrast this with the highly encouraging efforts of Frank Anthony Public School where Christians, at least all Anglo-Indians get full fee concession and also Park English School, where too Christians get huge fee concessions.  How are they doing it? This is being done through several trusts specifically set up for this human resource development purpose.  So how is it our Church run institutes cannot do this?  Where are all the funds being stashed up?  Don Bosco Park Circus has a good policy, however.  It gives fee concession according to the marks secured.  If a student gets 80% marks in his last annual report, he will get 80% fee concession if he needs.  If he gets 40%, he will get only 40% concession.  It is a very good incentive for merit.   

Father Manipadam said the data also revealed that the church needs to "streamline" its approach to education, "making it more inclusive."

Isaac's views: Talking of the need to "streamline" Catholic Church’s approach to education, I have to bring it to the notice of Fr Manipadam (in case he is unaware) the handiwork of his own Congregation in Auxilium Parish, Kolkata, which as per the website has 10,000+ parishioners. From 2011 onwards, Catholic Association of Bengal (CAB) Auxilium Parish Unit used to run a free five-day-a-week study centre in the Church class-rooms, for poor students of the parish.  It paid four to five teachers around Rs 5,000/- per month as honorarium out of the funds collected from friends and donors who would visit the study centre and check the  progress report of the students.  CAB Auxilium Unit also used to organise periodic Health Check-up Camps and was the first to introduce in the parish,  Minority Scholarship Scheme of the Government of India (This writer compiled a Manual on various Minority Scholarship Schemes – Pre Matric, Post Matric,  Merit-cum-Means Scholarship, Vocational Courses and Women’s Empowerment Scheme – at the request of Fr Dominic Gomes, Vicar General.  Booklets and CD are available with the VG).  CAB Auxilium had plans to bring in specialised teachers in science and other subjects, including personality development and career counselling courses, based on the need of the students.  Suddenly one day, the then Parish Priest, Fr K.K. Sebastian came to the Study Centre and said that CAB  Auxilium was converting the ramshackle study centre into a university.  Just take a look at the Parish Newsletter dated 30 October 2011 where he had written: “The gift of education is indeed the cure for all ills in the world. To have an education opens doors to careers and lives with dignity. CAB Auxilium Unit is running a good tuition centre at Auxilium Parish Church, to help Catholic students who are weak in studies.  I request parents to take this opportunity for their children’s betterment.”  The same parish priest suddenly did not reopen the study centre after the May summer 2012 holidays and put up a notice dated 18th June 2012 which read “Auxilium Parish Tuition Centre remains closed until further notice (see photo).”  When some parents and CAB Auxilium members approached Fr K.K. Sebastian on 19th evening to request him to reopen the study centre with the plea that they cannot afford private tuitions, he sat in the chapel for hours and kept talking on his mobile.  On 20th June he reopened the study centre.   The same evening, CAB Auxilium members when they were going home after seeing off the students, were gheraod adjacent to Auxilium Church, by about 30 motorbike-riding goons hired by Fr K.K. Sebastian with assistance from his henchmen M/s. Sontu Mondal & Co.  Police diaries, intimation to the Archbishop and meeting with the Provincial followed.  But to no avail.  Fr K.K. carried on with his strong-man tactics backed up by Salesian money power (a precursor of what happened to Bishop Gallela of Kadapa).  The CAB Auxilium Unit was forcibly closed down, one of its members who was a teacher in Auxilium School for a year was orally terminated, appeals to Archbishop for Fr K.K’s transfer fell on deaf ears, more threats followed, forcing CAB Auxilium members go in for a court case, to thwart Fr K.K. Sebastian and in self defence, when their fervent appeals and petitions to the Archbishop had failed.  In June 2014, Fr K.K.’s suddenly vanished from the Parish with his bag and baggage, never to return.  On 4th November 2014, CAB Central President & Vice President held a meeting with the new Salesian Provincial Fr Dr Nirmol V. Gomes, along with CAB Auxilium representatives and new Parish Priest Fr Robin Gomes.  All the pending issues and grievances against Fr K.K. Sebastian were discussed, and Fr Provincial gave written assurance (MoU / document signed by him, Fr Vincent Mondal Economer, Fr Robin Gomes and CAB representatives can be shown on request) to redress all the issues.  But till date, the net result has been just lip service and a BIG ZERO.  CAB Auxilium unit has been reinstated only on paper, without being allowed to function, the teacher has neither been reinstated nor suitably compensated in spite of several reminders to the Provincial,  the Study Centre has not been re-opened and the parish has no sustainable development activities at all. There is peace but it is the peace of a graveyard where only dead people live!  As mentioned Development Concept has been pushed to the backseat,  with additional sprinkling of Novenas and prayers.   Fr Manipadam’s suggestion of  “streamlining” the Catholic Church’s approach to education is definitely noble, but how does he propose to “streamline” his Provincial from the Kolkata Region, who with a doctorate in Pedagogy, does nothing for the educational upliftment of his parish!  From “tending to his flock”. he prefers to be an “Airport Provincial” ! If he had real "pastoral" zeal, he would have faced issues upfront “encountering Christ in everyday life” as our Pope has been urging his fellow priests repeatedly.  Instead he has blocked out all communication with him!  As a fall-out of this Wall-of-China approach, we are witnessing encounters of a different kind – A Salesian Parish Priest hiring goons to silence his upright parishioners and to cover up shady land deals (Auxilium Parish does not have an official Assets Register with land and property mapping) in Kolkata and in Kadapa the three Parish Priests from the so-called high caste Reddy Clan masterminding  the kidnap, extortion and threat to life of the Bishop of Gallela!  What steamlining is Fr Manipadam talking of?  Don Bosco’s Preventive System of Education which has been stretched to tearing point by the Salesians or Prevention of Education of Catholics by various means, including oral hire and fire of teachers and closing down of Study Centre in the parish and then behaving like ostriches, offering mass every day and asking raw minds at Bosco Feast to join vocation?      

"There will be no denial of admission because of financial or social status of the family of the students," he said.
Isaac's views:  This point has already been covered.

Fr Manipadam also said schools should start remedial classes for weaker students, rather than allowing them to fail and drop out. "Our schools should also start counselling to convince the weaker children," he said.

Isaac's views:  What does Fr Manipadam mean by saying "Our schools should also start counselling to convince the weaker children"? Does he mean talking weaker children into accepting that they are too weak to cope up with the high standards and had better look out for other schools? Remedial class by Frank Anthony Public School and Park English School and by schools in other metro-cities, has already been mentioned. If the student-teacher ratio is healthy say 1:30, quality of teachers and their teaching is good, then no student should fail.    What has to be understood is every child has got his or her own level or speed of picking up a subject – some are quick on the uptake, while some are slow learners.  There is a tendency among teachers to label these students as “laggards”, push them to the back benches and then dump them.  Catholic students bear the brunt of this kind of torture at the hands of the very priests, nuns and teachers many of whom came from very poor families and studied at their congregation's expense (read Laity's expense).

Father Manipadam also said poverty forced many students to drop out to find work to help their families. 

Isaac's views: True how many Catholic schools lose their sleep on this matter? They are more bothered with tying up with affluent alumni on Mega Projects like Diwali Nights or …votsavs!  How many city schools, particularly elite schools, have mid-day meals for poor students to keep them away from pangs of hunger and fending for themselves & their families? How many schools keep track of where the drop-out Catholic students are going?  Please INTROSPECT Fr Manipadam INTROSPECT with your Salesian friends!  After that if you have gumption, come and meet us at Auxilium Parish.  You will find we are not “Anti-Church and Anti-Christ” (the embodiment of Christ himself vanished into the blue!) as Fr K.K. had labelled us.  We have all the evidence which is nothing short of a movie script!

Concluding views by Isaac: The study findings were on all-India drop-out rates of studentsIG and of Christian students.  So Fr Manipapadam should have taken an overall view of Christian students instead of trying to bring casteism (Dalit, etc.) in education.  This has been the major drawback of Catholic priests, particularly those from South India. Somehow they are not able to come out of their casteist phyche forgetting the basic  tenet of Christianity – which is through the one and the same Baptism, all Christians, are clothed in one Jesus Christ.  Therefore, THERE IS NO PLACE FOR CASTEISM IN CHRISTIANITY.  The Bible says you cannot serve two masters.  Therefore, Christianity and Casteism cannot go hand in hand. As per the Indian Current Editor Fr Dr Suresh Mathew's report casteism was one of the big factors in the kidnap and torture of Bishop Prasad Gallela of Kadapa. We must remember that Poverty does not differentiate between a dalit and non-dalit. Also CBCI's  much-touted Education Policy has to be clearly explained and displayed on church notice boards in all parishes.  It is not something to be kept under lock and key only in school and college cupboards.  The Laity must be made aware of Catholic Church's Educational Policy, which comes under Parish Pastoral Plans.  In this respect too, Auxilium Parish Kolkata takes the cake.  It is the only parish in Calcutta Archdiocese which has not launched (forget implementation) the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan (launched in August 2015)!  So much for "streamlining" of Catholic churches!!

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