Saturday, March 31, 2018

'Meddling' forces Jesuit school exit

Mita Mukherjee
Calcutta: St Xavier's School, Haldia, is changing hands after more than four decades as a Jesuit institution primarily because the two public sector companies that fund it have been opposing academic decisions, sources said.
The Calcutta Province of the Society of Jesus wanted to retain complete academic autonomy, which Indian Oil and the Calcutta Port Trust had allegedly become unwilling to give.
"For many years since the school's inception, the Jesuit Fathers would have the final word when it came to hiring teachers. But they were gradually being denied this freedom. It is difficult to follow our education policies if there is such interference. Jesuit-run institutions have excelled everywhere, so we can't compromise on the quality of education," a church official said on Friday.
The Jesuit Fathers started contemplating handing over the responsibility of running the school to another organisation nearly a year ago, the official said.
Funding was also a bone of contention, according to sources in Indian Oil and the Calcutta Port Trust. The two companies would often seek information on how their money was being spent and the church saw it as meddling, they said.
A teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity said the companies wanted more control on spending, something that the school administration staunchly opposed. "That was the root of the tussle over the past two years," the teacher said.
A section of teachers is worried that they might be asked to clear fresh interviews to qualify for employment under the new management, Dayanand Anglo-Vedic (DAV) schools.
An Indian Oil official said: "We wanted to keep St Xavier's but it could not be done. We decided to bring in a new management (with effect from April 1) in the interest of our students."
Indian Oil and Calcutta Port Trust had been under pressure from alumni and residents of the port town to retain the Jesuit Fathers. By the time a reconciliatory gesture was made, the church had already given its approval to the Jesuit Fathers to exit the institution, sources said.
Father Ajay Kumar Ekka, the outgoing principal, said "certain problems" not linked to the PSUs played their part in the decision. "Apart from interference, we had some other problems for which the management of the companies are not responsible. For example, the number of priests have declined, which has resulted in a shortage of manpower to run the institution," he said

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