Posted by: Duncan Chowdhury | January 2, 2012

Reminiscences of St. Placid’s High School

The years I had spent in St. Placid’s High School are the golden years of my life. It was in 1967 when I got admitted in KG-I, I was a child of 4 years. Though 44 years have passed, I still cherish the fond memories of my school days. I passed SSC Exams from the school in the year 1979 and had spent 12 years at our Alma Mater.

The first day in SPS was the day of my interview. It was in a class-room on the first floor of the Administrative Building, where the Principal’s Office was situated. Now the building has been demolished. I still recall that our Principal Bro. Jarlath D’Souza and Late Teacher F. Rodrigues (Headmistress of Primary Section) were conducting the interview. A blue colored cane-table round in shape was the center of attraction; some toys and some small household articles like knives, match boxes, clock, etc, were kept on the table. I was asked to identify those and that was my admission test. I do not know how I performed but the aftermath was that soon after I was admitted in KG-I. Late Teacher Spirito was our teacher, Late Teacher Khan, who was a Burmese lady was our teacher too, she often spoke in Urdu. We had a large counting frame in the classroom, hard for us to reach, our teacher used to move the ping-pong ball like colored wooden beads from one end to other. Our day would start with counting numbers together at the top of our voice from 1 to 100. Mrs. Khan carried a penknife in the lock of her thami. She was always busy sharpening our pencils with her penknife. During recess time, we had to eat our snacks in the classroom and were not allowed to go out. If we required to go to the restroom, Ayas would accompany us.

The following year in 1968 I was promoted to KG-II, Mrs. H. Belasso was our teacher. I do not remember much about this class. I used to sit on the bench in the front row being a small boy. It was quite difficult for us to see the teacher and for her also to see us, as she sat on the table on a raised platform just in front of us. We used to do mischievous acts as our teacher could not notice us. I still remember, one of my good dear friend would often sit silently on the cross bar footrest underneath the teacher’s table and when she noticed it, we were rewarded with the fat ruler.

Late Mary Johnson was our teacher in Class I in 1969. Our class room was on the first floor. The room was situated at the extreme north of the administrative building. This room had three doors and it was quite easy to freak out to the verandah when our teacher was not in class. We started to learn Bangla in this year. Miss. Nirupama Parey was our teacher, she now resides in Australia. I still remember that we struggled with the various ‘Sha’s in the Bangla alphabet. It was in this year, that men first set their foot on moon. “That’s a small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. In 1970 I was in Class II, Miss. Evelyn Gomes was our teacher. It was in this year on the Independence Day on 14th August, we had experienced the lunar expedition of Apollo 11, in a documentary screened in the school field. This was a thrilling experience for us to experience the triumph of modern rocket science on the screen.

Gradually the political arena of the country turned to turmoil. Demonstrations, protests and processions became a daily event. Being a minor, it was quite difficult for me to grasp the situation. To my utter surprise, one evening I saw our Teacher Mrs. Henrietta Bellasso and Late Teacher Peter Shaha was in the front of a procession on the road. Another sad event of this year was the death one of our students of Class III, who was drowned, during annual class picnic.

As much as I can recollect, during late Sixties and early Seventies each year we celebrated the School Feast Day on 5th of October, as the St. Placid’s Day, commemorating the day of birth of St. Placid who was born on this day in 515 AD. We used to rehearse frequently the School Anthem “Let’s Loudly Sing, the Praise of our Alma Mater”, and we sang the School Anthem on the Feast Day in the ceremony.

The School Flag with the yellow cross on blue background was designed by our Teacher Lucy Rebeiro, she now resides in Montreal, Canada. Our Principal’s room always adorned with the School Flag and I believe it is still there.

During the historic liberation war in 1971, I was in Class III. Late Teacher Patty Rodrigues was my class teacher. She was an exceptional teacher. She was very much practical, and was not satisfied with the students what they learnt, but more interested in putting that into practice. Once in the Civics Class I had been poorly graded in one of my answers about how to make use the lawn of your house. I had written exactly what had to be written, however, upon my enquiry for the low grade, she responded that she had been visiting my home and never seen any flower garden in front of my home as such I could not expect any better marks from her. For the Geography Class we had to make landscape with clay models for the exams. Carry clay from home, we used to make a model of a volcano on a cardboard, working in the backside verandah facing the graveyard.

Our school closed indefinitely due to strike from 3rd March in 1971 and we were not able to go to school until July, when the Pak Army ordered to reopen the schools. We used to go to school but not regularly, the attendance was poor. Our Hindu friends were totally out of the scene, so as our Teachers from the Hindu Community. Gradually our Urdu Speaking classmates started to move to the then West Pakistan and we continued to go to school till end of October. During that time a couple of bomb blasts blew away the big electric transformer in front of the Church. This lead us to stop going to school. We was not allowed to come to school thereafter for safety reasons. Curfew was imposed at night. A tense situation prevailed until the day of our independence on 16th December 1971. I still remember that the Pak Army visited our school on several occasions during the period of liberation war, the reasons were unknown to us, perhaps they would come looking for our teachers whom they suspected to be subversive. Our Teacher Ms. Kallani Ghosh, Late Teacher Kanango, Late Teacher Dewanjee and some other teachers went on hiding as soon as war broke out, they had undergone a lot of unbearable hardship during the war. The Victory Day on 16th December was a great sigh of relief for us.

After our independence, we didn’t have to wear Jinnah Cap on Fridays anymore when the National Anthem was sung, and we had a new National Anthem for which we had to rehearse almost everyday at our assemblies. The good news was that we all got auto-promotion to the next class, without any examinations. This opportunity was for all the students in that year.

The sad part was that in 1972 the medium of the school was changed from English to Bangla as per the instructions of the Government. We had to start afresh with Bangla in all subjects, and this was quite difficult for us, as we were not been able to read Bangla as free flow. I still remember that our Teacher Mr. Robert Rebeiro used to teach us Bangla times table in class IV along with Bangla Numbers. Indeed, the Bangla joint alphabets were strange to us.

Due to the change of the medium of instructions, the students who were in class IX & X and even class VII and VIII were given the opportunity to appear for the SSC Examinations in English Medium at once. A large group of students seized this opportunity and appeared for the SSC within the next couple of years. Soon after this the SSC Examinations were no more held in English.

We had a sad feeling after joining to school in 1972 that most of our Urdu Speaking friends had left for Pakistan, and those who were remaining, they also gradually left the country through RedCross flights arranged under their Repatriation Program. It was a also a matter of joy for us to find most of our friends from the Hindu Community returned back to School.

In 1972 St. Scholastica’s School which was a co-education school in the primary section, disallowed boys in their school from that year, as a result there was an influx of boys from St. Scholastica’s School admitting en masse to St. Placid’s School.

St. Placid’s School began to change dramatically. The teachers who were teaching us in the English Medium School had to gradually leave the school. Some migrated to the West and some had better opportunities in the emerging NGO Community expanding their network in the war ravaged country. New teachers were appointed. The School had undergone some years of teething period to adopt the new medium of instructions.

The extra curricular activities touched new horizons, formation of Red Cross Volunteers, the Judo Training Class, the involvement of boys in school farming brought new dimensions, in addition to Boy Scouts and Cubs. The staging of plays once again started but now all in Bangla. In 1977 our class performed “Hobu Rajar Deshe”. Our Bangla Teacher, Mr. Binoy Bhushan Barua, inspired the boys for the drama.

The Annual Sports of the school had always been an attraction which usually held during the month of February. Practice for the Sports Meet and the competition amongst the Houses kept the students busy. Unfortunately, the Annual Aquatics Sports gradually lost its place in the Annual Calendar of the School.

The School Band and PT Demonstration was one of the main attraction of the Sports. I was in the PT Group right through Class VII onwards to Class IX. We had extensive practice sessions each day and had the final display during the Annual Sports Day. We also performed during National Days at the Chittagong Stadium. Buses were sent to school to bring us to the stadium and we were rewarded with snacks of nimkis, jilapees and rashgollas packed in small brown paper packets. Our Late Teacher Fazlur Rahman was our PT Instructor.

Our school basketball team was one of the best school team in the country. They carried the name of our school, length and breadth of the country. St. Gregory’s High School of Dhaka was always our contender. SPS won the National Championship in the Inter School Basket Ball Competition in 1977.

We are indebted to our beloved teachers of St. Placid’s High School, who trained our minds, provided quality education for us, so that we could stand steady on our own feet in this competitive world.

Our Alumni who are spread throughout the world share the common thought and aspiration, that let the flag of our Alma Mater be held high in the realm of education in this country and beyond.

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Responses

  1. It is indeed an article must made most of readers nostalgic no matter if they were the student of St. Placid or not. You really have a memory like an elephant !Also remind me of the “evil beautiful balls” in a wooden frame (abacus?), as most of the schools have at least one like that before the electronic calculator era.

  2. As a ex-student of SPS and having passed my matric in 1968 I would love to exchange further notes with Duncan Chowdhury if i could have his email address please. God, he certainly has taken me down memory lane as some of the teachers he has named taught me too and made me what I am today.
    Syed Khaliquz Zaman
    ex-Senior Trade Advisor
    British Embassy-Riyadh-Saudi Arabia
    zafarskz@hotmail.com


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