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Bongaon’s Kumudini High School celebrates centenary uniquely by bringing ex-students online daily

8 September, 2020 13:48:57
Bongaon’s Kumudini High School celebrates centenary uniquely by bringing ex-students online daily

“Na jaayate’ mriyate’ vaa kadaachin naayam bhuthva bhavithaa na bhooyah/ 
Ajo nithyah saasvato’yam puraano na hanyate’ hanyamaane’ sareere”

Never is He (the Soul) born, nor does He die at any time, He has never been brought into being, nor shall come hereafter; unborn, eternal, permanent and ancient (primeval). When the body is slain, He is not slain. (The Holy Bhagavat Gita)

This salvation is the very essence of the concept of moksha, which forms the nucleus of the philosophical teachings of Vedanta and Vedanga. The co-existence of life and death, as the obvious counterpart of life, is the nucleus of the Apu trilogy and Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, through his writings, celebrates life through the vision of death. We are all travellers being led on the path by ‘Life’ and running into myriad experiences on our way. When we look back, these exploits form the entire gamut of our journey on this planet. 

Amid this Covid-19 pandemic, residents of Bongaon are retracing their footprints to an illustrious past. They are reminiscing the days of yore – a century ago, to be precise, and the name that is doing the rounds at the moment is Bonogram Kumudini Uchcha Balika Vidyalaya. Set up during British rule in 1921, this year marks 100 years of this well-known educational institution. 

Kumudini Balika Vidyalaya was the first girls’ school in the Bongaon sub-division. The country was going through a major upheaval then. The seeds of Independence were gradually germinating and anti-British sentiments were on the rise. Amid such volatile situation, educationist and social worker Lalit Mohun Bandopadhyay took an initiative to establish a girls’ school in Bongaon and encourage girls to study. He dedicated the school in the name of his deceased mother.  

Kumudini Devi was the wife of the local zamindar, Barrister Sitanath Mohun Bandopadhyay. He was a very popular landlord and highly respected by his subjects. His wife was a staunch Swadeshi and whole-heartedly supported anti-British activities. She even actively helped the underground freedom fighters. Kumudini Devi was aware that education was a vital weapon that enabled people to think and conceptualize ideas and form opinions independently. She encouraged women and inspired them to come forward and express their thoughts and work towards fulfilling their dreams.

Kumudini Devi’s son continued his mother’s dream further when he decided to set up a school for girls. He was helped by other distinguished residents of the area including Panchanan Babu, Satyacharan Babu, Prabodh Babu and many others. Their names glow in the school’s old records even today.   

During those times, ‘Gouri Daan’ was universally prevalent in the rural areas. According to the tradition, weaning girls would be pulled out of their cradles and married off. It was no easy task for Bandopadhyay and other like-minded reformers to change the social practice and encourage families to let their girls study. But despite all the impediments they ventured to do what they had planned. Age has not been able to wither the school’s glorious past. The large spacious classrooms, the long corridor and the huge, shaded courtyard still carry the grandeur of its illustrious past.

The school was initially established as Kumudini Balika UP School, then it was upgraded to minor school and in 1952, during the Vernacular Language Movement, it started functioning as ME Junior School. Finally in 1978, the institution received the affiliation of a Higher Secondary school. Beginning with mud hut classrooms, it has been a long journey for the school. The students who have passed out from this institution in the last 100 years, are deeply attached to the school. Many ex-students have willingly joined the school and taught, sometimes in lieu of negligible remuneration and sometimes even voluntarily. 

Even after the school came under the government’s fold, the tradition of seniors and ex-students encouraging and helping current students continue. The school can boast of its dazzling alumni, many of who are very well established professionally in various spheres of life.   

Celebrating a centenary of an institution is definitely a watershed mark and preparations were in full swing since last year to make the event a memorable one but everything came to a standstill following the world-wide spread of the pandemic. The organizers had to stall their plans. But what they have devised instead has been highly appreciated and is currently trending widely in the social media. Under the current situation, when on-line classes are in, the school authorities have organized a retrospection of students, past and present and those who have deceased. Every day, from Monday to Saturday, at 7 pm, ex-students are being joined by present students, teachers and administrators of the school  in the social media and they are reminiscing  about their renowned school. The online platform gets crowded with ex-Kumudini girls from as far as the US, or Glasgow, or Vietnam or Bangalore and Bongaon. Seventy-five days have already crossed and the number of ex-students is increasing by the day.  The discussion is not just restricted to reminiscing about the past, but ideas are exchanged and suggestions are floated for the improvement of the school. The popularity of this initiative has encouraged the school authorities to continue the forum round the year even after everything returns to normal post-Corona virus days. The virus that has distanced people socially has also been instrumental in bringing people together. The centenary programme, devised by the Principal and teachers of Kumudini Balika Vidyalaya has shown the path. 

Story Tag:
  • Education, School, West Bengal

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