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Thursday, August 20, 2009

St. Joseph's Convent School, Karachi (Established 1862) September 8, 1991

Well over a century ago, Archbishop Stems of Bombay -whose jurisdiction in those days stretched all the way to the province of Sindh! - went to liege in Belgium to ask for help in his work of the Daughters of the Cross.
This religious order had then been founded only 29 years earlier, and the only place outside of the small country of its origin where they were also at work was Germany, which was after all a neighbour. It was therefore a daring undertaking indeed to send any of its Sisters to far away India, at a time when women rarely traveled further afield than their homeland.
But send them they did: 5, chosen carefully from the many who offered - 2 Belgians, 2 Germans, 1 English. On the 27th January 1862 they set out for Karachi in a month-long journey, which took them overland to Genoa, then by sea to Bombay, and thence, also by sea, to Karachi.
This city of close to 9 million, had at that time a population of only 60,000. Very quickly the five were involved in all kinds of educational and social work.
When they first started, there were only 10 pupils on the rolls of the school - originally called the Girls\' Section of the St. Patrick\'s School; it was in 187~ that the name was changed to St. Joseph\'s Convent School. The roll-call today has swelled from that original 10 to 2214.
In 1863, the foundation stone was laid for what a nun of the era, recording the event, called \'the new building\'. In 1870, the upper story was completed, and in 1871 was dedicated, thenceforth to be called \'St. Joseph\'s Convent\' and recorded as being \'one of the finest buildings in Karachi\'. It was added to in later years - for instance, a new wing in 1874, a third story in 1893. It has for long been a well-known landmark and familiar sight in Karachi.
But a school is more than a site or building; it is the students and teachers who make it what it is. And, through the years, St. Joseph\'s School has earned a reputation for excellence.
Generations of students have been proud to call it Alma Mater. Most significantly, perhaps, though most students have considered it a privilege to study there, unlike some schools, it has never been a school exclusively for the \'privileged classes\'. A certain number of fee-adjustments and freeships allowed children of economically-handicapped families also to attend. One snobbish \'begum\' making a sneering remark, actually and unwittingly, paid it the highest compliment possible. \'St. Joseph\'s is a strange school\', she said. \'Your child and your driver\'s child can both be studying together\'. And what better way to demonstrate, and not merely preach, that we are all equal in God\'s sight?
St. Joseph\'s School covers primary, middle, and secondary school levels, and has prepared pupils for the Matriculation and Senior Cambridge examinations in its 2 sections, now joined at the primary level. The results of both examinations bear witness to the hard work of both staff and students, to the high standard expected - and achieved.
The Daughters of the Cross also founded a degree college for women, contiguous to the school. This is still operational, though it was nationalized in 1972.
It is not just in the curriculum that excellence is encouraged. The students, past and present, have engaged in extra curricular activities like athletics, sports, dramatics, debate, elocution. The very lull curriculum, which used to include needlework right up to the senior most class, has kept pace with the times to include computer science. Above all, it has been the goal of St. Joseph\'s School to try and mould not just minds, but also character, to seek to instill education in its widest sense - which includes not only knowledge, but also a sense of discipline, and of right and wrong.
Perhaps that is why so many of its ex-students make sure their daughters - and grand-daughters! - attend the same school. Perhaps that is why so many of them go on to hold such important and respected positions in so many different fields: art, medicine, journalism, education, politics, business, and that most important of all fields - the family. Perhaps, subconsciously, they are still living by the St. Joseph\'s School motto: \'Forward, God helping\'.
(Contributed by: Principal, St. Joseph\'s Convent School, Karachi)
To commemorate the occasion Pakistan Post Office is issuing a stamp of Rs.5/- denomination on September 8, 1991.