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Overthere
Sophia College for Women, Mumbai
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WHAT IS IT' A junior and degree college.

WHO’S THE BOSS' Dr Anila Verghese, principal.

HOW TO GET IN' Students are enrolled on the basis of merit. First class in arts and science in Class XII is necessary for the degree courses. A good second class is required for Bachelor of Mass Media (BMM).

HOW CHEAP IS IT' The annual fee for the degree courses ranges between Rs 2,500-4,000. Junior college fees are Rs 3,00-400. BMM costs Rs 10,000.

WHERE TO STAY' The hostel, which costs Rs 34,000 a year.
lWHere is it' Sophia College for Women, Bhulabhai Desai Road, Mumbai-400026.

Sophia College for Women is tucked away at a quiet end of an otherwise busy Bhulabhai Desai Road in Mumbai. One of the important landmarks of downtown Mumbai, the institution is, say some, popular with girls who are not 'allowed to step out too far from home'. However, it also attracts students from across the country to its junior college level and degree courses.

Sophia's (as Mumbai kids refer to it) was set up by the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1941. It is part of the international network of Sacred Heart schools and colleges, founded in 1800 by educationist Madeleine Sophie Barat. Sister Anila Verghese, principal, says that the motto of the college has always been women's development and empowerment.

Woman power

The college has a theme each year, focussed around a developmental issue. The goals are revised periodically to keep up with the changing needs. Various activities ' departmental, inter-departmental and inter-collegiate ' are organised around this theme in collaboration with the Sophia Centre for Women's Studies and Development. The subjects touched upon have been on woman and health, woman and environment, human rights, water problems, etc.

'The institution encourages research at the undergraduate level,' says Sister Anila. 'It helps that we are the only college in the city that has an open library. Students are allowed to go to the racks, without the intervention of a librarian and the exhausting token system.' At the end of the academic year, the college felicitates the most widely-read student of the year.

The end of the year is marked by an inter-collegiate event, Ananya, also based on the chosen theme. Students put up street plays, hold essay competitions and seminars, make posters, etc. Kaleidoscope, a two-day inter-college festival, is a popular event among students of other colleges.

Social awareness

The college is also committed to social service. It has 'adopted' two municipal schools in the vicinity: the Tardeo Municipal School and Nana Chowk Municipal School.

As part of this engagement, both teachers and students devote time to coach students of Classes VIII and IX, in math, sciences and English. Students are allowed to use the library and labs. 'We also arrange for a scholarship for the brightest student to help in higher education,' says sister Anila.

There are other innovative academic activities carried out under the excellence programmes of the college. The Education to Excellence in Arts Programme (EXAP) and Education to Excellence in Science Programme (EXSP) aims to help gifted students to undertake beyond-the-syllabus projects.

Strong in biology

The college is strong in the biological sciences, and offers a postgraduate course in microbiology. The department received a grant of Rs 25 lakh in 2000 from the science and technology ministry for innovative ways of teaching biology.

The open garden, the marbled arches and the elegant stairways are spots where students lounge, catch up with friends, or while away time, reading or hooked on to their I-pods. The canteen is another focal point for student activity.

It is located next to the herbal garden and provides access from all the campus buildings. It has a large seating area and is run by professional caterers. As sister Anila often reminds her students, 'You spend more here and on your cellphones than you do on college fees.'

SUDIPTA BASU

Old memories

I studied in the junior and senior BA years at Sophia way back in ’72-’74. I ended up in Sophia by accident. I wanted to study at Elphinstone College, but my parents wouldn’t hear of sending me to a coed institution. It was depressing, as I had studied in an all girls’ school in Manila before that. The only male one got to see in the college was the chowkidar.

In retrospect, I have never stopped being grateful for the fantastic English department that the college had. What I got here was more useful to me than my MA. The professors were lively and the lectures riveting. The college was not really strong on extra-curricular activities those days, except for the dramatic society. I led a very rarefied existence there. But I made some lifelong friends among the teachers and students.

As told to Sudipta Basu

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