The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cubs catch world this week

The quest: Truth.

The crusaders: Students.

The weapon: Knowledge.

If empowerment comes with wisdom, information and insight hold the key. That’s the link between media and education, and that is what brought together over 200 principals of city schools and The Telegraph Education Foundation on Friday and Saturday.

Remembering heroes who have been honoured at The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence; those who have battled the odds and won; saluting the spirit, not the achievement, educators were asked to nominate achievers in and around their own schools for this year’s ceremony at Science City on September 6.

Rita and Ranjita, running champs both, one sister giving up the race for the other in the poverty-stricken family. Bhondu Garai, who grew up nestled on his father’s chana cart, and went on to ace the exams. Ashutosh Sheet, the “miserly” mastermoshai who donated lakhs to education in his village… A few champions from yesterday invoked to find those of today, tomorrow. Now, 56 students from across the state receive support through a Foundation scholarship. This is just the beginning, with many more students to come into this fold in the future.

“The Telegraph Education Foundation was started in 1999 with the motto ‘Touching Lives’,” recalled Neil O’Brien, veteran educator and chairman of the Foundation. The awards ceremony, he reminded his audience, was not designed to inculcate a sense of competition between schools.

The attempt is to recognise schools, students and teachers for their efforts, and at the same time encourage a culture of “self-assessment”. Schools perceived as “lesser-known” should not feel they are not in a position to compete, O’Brien emphasised.

To see the world through the eyes of the children, to give them a platform to express their own views, in their own voice, The Telegraph In Schools was introduced. This weekend, the fortnightly was re-launched as an all-colour weekly. But that’s not all. A plea has also gone out to educators of Bengali-medium schools to spread the network of Tigers and Cubs — the youth reporters from school campuses who provide most of the meat for the paper — to those schools that have not participated so far.

Teachers and principals present at the meet agreed that exposure of this nature helps the students gain confidence and hone their skills in English. The student brigade grabbed the applause when it took the stage to enact a mime about how to go about collecting the news for their publication.

Stars and politicians, teachers and students are the newsmakers that fill the pages of The Telegraph in Schools. Now, in its new avatar, it will also include exam tips, general knowledge facts and other helpful — and fun — snippets.

Underground shades

Subways are very representative of their cities, and at the same time, they also reveal some hidden aspects that can be either very dark or sometimes very bright. For instance, in France, when you go to the underground, you can get a clear idea of the poverty and unemployment plaguing the country. Since the economic crisis, it has become the noisy — and unsafe — kingdom of beggars and pickpockets.

Knowing that Calcutta was a much poorer city than Paris, and seeing the obvious anarchy of the traffic on the streets, I believed the “under-world” had to be true chaos. I planned to experience the subway by stopping at all stations (there is just one line here, while we have more than 10 different ones in the French capital).

What I was about to find out in Calcutta’s underground astonished me, because it had to do with so many different subjects: poverty, manners, culture and religion. Contrary to what I was expecting, this underground seemed to be very safe and clean. There were no beggars, no one sleeping on the floor. It appeared to be a place of civic sociability and culture.

On TV screens, I saw some advertising forbidding people to spit. I also saw some seats on the trains reserved for women and everybody respecting this rule.

In France, this kind of rule would never be followed; we do have some seats reserved for elders and the handicapped, but they are actually occupied by anyone. On the evidence of this “la galanterie”, the Bengali people, perhaps, deserve more than the French do the reputation of being real gentlemen.

I really enjoyed seeing some stations dedicated to Rabindranath Tagore and reading some of his poems there. It proves that literature can be shared in any place at any moment. The idea of celebrating culture reminded me of Paris, where some Metro stations are named after Voltaire, Alexandre Dumas, Emile Zola…

At the Kalighat station, I noticed a kind of small shrine dedicated to both Mother Teresa and Goddess Kali. I had the feeling that the Catholic saint had been integrated into the Hindu pantheon. I was later told that the signage guided tourists to both the Kalighat temple and Nirmal Hriday, where Mother Teresa started her work in Calcutta.

I got the feeling that going under Calcutta, I was confronting another face of the city, which was surprisingly much less affected by poverty. This illusion lasted till the last Metro station — Dum Dum. When I stepped out to buy a return ticket to Chandni Chowk, I suddenly returned to the surface of the town and to its reality: whole families were sleeping on the floor surrounded by dozens of flies. The contrast was so sharp, because there was almost no borderline.

But then, this situation is representative not only of Calcutta, but of the entire country. India appears to a foreigner an extremely paradoxical place where order cohabits and merges with anarchy.

Raphael Gutmann is a French citizen living in Paris and studying International Relations in the University of La Sorbonne-Paris I. One of his majors is journalism. After following a class about Indian civilisation and history, he decided to visit this country. He is presently with The Telegraph as a trainee reporter



The students at the centre of special education at the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy have been participating in the Better Calcutta initiative for years, and their locality, Taratala, has seen remarkable results because of their hard work. This year, too, they are involved in the movement. Students with cerebral palsy and multiple disability organised a blood donation camp on Wednesday, led by a team from R.G. Kar Hospital, where students of the centre, parents and staff donated blood. On Monday, an eye camp was held for the students.


Rallying for sports

“India’s forte is not sports but playing games” was the topic of discussion at this year’s L.N. Birla Debate, Calcutta chapter, held on July 11. St Xavier’s School, Loreto House, Modern High School, La Martiniere for Boys, besides the hosts Birla High Boys and Girls, represented the city schools, while Loreto College, National University of Juridical Sciences, St Xavier’s College, Jadavpur University and hosts J.D. Birla College were contesting in the college section. The preliminary round held the day before was keenly fought, on the topic “Law Makers are Law Breakers”.

Director of Birla High Schools, Suman Mukherjee, was moderator for the event at Vidya Mandir. Dev Kumar from St Xavier’s School and Prakriti Ranjan from Birla High were declared best speakers, while Loreto won amongst the colleges. The house voted in favour of the motion. The debate will return to Calcutta for the national finals on November 7.

Chief guest Arun Lal stressed the need for those serious about sports to prioritise athletics above all else. India’s future in sports would be “dull”, he said, unless children are exposed to sports earlier than they are now, with no room for a casual attitude.

Sangeet Shirodkar,

Class XI, Apeejay School

§St John’s Diocesan Girls Higher Secondary held its annual Inter School Theme Quiz on “Rainbow Children” on July 12 at Kala Mandir. Over 40 city schools participated in the contest, of which 10 qualified for the finals, including St James, La Martiniere for Boys, Vivekananda Mission, St Thomas’ Girls, G.D. Birla, Calcutta Boys and the hosts. Though it had been trailing in the first few rounds, Ballygunge Siksha Sadan ended on top.

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