Loss for law, gain for school

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 18.09.03

Nestled in the heart of Tangra, one school stands tough, with one man behind it. Principal M.C. Alexander has seen Grace Ling Liang English School through, since its inception in 1974.

The man from Kerala had no wish to be a teacher. But when he wasn’t accepted for the police post of sub-inspector he had his heart set on, he had to change his career plans. “The minimum height for the post was 5’6”. I was only 5’3”,” recalls Alexander with a wry smile.

An interview call brought the young man to Calcutta, where he stayed with his brother, a pastor. When that too did not work out, his brother convinced him to turn to education. “He advised me to seek the will of God. That was the turning point of my life,” relives the educator, overcome with emotion. On September 6, The Telegraph Education Foundation honoured Alexander at the School Awards for Excellence for his years of service to the school and the community.

The founders of the school, T.D. and Mary Lamb, sent for the young man, who had completed his bachelors in education, through the church he was affiliated to. “The school was just one building then. All the rest of this was a pond,” he says of the campus, which has developed over the years. Around 150 students, a principal and Alexander, teaching history and English, was the team that started the school.

At the time, over 90 per cent of the student body was Chinese. Over the years, as the size of the school has grown and as the Chinese population has dwindled in Calcutta, their share in the school has also shrunk. Now, less than 15 per cent of the total 1,500 hails from that community. But the effect of the school is well felt in the locality.

“When I first came here, this was really a godforsaken place,” says the father of two who now lives on campus. That has changed over the years, as has the nature of the children and guardians. Earlier, few students came from educated homes. “But now, after one generation has been to school, it is much easier for us to run it.” The academic performance has been improving steadily and the children shine in co-curricular activities, particularly on the basketball court.

In 1987, Alexander, affectionately called “dadu” by the primary school kids, took over as principal. The man who has recently completed a Ph.D in education, is the oldest-serving teacher in the school, and has gained the trust of parents and students alike. He is also the secretary of the Association of Schools for the Indian School Certificate.

Though Alexander’s dreams would have taken him down a different road altogether, he is happy with the path he has pursued. “I have no regrets. I know I am following God’s call.”