Labour of Love
Parishioners of Christ the King Church, Park Circus Kolkata must have come across an effervescent Mrs Priyasree Home who equal élan takes part both in the Parish Choir and also trains aspirants for First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Mrs Priyasree is endowed with more qualities. Along with her husband Anikendra Home, she is the co-founder of Sacred Heart School, which was established on 8th June 1993, at Picnic Garden Kolkata to improve the lot of the marginalized of the area. She is a qualified practitioner in Clinical Psychology (passed out from Mount Alvernia Hospital, Singapore) and has her consultation chamber at 10/2, Shamsul Huda Road, Kolkata 700 017 (near Christ the King Church). Clinical psychology is a branch of psychology for the assessment and treatment of mental illness, abnormal behaviour and psychiatric problems.
Having heard of the Home couple’s pioneering enterprise for the disadvantaged (Mrs Home has more than 25 years’ teaching experience at Our Lady Queen of the Mission School, Park Circus Kolkata), I along with my friend Francis a social worker, visited the school at 19A/1, Prasanna Naskar Lane, Picnic Garden, on 11th April 2014. We were warmly welcomed by Mrs Home and her husband and shown around the school.
Spread over the ground floor of four rented buildings, Sacred Heart School has classes from Montessori to X. With 480 students the classrooms are bursting to the seam, many students having to sit on the floor. The school has 25 teachers (9 of whom are Catholics) and 5 support staff (maids). It operates in two shifts 7.15 am to 11 am and 11.30 am to 4 pm Monday-Friday.
Vision and Mission of the school:
* To impart holistic education and self-reliance to marginalized children with love, trust, compassion and faith.
* To educate and support their mothers for sustainable livelihood.
Due to economic pressures many families in Bengal cannot afford English Medium education for their children. It is here the Home couple has stepped in to fill the void by providing quality English Medium education which is on par with elite schools.
65 of the 480 students are free students and 65 under concession. The rest pay fee ranging between Rs 350/- and 800/-. Three students are physically handicapped and two affected by Autism. Due to the love of the teachers and Mrs Home’s expertise in clinical psychology, these students have jelled well with fellow students.
All free students are provided wholesome breakfast daily including seasonal fruits. They are also given two sets of school uniform, one set of PT uniform, one pullover and a pair of black shoes and socks.
35 students’ mothers, who are from very poor and challenging background, are being taught spoken English, basic mathematics, hygiene and handicraft. They are trained in advocacy against drunkenness and wife-beating and also helped in marriage rectification. This programme of learning together with their children is called ‘STEP TOGETHER – MOTHER AND CHILD” and is offered at a nominal fee of Rs 20/-. The handicrafts (kanthas, needle work, jute products, pottery and pickles) are sold through annual
school exhibitions. Part of the proceeds is ploughed back for subsidizing their and their children’s education expenses and part is given to them as production incentive.
Each day begins with the recital Our Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary and Novena to Our Lady of Vailankanni. It was heartening to see that students from different communities, who are very well-behaved, know their prayers by heart.
Besides English and vernacular, Urdu and Arabic are also taught. Plans are on to introduce German.
Sports activities are held at the adjoining government playground. Can our elite missionary schools consider sharing their playground facilities to these poor children?
Students are also taken on visits to old age homes for putting up cultural performance, with offer of handcrafted gifts and cakes to the inmates.
The school is urgently seeking assistance in (1) getting its own land with playground (2) recognition from the Government. It is also in need of regular supply of nutritious food, especially for 65 free students and old clothes (but not torn) for poor children. The classrooms also need a fresh coat of paint and more light and fans.
Besides rent Rs 25,000/- per month, salaries and other expenses are met mainly out of the personal income of the co-founders and donations to Sacred Heart Trust and in part out of fee collected. Donors to the school can get income tax exemption under 80G.
For Mrs Priyasree Home (Tel. 9830771977) it is a labour of love by the Laity. A devout Catholic, she has a deep faith in Lay Leadership to come forward to sustain her dream which is nothing short of a quiet revolution.