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St Marcellin High School, Mangamanuthu



It was a report on the internet which first drew us to the new high school which had been built in a remote village in Tamil Nadu, in Southern India. It was so remote that we could find no trace of it through the usual map search engines, and only a couple of references from people in Rome, Australia, or the USA who had visited the area. It was mentioned in Indian Government archives but only in relation to drought relief programmes, but no one said where it actually was.

We took a chance and contacted the person in Rome who was a Marist Brother who told us that he had visited the Village the previous January and he also had lots of photographs. He was able to give us contact names and telephone numbers of the Marist Brothers' Community in Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu, since they ran a number of Schools and other projects in the area, one of which was St Marcellin High School. He was able to pave the way for our first contact.

The School had been founded by the Marist Brothers through one of their overseas organisations and they were able to bring together a number of benefactors who donated enough money to build the first stage of the school. However, building the school, and then furnishing and running it are two different things and the Brothers were constantly trying to upgrade and expand the existing provision so that eventually the would be able to offer a full state quality secondary education to all local children, boys and girls.

The Brothers only provided a few of the teachers in the school. They employed men and women who lived in the local area and who had qualifications as teachers, and the Head Teacher was also local, his father was one of the villagers.

We saw an opportunity to offer help with curricular provision and at the same time enriching the experiences of our own school children by bringing them into contact with children from a radically different culture.

The school had already developed an excellent academic record although pupils had to leave after 4th year, because the school was not physically big enough for additional pupils, and the school did not meet the state requirements for Higher Examination accommodation. An extension was already being planned to allow more pupils to stay on and the Brothers were busy fundraising for this capital project.

As each new group of visitors went out to Mangamanuthu, it took funds to buy electronic equipment which could be used in the classrooms, such as CD and DVD players, computing equipment, maps of Europe and Scotland, sports equipment, and backpacks, and even a generator to provide backup power during the frequent power outages.

Recently we provided a grant to re-equip the science labs with materials and technical equipment. The building of the new extension had been completed but the Brothers did not have enough funds left over to fully furnish it. We were able to donate enough for a local workshop to be commissioned to construct enough desks and chairs for the assembly/exam hall so that pupils could be could be enrolled in the state Higher Examination programme, which they had not been allowed to do because of the lack of facilities.