KARACHI: Like all other school reunions, St Patrick’s High School alumni get-togethers are all about finding out about others and showing off how successful you have become. But when a school has a 150-year record of producing presidents, prime ministers and business leaders, the sky is the limit.
Thus it was fitting that on Saturday night the school celebrated its “Night of Legends” to honour its faculty. The event was organised by the Old Patricians’ Society, the school’s official alumni society, who decided that mementos would be presented to around 30 teachers, who had taught for up to 25 or 50 years, as well as other members of the academic and non-academic staff.
The award distribution was followed by musical performances and a lavish dinner attended by around 400 proud Patricians.
Over the years, the students have shared with the institution an association and a bond that stays strong even years after they leave school, explained former students.
For Danish Elahi, a 1999 graduate of the O’ Level’s section, the school is part of a family tradition. His father and two uncles also studied there. “The best thing about this institution is that you go through the same experiences as your father did so many years ago,” Danish said, lauding the school for maintaining its standards.
Danish, who feels he’s had his taste of several good institutes including the Karachi Grammar School, the London School of Economics and the KPMG firm of Chartered Accountancy, still owes all of his success to St Patrick’s. “I thank St Pat’s for who I am and what I do [today] because a school has the power to either make you a good boy, a bad boy or a very bad boy,” he said, his voice heavy with emotion.
Financially comfortable, to say the least, Danish still loves to remember the time when you would get two rupees for returning empty soft drink bottles to the canteen. Comparing his experiences in other institutes to his time at St Pats, he said, “During my first year at LSE I used to fall asleep in all my classes because the connection with teachers there was just not close.” For Danish, the quality of a good institution is that it attracts the very best and creates a highly competitive environment in which “the final product is highly polished”.
There were graduates as old as the batch of 1950, all eager and happy to meet their old mentors. “We always had a crush on you,” said a group of 1973 graduates to Miss Helda Pereira, famous for her skirts, high heels and long black hair.
Other staff at the event included ‘Sir’ Raymond, Errol Fernando, Dean of the A’ Levels section Angelo Ryer, Matric Section In-charge ‘Sir’ Benny Vase as well as Principal Rev Father Joseph Paul.
Mrs Henderson, the former in-charge of the O’ Levels section, who retired a few years ago, was praised at the event as one of the most well-loved teachers and mentors. “She is a legend and her contribution to our lives cannot be compared to anyone else’s,” a teary-eyed Danish told the crowd.
Remembering one of his favourite lessons at school, Dr Farhan Essa Abdullah, of Dr Essa’s Laboratories, told The Express Tribune how Dost Mohammad, their sports teacher, taught them never to give up.The best thing about St Pat’s as compared to “elitist schools” is that it taught its students to be “street smart” along with other values such as discipline, said Dr Farhan. “There were students from all income groups and all religions so we learnt to respect everyone,” he added.
The school currently has 5,000 students and a staff of almost 350 teachers.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2010.