By Purushottam Nayak
Raikia, Dec. 16, 2018: A Catholic school in Odisha that survived two rounds of anti-Christian violence set aside past memories and pledged to serve society as it celebrated annual day.
“The school started on August 2, 2004, the same year Our Lady of Charity Church, Raikia, faced vandalism,” recalled Daughter of Charity Sister Maria Goretti Senapati, superior of the St. Catherine’s House in Raikia, a major town in the Kandhamal district of Odisha.
The nuns manage the St Catherine’s English Medium School that shares the church’s campus.
“After the first attack we continued the school with fear. We underwent fear, mental agony during the 2008 persecution. However, the attackers spared us since majority of students are Hindus,” Sister Senapati told Matters India while watching the annual day programs on December 15.
Kandhamal district was the epicenter of anti-Christian violence in 2008 that killed nearly 100 people and displaced more than 56,000.
Rajendra Prasad Ranji, sub-collector of Balliguda who was the chief guest on the annual day, lauded the management and school for the commitment to help the students intellectual, social and psychological growth.
“Student life is very enjoyable life provided you have thirst for knowledge,” he told the students. “Education plays very significant role in shaping society. School is for overall growth of students,” he added.
School principal Daughters of Charity Sister Saila Bala Mali told students that “Learning gives creativity, creativity leads to thinking, thinking provides knowledge, knowledge makes one great.”
She said they opened the school respecting local people’s request for an English medium School in their locality.
Now the school is 14 years old. Its beginning was very simple,” she added.
The students performed different dances on the occasion for parents and dignitaries.
“I have great desire to make my children as good as the children of rich families,” said Subasini Pradhan, a Kandhamal survivor whose son Gyan Prakash Pradhan is a third grader in the school.
The school, which conducts classes from first to tenth grades, now has 340 students. Among them, 125 are Catholic Kandhamal survivors.