A Diamond Jubilee For La Salle High School Campus II, Faisalabad
Sixty years of education for masses of disadvantaged Christians sounds like a fine achievement. How has a one-room school grown into a full primary and secondary institution for young Pakistanis? Under the direction of the De La Salle Brothers and its lay colleagues, it has just celebrated its Diamond Jubilee on 9 May with the presence of the Rome-based Superior General, Br Armin Luistro, Br. Ricky General Councillor and Br Tim, Visitor.
Br Sajid Bashir, Principal reported:
“Under a large marquee Brothers, teachers, students, parents and honoured guests gathered for the celebratory Jubilee Mass, led by Bishop Inderias Rehmat and five priests. The Aspirants of St. Miguel House led the singing. Three special guests, Mr. Pervez Masih, Mr. Maxwell Shanti and Mr. Samuel Sardar were welcomed as members of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. After the Mass the audience were entertained by a number of cultural and modern dances with the children beautifully attired in colourful costumes. The program ended with speeches from Brother Superior General and Br Dennis a former principal, who worked in Pakistan for 40 years and who travelled from Sri Lanka for this celebration. The final speech was by Br. Sajid Bashir principal of Campus 2 School. A delicious lunch followed”. (edited)
Founded for Disadvantaged Youth November 1963
Why did it all start in the cotton-manufacturing city of northern Punjab? Part of the answer was adventurous and pioneering De La Salle Brothers coming from Sri Lanka. The other explanation was a far-seeing dynamic Catholic Church leader.
The great Archbishop Cialeo, following many Catholic leaders before him, knew that education was the key to expanding the Church in new climes. He it was who persisted in his plans to acquire more religious for his diocese in Pakistan in the 1960’s: Brothers’ schools for boys were “the realisation of a dream which for years has been haunting my mind”. Already there were religious sisters working there and religious priests, including his own Dominican order.
After his initial setting-up of La Salle High School Multan in 1960, his move to Faisalabad (at that time ‘Lyallpur’) drew four Brothers to start another high school in the teeming city of northern Punjab. Their students were better-off middle-class Muslims and a few Christians.
Because the Brothers were founded to teach in “poor schools” the Brothers were aware of the plight of Urdu-speaking Christians who worked in unskilled jobs in the mills, or as menial sanitary workers whose sons had no schooling.
By 1964, they were supervising a little school of 152 Urdu-speaking primary students who were Christian, in the grounds of their high school. At the first anniversary, a Brother noted that only twelve received Holy Communion at Mass, as the vast majority of 9,10 and 11-year-olds had not been initiated into the sacrament:
“These are very poor children who rarely have their fill of anything, not even of essential food. It did one good to see these poor children till one year ago without any education, some of them not even knowing the ‘Our Father’ in their own tongue, beaming with joy and making attempts, even at 11 years of age, at learning to read and write their own language. This, indeed, is true Lasallian work; we consider ourselves blessed by God for this timely venture” (quoted in Wilson, “The Lasallian…2019”)
It was the “human (as well as the Christian) education of youth” that was their Lasallian goal.
The school’s administration was handed over to the Brothers in 1965. At this point, Br. Lawrence Manuel taught and co-ordinated the work, as he had an adequate knowledge of Urdu. Soon, overcrowding was extreme, with two classrooms for six groups, and four outside in all weathers on the ground.
In February 1972 the Urdu school moved from the high school site to an area behind the Brothers’ house. Future years saw growth in infrastructure with the help of several donors - the Brothers’ central funder), and the Lasallian Foundation of the ANZPPNG District. Over the decades there were built a second storey, a new library, a science laboratory and a computer room.
By 1984 there were 457 pupils of whom 434 were Christians. The Primary Section was co-educational; boys only continued to Grade 8 middle school. There was a teaching staff of thirteen, 4 men and 9 women who were all Christian.
Dedicated Leaders / Teacher In-Service
Principals who led for many years were Br Hugh Farringdon, an Englishman and Br. Dennis Marasinghe, a Sri Lankan. In 2000, Ms. Catherine Bernard, an ex-Dominican Sister, was offered a role on staff, and soon afterwards became a Co-ordinator and Section Head, and later still Vice-Principal. She was attracted to the school as it offered, she said, on reputation, the best education for Christians in the region. She found a disciplined focus and unity among the staff members.
Br. Christie Dorus, Principal of the bigger La Salle, arranged English classes after school for teachers and encouraged them to get their B. Ed. These studies were subsidized by the Diocese and the Campus 1 school. By 2003, Br. Dennis was organizing workshops and seminars to orient new teachers, a work he took on for other small diocesan schools as well, as the Diocesan Director of Schools.
There were now 500 students, of whom 70 were girls, and 30+ teachers at the time. The curriculum, as well as Religion, English and Pakistani Studies, included dance and music; in the Primary section there was art as well. In 2007, the school became English-Medium, thus raising the status of Christians in the immediate community.
Prosperous Growth - Recent Years
From the 2010’s, as a full secondary high school, Grades 9 and 10 students had changed to the PTB texts and a number sat the Matriculation exams. The student population could fluctuate due to poorer families withdrawing their children, but the Lasallian education was highly valued and its reputation in the city was high. Founder’s Day, Bible Sunday and social outreach were regular events. Some projects were Grade 10 visitation of city prisons, dry rations collections in the aftermath of the northern earthquake and of recent floods. Br Waseem Sulakhan became Principal, after Br. Christie, with Br Samuel Tabish on staff from 2015. Br Sajid Bashir took over the headship in 2017.
Poorer families had children receiving a solid Christian education, with the prospect of greater opportunities in life. Sounds like true Lasallian work indeed!