Vijayawada

At Atkinson, it was English first, everything next

Atkinson students taking part in a march-past, in Vijayawada.- Photo: File PHOTO  

Even crows in Atkinson speak English. Even rickshaw pullers and auto drivers who ferry Atkinson girls speak chaste English.

These are some extravagant remarks that circulated in Vijayawada for many years highlighting the importance of English at Atkinson Senior Secondary School more so during the bygone era when education was yet to get the corporate tag.

Among loads of memories one gathers in life-time, the most pristine would always be the moments spent in the corridors of their school for they are pure. Yester-year students of Atkinson are not an exception.

Some remembered the cane-wielding principal Sr. Stella at the school’s entrance, some expressed their worry about gatekeeper John who fetched them mango pieces dipped in chilli powder and puffed-rice mixture ( maramaralu ) and some recollected the huge piano and how they broke into a song when their teacher played a Western classical number. Situated amidst the hustle-bustle of the One Town, the 117-year-old school projects a contrasting serene look and its role in spreading quality education in Vijayawada is laudable.

Weathering the changes of the passing years, this once-elite school, on 2.5 acres of land, is enthusiastically travelling with the city of victory and both the vintage structure showcasing church architecture and the adjacent swanky building speak about its measured progress over the years.

“I still remember parents standing in long queues with tooth paste and brush in their hands to buy application forms in the 60s and 70s. Joining their kids in Atkinson was the parents’ proudest moment those days. Scarcity of good schools made Atkinson the most-sought after one,” says septuagenarian Lourdes Mary, who taught science for generations.

The ‘English culture’ in school created uneasiness among several families as they felt they could not match the expectations of the school management.

According to sources, the primary school - Atkinson English Day School - was handed over to the sisters of St. Ann’s of Providence, Secunderabad, by Ms. Atkinson, wife of Mr. Atkinson, who was the one of the directors of the school and also Collector of Kistna (Krishna) District in 1899.

Later, the school was known as Atkinson Anglo Indian School in the 50s and in 2011 it adopted the CBSE syllabus. Nuns such as Sr. Hyacinth, Sr. Angela, Sr. Charles, Sr. Margret Mary, Sr. Imelda, Sr. Cecilia and Italian Mother Superior administered the school and popular among the present generation of principals was Sr. Stella, who served the school for more than 25 years.

Names of teachers like Lynn Chatelier, Mervina Xavier, Carr, Ramanamma and Joyce are still fresh in the minds of the students and they use the social media to share their never-ending chat about the precious moments they had spent in school.

The prayer song - Atkinson Oh! Sing a song of gladness, children sing a song of joy and love - is something many would like to take it to the grave.

The school used to impart education to the British in the early days. Later the Anglo Indian community dominated school and now it has opened its gates to the Indian community. “English was always our strength. Because of our colonial legacy students were introduced to the British accent. Teachers and Sisters, most them Anglo Indians from Chennai and Kerala, were very fluent in English - both spoken and written. The local teachers went an extra mile to hone their spoken English skills to match the standards,” says Lourdes Mary.

Atkinson is also famous for staging fetes meant to collect funds for poor and needy by organizing several games and installing shops.

“In fact, the fete culture was introduced to Vijayawada by Atkinson,” says Palagudu Nageswari, a student of 1977 batch.

“Many of our students went on to carve a niche for themselves in the world. They are now good housewives, good mothers, good leaders, good administrators and good professionals and above all they are good human beings,” says Sr. Bala Pushpa, the present principal.

With 4,000-odd students on the roll and over 100 staff members striving hard, the school is keen to continue the good work in the New Year as well.

Atkinson. Take a Bow!





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Printable version | Jan 23, 2021 7:19:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Vijayawada/At-Atkinson-it-was-English-first-everything-next/article13980386.ece

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