SPEECH GIVEN AT 127th PRIZE GIVING ON 27 NOV 10 BY

MAJ GEN KVS LALOTRA, AVSM, YSM, SM (RETD)

PRINCIPAL MAYO COLLEGE

 

 

Introduction.

Mr Vikram Singh Mehta, Chairman Shell Group of Companies in India, Member of the Mayo College General Council and the Chief Guest at the 127th Prize Giving. Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur, President, General Council, Your Highness, Members of the Mayo College General Council, distinguished guests, respected parents, old boys, friends from the media, my dear little boys and staff of Mayo College, and ladies and gentlemen.

 

            At the out set, I wish to welcome Mr Vikram Singh Mehta as our Chief Guest. It is indeed a matter of rare honour and proud privilege for the College to have an ‘Old Boy’ as the Chief Guest at the Prize Giving. May I also formally congratulate him on his being recently awarded the first Asian Business Leader Award by the Asia House – Europe’s leading pan-Asian organization.

 

            Mr Mehta came to Mayo as a little boy in class 7 in the year Jan 1964 and passed out five years later as part of batch of 1968.

 

            Sir, may I be permitted to quote from your last report card. Mr Gibson the then Head Master had this to say and I quote:-

 

‘Vikram has passed his ISCE in First Division with a grade aggregate of 11 points. Although he only got top credits (grades 3) in his principal subjects of Additional Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry, I had expected him to get distinctions, and it was probably because he had to take some of the papers while suffering from a flu epidemic and with a temperature, that he did not do this.

           

Throughout his career at Mayo College, Vikram was a first class student and I have no doubt that he will do well at the University.

 

            He was an excellent College Monitor and a good and keen all-rounder at games. He was always a pleasant boy to deal with, and his character was excellent. I have no hesitation in recommending him strongly.’

 

I am sure Mr Gibson must be smiling from the heavens above.

Mr SR Das, his House Master had equally good words for him and he wrote:-

 

Vikram Singh Mehta left Mayo College in December 1968, after passing the Indian School Certificate Examination in first division with distinctions in English Language, English Literature and Geography, high credits in Additional Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry and a pass in Hindi.

 

An intelligent and hard working boy, Vikram did well not only in studies but in games and extra curricular activities also. Vikram won the General Knowledge prize for Seniors, participated in extempore debates and acted in a number of plays in English.

 

Vikram was a good games player. He was a member of College elevens in Hockey and Cricket and represented his House in Football, Athletics, Tennis, Squash, and Basketball also. He is a good swimmer and passed the Life saving tests. He passed the Silver Badge of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. He passed NCC Exams in grade ‘A’ and attended an Advance Leadership Camp. He was appointed a Prefect of his House and later on a College Monitor.

 

Vikram is a well-balanced boy with good sense of responsibility and has an excellent moral character and I am sure he will do very well in his future studies.

 

Sir, the Principal and the Housemaster were not wrong in their assessment of a young boy, who later went on to do the College proud. I welcome you once again.

 

Having welcomed our Chief Guest, I now wish to welcome the Batch of 1985 who are here at the College to celebrate their Silver Jubilee and seated at the top, beneath the canopy. Welcome Home! Wish you and your family accompanying you a pleasant stay at Mayo.

 

Prize Giving is an important milestone in the annual calendar of a school. Not only does it give an opportunity to sit together to acknowledge the efforts put in by our little ones in the past one year, the parents, Old Boys and members of the Mayo College General Council, the guests get an opportunity to interact with the Students and Staff and witness a host of activities, go around the campus and feel the pulse of the College. As they say, one look is better than a thousand reports.

 

            This year, the Prize Giving has a special significance as you have an Old Boy as the Chief Guest and a new head at the College. So, added to your itinerary and engagements is yet another agenda i.e. A look at the new Principal. I hope I have not disappointed some of you!

           

            Both as a child at School and later as a parent attending Prize Givings, I have always wondered as to why it was necessary for a Principal to subject the parents and children to a set of monotonous figures and data, which no one was interested in. Annual day speeches made by the Principal are indeed lengthy and sound like sermons with teachers trying to control the boys, old boys constantly chatting and parents forced to give a smile. Board Members looking serious and the School Committee a little anxious about the dress, turnout, haircuts and discipline of the seniors and the recently passed out batches!

 

            Having got into the Principals shoes, I have now realized that perhaps this is one occasion when a Principal gets a captive audience and invariably forgets that he has to go by the clock and not the calendar.

 

            I hope not to disappoint you on this score. My report has been prepared in a tabular form for ease of reference and a copy of the same has been handed over to you for you to read and carry back. I shall therefore not touch on aspects given in those 26 pages. Covered in the exhaustive report are aspects related to:-

 

Academic results, infrastructure up-gradation, achievements of the boys at School and outside the School amongst other things. Also part of the report is a brief on the Old Boy’s to include achievements of Mr Vikram Mehta and Shri VP Singh who has recently been elected to the Rajya Sabha. We now have a voice in the parliament.

           

Here I wish to add that the seriousness and involvement of the audience at a School Prize Giving can be judged by not the number of handouts which are left behind strewn on the ground / hall to be picked up by the Safai Karamcharis but by the number of copies of the handouts, which have been carried home by the audience. Not only are there interesting facts and figures in the Principals’ report, may be the parents would find their little ones name in it and therefore they may wish to keep a couple of copies of the Principal’s Report as a souvenir for their child.

 

I have still retained mine.

            I wish to take this opportunity to briefly touch on a few issues today.

 

Academics.

You would be pleased to note that the Board results of both the class 10 and 12 where the class average was between 80 and 85% have been the best ever. The other day, while analyzing the Board results, one of the reasons listed for better results by the staff, besides their hard work, was Swine Flue! So I asked my faculty and the students who were in the meeting as to what was implied by that. They said it was simple. The boys were sent home and not permitted to play football! A little extra time at the study table and the difference was visible. Off course, in no way am I suggesting that we would be praying to the Lord Almighty for Swine Flu again this year. But a little extra time at the study table would be required by the boys both at School and at Home.

 

The School has taken a number of steps to upgrade the classrooms. The existing chemistry lab has been made into a state of art lab thanks to the generous contribution by Mr Bharat Tandon. It would be worth a visit by you. Emphasis is being laid on classroom discipline; new teaching software has been installed and is under test; an ORM machine been procured and made functional. We would soon try and rig up a language lab with some of the old computers. For all these initiatives, I would like to thank the School Committee, the Vice Principal, my Staff and in particular the Computer faculty.

 

Views on Education.

Today, I wish to share some of my views on education, which will largely strategize the shaping of the contours of success stories at Mayo.

 

Firstly, I think I am truly blessed to have inherited this rich legacy of educational excellence. The architecture, the vast expanse of the campus, a happy co-existence of the rich flora and fauna, all inspire one to achieve standards par excellence in whatever one undertakes. It is an ideal setting to constantly create, innovate, think out of the box and achieve the impossible against all odds. But my single focus and source of inspiration are the boys themselves.

 

The young children have given me a tremendous sense of happiness and satisfaction that is truly incomparable.

 

I view each child as special. I am conscious that as a custodian of their future a huge responsibility rests on my shoulders.

 

My philosophy of education is heavily borrowed from the famous philosopher, psychologist and educationist H Gardiner. I firmly believe that each child in wired differently, that makes his brain to think, process and create in a different way. While some are word smart, therefore are good communicators and have the potential to become good lawyers, writers, poets, teachers, comedians. Some are number smart who delight in digits, have fun with equations and would do very well as programmers, scientists, engineers, accountants and economists while some others may be picture smart with an eye for form and hence make architects, pilots, designers, photographers and artists. Some children are smart with an ear for sound. They have a tremendous potential to become a Beethoven, Mozart, AR Rahman, Ravi Shankar, Bismillah Khan, composers or musicians. Some children are body Smart, they excel in physical activities and leap into the world of sports become dancers, models, surgeons. They use their body, hands, limbs with terrific factile sensitivity. Then there are the children who could be classified as self smart. They know themselves, they are introspective, self disciplined, driven by inner goals, they make excellent entrepreneurs, priests, philosophers etc. For me it is not how smart a child is but in which way is he smart that counts!

 

It is for us to strategize which learning style does the child respond to. It calls for a redefinition of what a School activity is. While each activity must give an experience, each small piece of experience must build into a larger mosaic of understanding. There has to be a paradigm shift in our teaching and learning styles. It is very well known that the teachers role and involvement is paramount at every stage of learning and we shall not fall short on this account.

 

Physical Training, Games and Hobbies.

            It is also a well established fact that participation in physical education and sports activities is highly beneficial to one’s health and it leads to improved performance by students in schools, in addition to helping them in developing many life skills.

 

Children lead happier lives as a result of being actively involved in hobbies and sporting activities. It has also been long established that fitness and improved academics performance go hand in hand. Physical education and sports activities and hobbies during the school hours reduce boredom and help keep students attentive in the classrooms.

 

            Physical education and sports programs also teach important conflict resolution skills including teamwork, fair play and communication leading to reduced violent behaviour among children. Further, children who participate in physical education and sports develop a positive attitude towards their every day life activities.

 

Better sports infrastructure, better-equipped hobbies departments than their class rooms make children happier. You would have noticed boys with a better gait and smiling faces at Mayo. Thanks to their having accepted a few initiatives taken by the College.

 

Work.

The working culture of any place or organization defines its character and gives its members an identity. We need to help our children understand the importance of being industrious. For many of us, what we count as ‘work’ accounts for 3/4th of our working lives. The need to flee from work to gain happiness and relaxation or to treat it as drudgery is to take a myopic take on life.

 

Let the boys include work as an integral part of their lives, not suffer work, and assume that not having to work is some sort of achievement. Just not working and sleeping it out or missing activities isn’t as much fun as it sounds, so lets not make it aspirational.

 

Happiness in whatever form one longs for rarely comes from fleeing from work.

 

We remember an Einstein for what he did in a lab, a Manekshaw for what he did in the war room, a Valmiki or Tolstoy for what they did at their writing tables. Today, we sit here and applaud a Vikram Mehta for his hard work, which has singled him out from amongst over 4 billion who inhabit Asia.

 

We applaud a Tendulkar for what he does on a pitch, a Narayana Murthy or Bill Gates not for generating personal wealth but their work on the social front.

 

We salute soldiers who fall in battle wearing their uniform, which defines their duty.

 

We feel a sense of gratitude to the teachers who teach us beyond the classrooms.

 

We identify them and the crux of their lives, primarily and definitely, from the work they did or are doing.

 

Each one of these individuals did things they enjoyed doing and things in which they believed.

 

Until I quote or mention President Obama in my speech it would also not be complete! Therefore, I would like to share with you that even President Obama and his wife Michelle have had to speak to the children and ask them to engage in more classroom activities, spend more time in reading and pursuing hobbies than watching television endlessly!

 

Discipline.

To the parents I have to say that these are years of investment in your Childs future; investment in terms of love, affections, time, effort and most importantly discipline. Your child should be helped to learn to live within certain rules, regulations and norms. Should children not learn self-discipline they would never ever become effective leaders. The School rules have been formulated with due consideration and deliberation. We are sensitive towards the social and family obligations of parents and hence have made allowance for it. But with 800+ boys on rolls which makes over 2400 figures of anniversaries, engagements, mundan ceremony etc. Simply put 3 occasion / day thus three to four boys leaving school everyday, makes it rather difficult for us to work as a team. I request parents to give due consideration to this.

 

I have been strict on incidents of bullying, ragging and will become even stricter and perhaps harsher in future. Mayo College has become a happier place for the boys and my team’s endevour would be to create even a better environment.

 

You must support your child’s education not merely finance it. I would solicit the cooperation of the parents with the Vice Principal and the Housemasters to facilitate enforcing good discipline at School.

 

As you all are aware, the Housemasters have a difficult job, specially when it comes to enforcing discipline. However, I would like to assure you that all of them have taken on this challenge seriously at the cost of their popularity. What is more encouraging is the fact that the boys have also accepted the few changes, which have been made to instill discipline. The credit for this goes to the Housemasters, the School Appointments and to my boys who were largely instrumental in facilitating this.

 

Infrastructure Improvement.

Our campus is perhaps one of the best School campus in the country. However, we now need to improve upon the infrastructure. During your rounds of the College, you would be pleased to see the few initiatives taken in the past one year.

 

We now have a new laundry, a renovated gymnasium with new equipment and apparatus, upgraded classrooms, better and bigger stables and riding area, a new athletics track, and sports equipment. Six synthetics tennis courts are being laid and three squash courts would be put to extensive repairs. I wish to compliment the Bursar and his team for this.

 

To over come the water shortage during summers, steps have been taken to install RO and water softening plants. The Board of Governors, through the various Committees are actively involved to provide the best to our boys. All my recommendations have found favour with them. Finance of course remains the limiting factor.

 

Health.

Health is seen by me as an important factor in a child’s ability to thrive and develop.

 

A new menu, which is more nutritious, filling and which provides a variety has been introduced. A conscious effort has been made to reduce the intake of junk food. We are not totally equipped to cook and serve the dishes introduced but hope to make up the shortcoming in the next financial year. The credit for this again goes to the Bursar, the Mess Managers and their staff. While talking about food I would like to inform the parents that from next term onwards greater emphasis would also be laid on table manners and etiquettes and the boys will also help serve and clean up the dining tables at meals. 

 

Some of the boys who have been admitted in the hospital would have shared with you the vast improvements, which the RMO and the Hospital staff has brought about. I wish to place on record their effort. 

 

Road Map.

Ever since my arrival I have been doing some loud thinking and sharing my view with a cross section of the stake holders on our future and a likely road map.

 

My inputs are based upon what I have read about our great institution, what I have seen at the College, my interaction with the Old boys at Bangalore, Mumbai, Jaipur and Ajmer. The General Council and the Board Members, the Staff and Students and my knowledge of other public schools in our league.

 

There is now a need to drawn up a broad road map for the future set targets and get about doing things quickly.

 

I would broadly categorize my requirement under two heads viz Scholarships and Bursaries and Infrastructure Development:-

 

(a)        Scholarships and Bursaries. Scholars in an institution bring in the much needed academic excellence. We therefore, need to have at least 20% of our students who are truly scholars. To support and fund the scholars we require a corpus of at least Rs 25 crores.

 

(b)        Infrastructure Development. Infrastructure Improvement can be divided under two broad heads; firstly those projects which can be funded from school revenue and secondly those expensive projects which are cost intensive and are dependent on fund raising. Some of the projects which I have as part of the wish list are; two lecture theaters, five computer labs, an auditorium, upgrading dining halls and kitchens and the furniture. Better sports infrastructure in terms of additional squash courts and gym for the junior school, a 50 meter swimming pool; mechanization of the campus and play field maintenance; scientific garbage collection and disposal and last but not the least better living accommodation for the staff and support staff. All this will cost not less than Rs 40 to 50 crores. Therefore, there is an urgent requirement for fund raising to the tune of Rs 75 to 100 crores.

 

Contribution Received.

I am very pleased to share with you that there are many who have volunteered to help in this direction. The batch of 1984 has already taken the initiative and we hope to now come up with an action plan. I would now seek the support and involvement of the other old boys and parents and well wishers.

 

            Not withstanding our long-term aims and objectives of raising funds, help came in last year in the form of generous contribution for various immediate requirements. These include:-

 

(a)        Rs 5 lakhs for the Golf Course by Samode Hotels Pvt Ltd.

 

(b)        Rs 18.75 lakhs for renovation of the Chemistry lab by Mr Bharat Tandon class of 1969. Please do visit the lab. Its state of Art!

 

(c)        Rs 20,000/- from Mr Pankaj Kapur class of 1987 towards Scholarship Fund.

 

(d)        Rs 1.59 lakhs by class of 1966-67 for JTM Gibson award for excellence.

 

(f)         Rs 2.15 lakhs has also been contributed by class of 2000.

 

            The contributions mean a lot for all of us at the College and on your behalf I thank the donors for their thought and generosity.

 

Retirements.

I wish to place on record the services rendered by:-

(a)        Shri Samar Bhaduri who served Mayo College for 34 years and retired as the Officiating Principal.

 

(b)        Shri Mr Dalveer Singh who also served Mayo College for 40 long years and retired as the Accountant.

 

(c)        Shri Nathu, Safai Karamchari who served Mayo College for 38 years.

 

(d)        Shri Suraj Mal from Games Department who served Mayo College for 37 years.

 

(e)        Shri Bal Deo, Chowkidar who served Mayo College for 22 years.

 

(f)         Shri Mohan Lal, Pump Driver who served Mayo College for 27 years.

 

Conclusion.

            It has been my privilege to welcome Mr Vikram Mehta, the batch of 1985 celebrating its Silver Jubilee and our distinguished guests and share my thoughts with you. I am most grateful to you for your patient hearing.

 

            Before I conclude I wish to thank the Karamcharis of the School. They have toiled day and night, in extremely bad weather, to look after the boys and make arrangements for the Prize Giving.

 

            I also wish to place on record the College’s gratitude to Mrs Jamila Singh Director cum Principal of Mayo College Girls’ School. She, her Staff and the Girls have been extremely supportive in all our endevours. Their participation in our School Play and the combined equestrians and PT display was enjoyed by the boys and much appreciated by the parents.

 

            I also wish to thank Mr Neeraj Bedhotiya, Principal Mayoor School for the support provided by Mayoor School.

            May I now request the President of the Mayo College General Council, His Highness Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur, to kindly address the distinguish guests and formally announce the JTM Gibson Awards for Excellence.