11 June 2007

Saron School

The below shows Rev. Jayapathy Daniel, pastor of the Arcot Lutheran Church and head of Saron Boys Boarding Home, Tiruvannamalai. The boarding school houses around 480 boys through classes 1 to 12, all of whom are supported by Lutheran Partners in Global Ministry. Here Rev. Jayapthy Daniel (who also pastors the church adjacent to the school campus) is standing by the school's new dormitory which was donated by Prairie Lutheran Church, Eden Prairie, Minnesota, U.S.A., and dedicated January, 2006.

The below is a photograph of the new 2-storey Prairie Dormitory which houses 275 boys between the ages 12-18 years old.

Some of the Saron School boys who were following us around during our tour of the School and facility.

This is one of the standard rooms in the Prairie dormitory. At night the bedding is put out on the floor and in the morning folded up and put away.

While visiting the Saron facility, we were able to see the kitchen and dining room just before lunch. Some of the older boys were helping the school staff prepare individual lunch plates for the boys. As expected meals are of the traditional South Indian variety i.e. rice, sambhar, vegetable curry, rasam and buttermilk.

Rev. Jayapathy Daniel told me that the boys' schedule is as follows:

5.30 a.m. get up, exercise, bath
7.00 a.m. prayers, study
8.15 a.m. breakfast (Tamil dishes like pongal, iddli, uppmavu)
9.00 a.m. school lessons
12.40 p.m. lunch (Tamil meals)
1.30 p.m. school lessons
4.30 p.m. school over, play and snacks
6.30 p.m. prayers
7.00 p.m. dinner (Tamil meals)
9.00 p.m. bed younger boys
10.00 p.m. bed older boys

The school is effectively non vegetarian in that the boys are given eggs three times a week, and chicken twice a month.

Below is a photograph of one of the older dormitories. As in Prairie Dormitory, bedding is rolled up during the day and put out only at night. That means lots of running around space in all the time in between!

The Boys Boarding Home was originally set up at Siloam, Tirukoilur and a Girls Boarding Home located at Saron, Tiruvannamalai. Later on, because of administrative reasons, the schools switched location, and now the boys have their Boarding Home at Saron, Tiruvannamalai and the girls at Siloam, Tirukoilur. Both establishements were founded in 1907 and over the last 100 years there have been many changes, improvements, new building works, renovations and landscaping. However there are still many instances of traditional Tamil building techniques. Many of the ceilings are of the old fashioned variety, with wooden beams and rafters; something rarely incorporated in new buildings nowadays.

Below are some Saron boys acting out for the camera in front of the dormitory for younger boys. This dormitory is home to approximately 150 boys between the ages of 6-10 years old!

While visiting last Sunday (which is a 'no-school' holiday for the boys) we were able to meet alot of the kids and talk with them. More than 50% of the boys at Saron have one parent who is dead. In some cases their remaining parent is working far distant from Tamil Nadu. But whatever the childs' individual circumstance, this is India, home of the extended family and during school holidays, ALL children leave campus to go and stay with their nearest relative.

The boys have a good success rate in national exams. Besides formal education, the Saron Boarding Home gives practical teachings on agriculture, singing, dancing and dramatics and many boys in the Saron School's 100 year history, have gone on to high administrative positions in the Government.

The Saron Boarding Home, Middle School was upgraded into a High School in 1984. At this facility there are three acres of agricultural cultivation land and a large playground in which one of the favourite sports is football. Seven wardens look after the boarders who number approximately 480 boys.

In the below photograph some of the boys are clowning around for their guests. It was nice talking with the young lads, and although very 'energetic', they were respectful and good natured.

The size of the campus is approximately 7-8 acres and although located close to the Big Temple and also to the main thoroughfare to Tirukoilur, the whole campus is very peaceful. I think probably because of all the wonderful trees planted throughout the facility and also because of the high, compound wall skirting the entire campus permieter.

The below is a photograph of the Arasamaraam Tree which is known for giving out large quantities of oxygen and is meant to be very beneficial to sleep under.

It is also worshipped by Hindus as the 'sacred tree of knowledge'. The
Arasamaraam Tree (sacred since Vishnu, during one of his incarnations, reposed under its mighty shade and there taught humanity philosophy and sciences) is called the 'Tree of Knowledge' and the 'Tree of Life'. Under the protective umbrage of this king of the forests, Gurus would teach their pupils their first lessons on immortality and initiate them in the mysteries of life and death.

In occult philosophy arasa-maram is a mystic word.

Below is the beautiful colonial house (which is over 100 years old) and being currently used as home for Rev. Jayapathy Daniel and his family, administrative offices and also to accommodate visitors.

At the back of the school campus, is a large enclosure, in which 3 acres is set aside for agricultural purposes. In the enclosure there is also a playground for the boys and a Cemetry (for some of the deceased connected with the Church).

And saving the best for last, this is the view from the school playground. As well as a spectacular view of Arunachala, also visible at the front of the Hill is the Raja Gopuram of Arunachaleswarar Temple.

In 1996 LPGM (Lutheran Partners in Global Ministry) began a relationship with the Arcot Lutheran Church of South India by partnering with them on the education and support of very poor village children. In this respect, their 'Project Education India' supports over 1,700 children in ten boarding homes in India.

As well as the support of LPGM and the Prairie Lutheran Church, Tiruvannamalai, Danida (the Danish International Development Assistance) are actively involved in the improvement and maintenance of Saron Boarding Home for Boys. In this respect, since 1986, Danida has financed the renovation of houses in the compound, construction of a new primary and higher secondary school complete with 18 classrooms, a new dining room, worker houses, overhead tanks and other development programmes.


Divya said...

Thanks for that wonderful and interesting description and colorful photos! So happy such a good, clean school is there for the boys & girls too.

Muralidharan said...

Muralidharan. Really Nice to see my school where i was brought up .

Meenakshi Ammal said...

Hi there Muralidharan. So glad to see your response regarding this posting of Saron School. I was most impressed with the School on my visit. Hope things have worked out for you and your education there has helped secure you a good job and happy life.

stephen said...

i am very happy. for i am again seeing my hostel, school, trees. arasamaran. and ground. and many photos. i am old student of saron. thank u