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The school’s alumni movement reminds me of the main playground at Loyola. There, during lunch-break on any working day, you could find numerous groups of students playing different games. There were the senior boys playing football, and there were numerous smaller groups of smaller children playing football or cricket. Often the twain did meet, but after glares or gore, the glory of sport would continue.

Similarly, in the Loyola alumni movement, you can see the Old Boys’ Association playing their game, and smaller groups of Loyolites opting for corners of the field.

When people are thus playing to their heart’s content, I hate to be the messenger of bad news: this multiplicity of groups, the networks and all that are fine for the present, but they are inadequate for the future. Why?

Sounding the alarm?

To signal the end of the lunch-break, and the restart of classes, the school used to ring a bell. If the bell didn’t exist, students would have played for more hours, till they got tired and quit the field.

This is what’s happening in the Loyola alumni movement. There is no co-ordinating agency to perform the role of the bell, and volunteers (in OBA as well as other groups) who lose the initial enthusiasm, quit the scene. The remaining chaps do not know what to do, they too are tired, and they kick the ball around lazily. They don’t play for an audience, the spectators leave, and as time passes by, it becomes difficult to get enough spectators. In short, the game in town collapses or becomes a farce.

The absence of a co-ordinator hurts the movement significantly in another way: no one pays attention to the future. The players believe that they are playing for fun, not for achieving worthy goals. They are volunteers who play when they feel like it. Identifying goals for the future (how alumni can help the school), or constantly updating information about old boys, or building goodwill for the future (by sending newsletters, maintaining a website), are “serious” things for…well, somebody else. Bad news again — somebody else got tired and left the field.

Thus, when things have to be done, but are not done, the movement weakens. All play and no work makes Jack a dull boy.

Some of us believe that it’s a free market, and that one group or the other will emerge as the dominant player/game in town. That is possible, but unlikely, because the groups here are undertaking activities voluntarily, and limiting their game to their own small spheres. Also, e-groups and Orkut communities may grow in size and number, but after a while, their enthusiasm wanes.

Tomorrow, we can do fantastic things for the school and the community. Or maybe tomorrow, we may need to come together for a cause. Who has the credibility and the reach to bring us together? None, at the moment.

For a healthy future, the alumni movement probably needs to drop anchor in the school, and shed its voluntary character. The school should set up an office, generate funds (from alumni and the management), employ professional staff, and run the alumni movement. Universities abroad and MBA institutes in India have adopted that model partly because they realise that the schools themselves will benefit by promoting alumni relations.

The Loyola alumni movement needs a school bell.