Batch 1984 sets an example

Kudos to the 1984 batch for planning and executing a series of efforts in Loyola. A news report last month talked of the batch

  • setting up a nature/spices club
  • donating virtualization software
  • sponsoring means-cum-merit scholarships
  • holding mentor sessions for students
  • organising medical camps, and health lectures
  • gifting cash to non-teaching staff of Loyola

On contacting an organiser, I learnt that the batch gifted Rs 20,000 to each of the non-teaching staff of its time; that the scholarship fund is of Rs 5 lakh, and future contributions will be added to the corpus; and that a medical camp was held on 4 August. In the last week of July, the 1984 batch had a wonderful reunion (25th anniversary of their leaving school), which included an audio-video show, ottam thullal, bharatnatyam, and skit. Teachers were honoured and their blessings sought in the traditional way.

It is nice to hear that Loyola old boys are braving opposition within their own batch and collaborating across continents to do things in school and society. The big challenge for Batch 1984 will be to sustain their interest beyond two years. Most voluntary, alumni activities by batches and individuals begin with a bang, and die out soon. While trying to organise activities, Batch 1984 will learn a few lessons the hard way. But that cannot be an excuse for doing nothing. Best wishes to 1984 on taking a step in the right direction. Hope more batches follow suit.

Idea-wise, most of these are unimaginative, though, and other batches should think harder. In its salad days, LOBA undertook many of these activities — cash to staff, medical camps, career talks, etc. Old students have been ever ready to finance scholarships, but few know that the LOBA Scholarship Fund often remained unused — teachers strained themselves to find a deserving candidate. In the 1980s, the school’s scholarship scheme worked (the school itself had one before LOBA entered the scene, if I recall rightly), probably because there were a few not-so-affluent students. The school, in those days, ran the scheme silently — typically, you would not know that your chum was receiving financial help from the school. If Loyola today has few poor students on its rolls, alumni desiring to finance the education of needy children, can establish scholarships for students in government and private schools in Sreekariyam.

When we decide to do things for the school, we rarely bother to first identify the school’s problem areas, or need areas. Quite naturally, we tend to think from our angle — our skills, our memories and expectations of the school, and our resources. Consequently, we end up with solutions in search of problems. This happens because there is no regular channel to communicate the school’s needs, or alumni’s expectations. There is no forum to exchange views freely, and arrive at a programme of constructive action. Meaningful interventions will result only after a series of interactions, and dialogue. From the school’s side, the lack of an Alumni Relations Office indicates a disinterest in tapping alumni on a long-term basis; from the old boys’ side, LOBA has reduced alumni meetings to food fests (porotta and beef curry parties).

Notably, unlike the 1977 batch which associates with LOBA, the 1984 batch is implementing its ideas directly. It is a bold move, and if you ask me, a wise one; resident sceptics of LOBA’s executive committee would have formed a sub-committee to kill such wide-ranging proposals. Interestingly, the school too backed 1984’s efforts. Is this is a signal for other batches to deal directly with the school? Or a signal to LOBA to pull up its socks?

Discuss: What are your thoughts on giving back to the school? How can you contribute? What prevents you from chipping in?

Inputs: Thomas Vaidhyan (1984)

9 Comments

  • Kudos to the 84 batch for launching these initiatives. You are right, Ashok, in that some of these may not survive the test of time. However these are definitely steps in the right direction and should be appreciated and encouraged.

    Even our batch, post the “Back to school” event in 06, launched a scholarship fund (LOBA 81 Education & Charitable Society) for funding economically disadvantaged students studying or wishing to study in Loyola. It took 2 years to set it up and accumulate a reasonable corpus (currently Rs3.5 lakhs). I am very happy to report that beginning this academic year, we have started sponsoring one student and are currently in the process of finalising the sponsorship of two more deserving candidates. Fr Edassery (curent V.P.) has been most helpful in identifying these candidates for us.

    Just to put this in perspective – The St Thomas 81 alumni, post their gettogether in 06, had announced a similar initiative for helping their old teachers financially. I recently learnt from one of them that the intiative has been dropped due to lack of response when it came to contribution time.

    Like you pointed out, such initiatives are easy to announce and difficult to implement. Many will fall by the wayside but then the few that succeed make the effort really worthwhile for the proponents and the beneficiaries. So, more the merrier in my view.

  • Anish, glad to hear of the 1981 batch’s scholarship scheme. Certainly, more initiatives are welcome. Wonder whether other batches too have set up scholarship Funds. Duplication of efforts, unplanned efforts, etc. — I feel school and society (and alumni!) will be happier with a bit more co-ordination.

  • Ashok, a co-ordinated approach might be the way forward but for it to be successful the school would have to provide some strict undertakings. The reason why our batch decided to administer the scheme on our own rather than through the school is that we did not feel comfortable entrusting the money to the padre. Not because we were worried about the money being siphoned off but more that we felt that all of it might not be strictly used for the purpose it was intended for.

  • Anish, thank you for clarifying. Voluntary alumni orgs too are susceptible to falling into the hands of the self-serving, diversion of funds to less-justified activities, not-so-holy practices, etc. Hope the 81 Society gives us a positive example to speak of in the years to come.

  • Ashok, Anish,

    Your blog kinda hit on the spot as did your comments Anish. We had similar questions and concerns as we went about raising the corpus. However, altough we have a legal document/Charter in place signed off by the School ultimately even if it is used for some other purpose it will be for the good of the School, which we all cherish anyways !

    We did investigate quite deeply into why the LOBA scholarships were unused – primarily because it was announced within the school rather than without. Luckily we were able to raise the said amount and hand over the check to Fr.Principal and hopefully as they have promised the school will identify suitable folks and get it rolling and if not we have a plan B in place to reach out to the local community tapping into the reach of the Loyola College’s sociology program to ensure that deserving children get it.

    However like you both pointed out the decision to go it alone and do it ourselves was also with he hope that others would follow sit or better these ” not so innovative” ideas. Indeed the school seems to lack a comprehension about the tremendous leverage it could have by tapping into its vast and versatile alumni network but then again it could be for folks like us to show them things like this can happen !

    Believe me I am not surprised that it took 3 years for you to get that scholarship going or that St.Thomas guys dropped it ( considering the negativism that one runs into ) but it is efforts like this which will spur on at least a few to swim against the tides and start and set new trends in place.

    So let us get it rolling guys and I and quite a few like minded guys like me will be glad to support any such coordinated efforts that we can all put into action together. For the time being though – we are spent !

  • Thomas, thank you for adding to the discussion here. How do you ensure that the school takes in poor students? What if the child drops out — will the school admit another person? Can a poor child cope with the rest of the class, socially? I am not trying to pour cold water…just curious to know how you guys tackled (or plan to tackle) such basic issues.

    In Loyola’s case, I’ve felt that raising money is not very difficult, once the cause identified is just/fair.

  • hi
    sorry for joining the discussion late( very late!).
    i belong to the 1985 batch and we are in the midst of organising our reunion. and of course we are arranging for a fund drive. we did talk it over among ourselves and with the principal Fr varghese anikuzhy. and we feel that the need for scholarships is not that pressing. the funds could be used in other, more effective ways.
    i agree that using LOBA to channel the funds is not the best way to do it. and having each batch create its own fund and then try to use it is pretty ineffective. what would be really great would be if everyone join in to create a single common account and keep topping it as each batch gets together or as and when an old student gets into the philanthropic mood. this fund could be used by the school authorities for any use that they deem fit. the amount will be much larger and so it can be used better. it would be nice if we can set aside any ego issues and join in – it makes little sense to have a separate fund just to placate our egos-” our batch did this”.
    anyone interested?

    • An even later reply! The common fund sounds good. The ego problem you pointed out might be a minor hurdle; a bigger issue would be whether or not to give spending freedom to the “school authorities for any use they deem fit”. The school could maintain a bouquet of projects (for which the common fund is used), and interested alumni can pour in. New projects can be added, and the utilisation publicised, as leading academic institutions in the West do.

  • Hi
    Something for the alumni to seriously( at least in my view) consider. Being a parent of two present loyolites, I was able to see the school silver jubilee souvenir. The first few articles were fabulous and brought out goose bumps. Then the article about batch reunions. I have no personal axes to grind with any of my juniors from the 1986 batch, but the whole series of snaps from their reunion over six pages was in bad taste. No mention was made of any other batch reunion, of whom there have been numerous and very memorable ones at that.
    I am sorry if I have hurt the feelings of my friends but I strongly felt the alumni should know about it.
    Ram mohan
    1985 loyola

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