Wednesday 1 August 2012

AIMING HIGH - Times of India - Sunday, July 29, 2012

The course that’s been changing lives
Hemali Chhapia TNN 

Mumbai: Every evening, when St Xavier’s College turns on its yellow lights, a thousand canteen boys, sweepers, hawkers, labourers, milk vendors, clerks and receptionists wrap up a tough day’s work and rush in
for their lectures. Once in, they are in a world where all they are expected to do is hold a pen and pay attention.
    Few in the city know about the evening course at the college. Started 24 years ago, the commerce section is perhaps a little out of sync with the loud Malhar and the campus fashion a sharp contrast to what one sees in top colleges. Also, most students don’t return to a home or comforting security each day. Principal Errol Fernandes said, “The morning section was started to provide excellent education. The criterion to admit students is merit. The evening classes were started to cater to the distressed section of society and give them hope of a better life.”
    The classes begin with a short prayer of silence. “Students are asked to take a deep breath so they can get rid of the grime and tiredness of the day,” Fernandes explained. From 18,000/yr to 30L, dreams do come true 
Mumbai: As the evening commercce section at St Xavier's College enters its silver jubilee year, it has turned autonomous. Unlike other colleges, the attendance here is high, probably because the reason to study is different. There are no free lectures, and very often extra classes for weaker students are held on the train, during the faculty’s journey back home.
    For long, excellent education has mostly been the privilege of the moneyed and the meritorious. The commerce section at St Xavier’s was started with the aim of breaking away from that norm. “These students are the ones who really need the help,” said economics professor Kamaji Bokare. “The rate of change of life you see here is really high.”
    Akshay Shetty, who used to run a roadside stall outside Old Custom’s House, is today a senior executive at a mutualfundfirm. “Iwenton to do my master’s and am also a cost accountant. The biggest change has been the respect I get today,” says a proud Shetty. Till about five years ago, Prabhakar Poojary was a canteen boy in BEST earning Rs 600 a month. Today, he heads the Singapore, Dubai and Mauritius markets of a private fund and takes home an enviable pay packet of Rs 30 lakh. “When tough life becomes a routine, the rest becomes easy,” he says.
    Teachers take pride in the fact that two ex-students have made it to the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad—one is the vice-president of a private bank—but most importantly, they speak of the values the course has instilled in their students. Ravi Gaba was always a bright student; he bagged several cash awards in his years at St Xavier’s. “When he graduated, he gave us all the cash prizes (totalling Rs 18,000) that he had won and said that he wanted to leave it back for another needy student,” recalled accounts professor Rajesh Vora.
    Going to college means different things to different people. For some, collegiate education rebuilds their lives, for some others it is the bridge to a better path. For many others, it’s a plunge out of a dark night-…to a day that shines as bright as the lights on the campus they walk to each evening.
RIGHT TO EDUCATION: An evening class at St Xavier’s College. The notice board (inset) at the commerce department


  1. In what has become the dark night of a weary city's soul, St Xavier's manages to shone a very bright light. What is especially encouraging is the thought that what the B.Com students of this unique institution are getting is a truly holistic education, one which inculcates in them the "pass it on" philosophy that makes it possible to feed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish, and still have enough left over to fill 12 baskets with scraps.

  2. Dear Errol, May God bless your good work. AMDG!!!

  3. Keep up the good work dear Fr. Errol. We at OLPH Pune are fortunate to have been inspired by your meaningful sermons & interaction several years ago. God bless you. Errol & Rene Correa

  4. One of the reasons why any of the educational institution(s) gains respect and reputation and excellent results and many students do not mind standing in long queues to seek admissions is because THE TEACHERS, PROFESSORS, MANAGMENT OF such institute(s) has MORE KNOWLEDGE to give and they indeed give WHOLEHEARTEDLY and give an opportunity to even those who are less priviledged.

    Congratulations Fr. Errol. Congratulations St.Xaviers. Keep up the good work so that not just the students but the society is benefitted and has a bright future.

  5. Fr. Errol should be the Finance Minister of our cash strapped corrupt system. Years ago, he launched a food pavilion for the poor parishioners in Holy FamilyParish, Chakala, Andheri. It grew into a self sufficient money spinner for the poor. He also conducts on line Retreats.
    In life, it is never the big battle, the big moment, the big speech, the big election. That does not change things. What changes things is every day, getting up and rendering small acts of service and love beyond that what's expected of you or required of you.- Cory Booker -


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