by Father Bernard Fernandes
MUMBAI, NOV 11, 2017: Don Bosco High School, Matunga completes its 75th year - this scholastic year - and it's with pride and nostalgia that we reminisce the magic and the events unfolding thereafter that fashioned a dream school for youngsters in Mumbai. The school is not only the first Don Bosco institution in the city of Mumbai, but it is also the cradle of the Mumbai Salesian Province. At this significant milestone in history of the Salesian Mumbai Province, it is inevitable that we turn the clock back to reinvent the fragrance of the 75 long - and at times, forgotten - years.
On May 16, 1928, four Salesians- Father Joseph Hauber, Father Austin Dehlert, Brother William Haughley and Brother Michael Devalle took over the management of the Educational Institution of the Immaculate Conception from Father JS Freitas SJ. The school was housed in a rented building called Tardeo Castle. When the new school commenced on June 6, 1928, there was a complete change of staff and servants. There were 189 day-scholars and four lady teachers. Roch Thomas was the official headmaster from July 1, 1928. Two-years later, in June 1930, the institution changed its name to Don Bosco High School. In 1932, Father Adolf Tornquist succeeded Father Hauber, staying in office until his departure for Argentina in May 1936. The school then remained without a superior for nine months.
In 1937, Father Aurelius Maschio was appointed Rector. Gifted with rare foresight, dynamism and a drive to convert his dreams into reality, Father Maschio made an assessment of the existing situation, laid out his plans and launched out on a massive fund-raising campaign. Since many difficulties were being presented by the landlord at Tardeo, he looked for land elsewhere. He found a spacious plot at insignificant Matunga in flourishing Bombay- a landscape of marsh, water-filled pits and slime - which he proposed to buy. In the meantime Father Berutti and Father Candela of the Superior Chapter, during their brief stop in Bombay on their way back to Turin from the East, visited the proposed Matunga plot and gave their approval of its purchase.
With notice to quit Tardeo Castle by October 1, 1940, the entire school was shifted to a place called Hilltop on Carmichael Road at Cumballa Hill in September 1940. Meanwhile, all attention was on the new place bought at Matunga. And so, on March 19, 1941, the foundation stone of the new building at Matunga was blessed and laid by Archbishop Thomas Roberts, SJ. By October 31, 1941, Hilltop was vacated and the school moved into the partially completed building at Matunga. On January 31, 1942, the premises were completed and solemnly inaugurated. Today, this portion forms the secondary section of the school. The foundation stone of the primary building was blessed on the feast day of Don Bosco, January 31, 1951.
The building of the Shrine of Don Bosco's Madonna was begun and completed by Father Maschio during the rectorship of Father Mauro Casarotti (1952-1958). Father Hubert D'Rosario succeeded Father Casarotti. He was the first Indian to lead the school and boarding complex as Rector of the institute. At the end of his term, on September 9, 1964, he was ordained Bishop by Cardinal Gracias in the Shrine of Don Bosco's Madonna, Matunga.
December 4, 1964, was a special day in the history of the School. His Holiness Pope Paul VI met the University and High School students assembled on the campus. Father Pianazzi, the General Prefect of Studies welcomed and thanked the Pope in the name of the Salesians for the singular privilege of his visit. The Holy Father, deferential in his response, said that it was his duty to thank the Salesians for their work and for erecting such a fine institution.
In January 1965, the residence of the confreres was completed during the time when Father Hubert Rosario was Rector and Father Ignatius Rubio, the administrator. The boarding house was built next and completed by Father John Giacomello, the Rector, with the help of his administrator, Father Santino Mondini. During the tenure of Father Thomas Braganza as the Rector, the finishing touches were provided to the new building in May 1970. Father Denis Duarte took over as Rector in 1976 and saw to it that the standard of the institute was kept aloft. Don Bosco could now be counted among the most prestigious schools in Bombay.
However, it was felt that the portals of the institution had to be made available to the poor youth as well. Hence during the Rectorship of Father Chrysologus D'Cunha, boys from the neighbouring slums were invited to use some classrooms for their study. They were given a unique opportunity to avail themselves of a clean and quiet study environment. Thus, the community, with the help of clerics who were studying for a degree in social work, began evening-study classes in 1983. Remedial classes for weaker boys were also provided. Ever since its inception, this project has yielded positive results.
The school, to this day, continues to be much sought after due to its emphasis on all-round education. It continues to be ranked as one of the top most institutes in the city, state and the country -besides its branded name as the sporting giant of the city and the state. The large playgrounds, the well-equipped auditorium, the science laboratories, the computer laboratories, the cyber library and now the artificial turf, amply testify to the attention given to games, sports and cultural training besides academic development.
The school's motto "IN VIRTUTE ROBUR" - which is in the Latin language, and translates roughly in English language as 'In virtue lies our strength' - is a call to strive always for what is noble through sacrifice and zest. The Salesians and the educative community at Don Bosco, Matunga, following the Preventive System of Education handed down by our father and founder St. John Bosco, work towards the realization of this motto. The nurturing presence that this system - the hallmark of all Don Bosco institutions - envisions allows the educators to accompany the youngsters with loving concern, kindness and love of God.
Over the years, each Rector and Principal, with the wholehearted co-operation of their team of Salesian confreres and the lay staff has made a substantial contribution to the progress and smooth running of the institution. Thanks to their unflinching dedication, the students have excelled in studies, sports, dramatics and other curricular activities. The Past Pupils' Unit and the Unit of Salesian Cooperators have been active collaborators to take forward our mission and vision for the young entrusted to our care.
It is indeed our proud privilege to celebrate the platinum jubilee of this esteemed institution this year. Rector Major, Rev. Father Ángel Fernández Artime will be attending the Annual Day programme at Don Bosco High School on the 12th November, 2017.
'Don Bosco High School, Matunga is a miracle'. Its seventy-five long years have been etched in gold, nay platinum. The challenge is to make the next seventy-five equally illustrious and noble!