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     Volume 8 Issue 64 | April 3, 2009 |

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The 'Poor' Saints

Shahnoor Wahid

No, it's not a sequel to the delightful and extremely popular TV series of the seventies 'The Saint' starring Roger Moore, although one may propose that he be given Sainthood considering the number of followers he has all over the world. This is about real Christian Saints trapped in signboards of so-called English Medium Schools in Bangladesh.

An interesting letter on the Letter to the Editor page of The Daily Star on March 22 caught my attention. It was a tiny letter but it was full of sadness, pain and dejection that did not go unnoticed. In only 51 words the letter writer spoke volumes about the appalling kindergarten education banijya (business) that is going on in this country by exploiting the names of some revered Saints of the Christian faith. I am reproducing the entire letter here in case you have not read it. The writer Fabian Corraya from Luxmibazar, Dhaka wrote: “Many private schools are using the names of the Saints for business purpose. These schools are led by lay people, not missionaries. A guardian told me that the education is not good in those schools. Is it fair to use the names of Saints while failing to deliver standard education?”

Now, what do you make of this letter? Would you say 'bakwaj'? Or perhaps 'faltu'? I don't know. I won't say so. On the contrary, I feel anger swelling inside my heart when I see that the owners of such nondescript schools in the dead-end alleyways are themselves not highly educated or proficient in English. And my anger multiplies when I realise that the owners of such schools are doing so only to do good business. They have found out that the 'tag' helps in conning the guardians into bringing their wards to the schools on the faith that they would get first class education in English like the missionary schools of yesteryears. Far from it. In most of these schools, English is taught by teachers who do not have a profound knowledge on the subject and have terrible sense of grammar, pronunciation and inflection. Students submit poorly constructed sentences but the teachers do not correct them, as many are not sure themselves. Students pass out of school without ever acquiring the speaking skills expected from an English Medium School. So the poor Saints in whose name the schools are run possibly groan in extreme anxiety and turn in their grave!

The funny side of the story is most of those revered Saints whose names we see in the signboards of English medium kindergarten schools didn't know a word of English themselves! They either spoke Aramaic or Amharic or Latin or Spanish! A few of the latter day Saints only spoke English but they are not in high demand.

I wonder what future kindergarten owners would do when they will run out of names of Saints of the Christian faith. After all Saints are not produced by the dozens! Will they look elsewhere, like the stock of the Buddhist or Tao faith, or even Mayan or Incan faith? Good Lord! For, business they might even do that! Lord Buddha was a kind person. I am sure he would not say NO to anyone proposing to use his name to start an English medium kindergarten school! He might even bless them! Om Shanti.

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