The idea of a foundation of the sisters of the Apostolic Carmel was first broached by Fr. Franco of Mylapore in 1929. The purpose of this foundation was twofold, namely to provide Christian education for the girls of Goa, and also to give these girls an opportunity through their contact with sisters, to think of dedicating themselves to God’s service in the Religious life.
Fatima Convent in 1948
The idea caught on, but could not be implemented at this stage, but the sisters did not lose heart and right enough hope and relief came in 1931. The Carmel seed was imported into Goa (Nuvem) in 1931 by Mr. Peregrino da Costa, who invited the Sisters of the Apostolic Carmel to begin a Convent School in Margao. Thus in 1932, a School named as Escola de Nossa Senhora do Rosario de Fatima or Holy Rosary School was born in a jail ! The only place available in Margao was the two large halls above the jail. It had just 18 pupils on the roll. The first members of the staff were Mother Mercedes (the dramatic teacher), Sr. Amata (the needle painting teacher), Sr. Honora (the vivid geography teacher), Sr. Bernice (the intrepid nun), Sr. Modesta (the loving Caterer), Sr. Petromela (the boarding mistress) and Sisters Helena and Barbara. Sr. Helena deserved the Fatima award for being the best teacher.
The remarkable educational work benefited people of all social classes. An ex-student now recalls that even the prisoners were kept happy by the students with their song and dance. It was not an education and instruction of the antiquated type consisting of lace and frills, but a sound and practical education of disciplined body and mind. So the school received its recognition by Bombay University on April 17, 1938.
In 1939, the school moved into the large house at Borda belonging to Mr. Agostinho Colaco. It was here that Sisters Clemence, Helena, Mona Osburga and Maria made the Holy Rosary School the English teaching school. The strong and sturdy Sr. Bernice would walk miles to get rice for the boarders who were still housed in Nuvem. Yes, the World War II did not spare the Sisters. And soon, due to lack of fuel for their old rickety bus (popularly called, Madrincho Fottaro), the Sisters Placida, Octavia, Antonine and Amabel had to move to the house of Pacheco de Figueiredo in Borda, where the Convent was called Sacred Heart Home. Here, among the Portuguese speaking Margao people, Sister Ines found difficulty in teaching English – a new language to some of the students – but showed immense kindness to them. If Sister Bernice was a warm hearted nun, Sister Placida was a strict disciplinarian. She would surprise the boarders during study hours and would not hesitate to throw their ground nuts into the well in their compound, if she had to find them eating instead of studying.
Tr. Hilda Rodrigues, a boarder in the Sacred Heart Home, later a renowned teacher and now a retired Govt. employee recollects with great nostalgia that the good sisters and teachers of the Holy Rosary School were real educators and not just teachers in the narrow sense of the word. How well she remembers Sr. Wilhelmina and Teacher Bertha Monteiro in whom she could see love and compassion oozing from their hearts.
During the fifteen years that they spent in Borda, they had to shift to yet another house on the slope towards the “Monte”. The good Sisters imbibed deep spirituality in their wards. As a result, many a vocation flourished. In fact, the Sisters earned for themselves the name of being real seductresses. In truth, with suave persuasion, they exercised the mysterious art of seduction, the art of capturing vocation, channelising dedication and directing chosen souls to the service of the Lord. Mr. Peregrino da Costa himself, offered to the Apostolic Carmel his eldest and cherished daughter, later known as the efficient and dynamic Sr. Amabel. Hers were the strong hands that guided the destiny of the Holy Rosary School towards the present Fatima Convent High School.
The liberating force acquired, perhaps, in the jail and other houses at Borda, found encouraging support in generous hearts of strong armed persons. So in 1948, Mother Josephine accompanied by Mother Gertrude selected a plot – the present site of Fatima Convent – belonging to Mrs. Margarida Lourenco.
On the 19th of March, 1948 the foundation stone was laid by the Administrator of the District, Capt. Fortunato de Miranda in the presence of Mother Silvia, the Superior General of the Apostolic Carmel. It was blessed by Mons. Francisco da Piedade Rebello, the Chancellor of the Patriarchal Curia.
The senior most students (just six in the matriculation class) were asked to write their names on the foundation stone : Ivy Souza Faria, Effie D’Souza, Teresinha Mesquita, Cremilda Albuquerque, Matilde Silva and Hilda Rodrigues. The local Superior Mother Dorine believed that the secret of success lies in deep and dedicated activity. So the students had to stand on the foundation and pray to St. Joseph with their hands raised high. Their prayers were heard. A loan from the Provedoria de Assistencia Publica and technical help from Rev. Fr. Irineu Lobo S.J., Dr. Luis J. da Cruz and Engineer Eleuterio Barreto were instrumental in putting up the new structure within one year.
The school was now named Fatima Convent High School by Mother Silvia. It has remained under the protection of Mother Mary with a small statue of St. Joseph at its entrance. Over the years that followed, Sisters Celine, Denise, Marita, Marina, Antonine and the neo-convert, the unforgettable Teacher Radha gave the students the most liberating force – FAITH – to make life meaningful.
The old housekeeper, Ritamae, remained as a part of the institution until her death in the late seventies. The liberation of Goa brought in an invasion. The strength of the school rose from 300 students to 800. It had to accommodate the Primary Section and the KG. A large shed was the immediate solution. However, Sr. Amabel, who was again at the helm of affairs as the Principal of the school mobilized resources to build an eastern block by 1965.
In post liberation years, the Apostolic Carmel Sisters felt the need to have a Fatima Training Institute for STC in 1963 so that the untrained teachers could be trained without disturbing their careers or home-life.
The Apostolic Carmel Sisters were ready to take up any challenge and so they tried to impart Primary Education in our mother tongue in the early seventies. Unfortunately, they had to give it up due to strong opposition from many parents which resulted in a decrease in admission. However nearly two decades later, that project had to be a reality once the local government gave directions to impart primary education in Konkani as a pre-requisite for grants to Primary Section. Thus, till date, the medium of instruction in the Primary classes is Konkani.
The seventies brought to a close the boarding house for the students as the cost of life went on escalating and the number of Sisters was dwindling.
In 1974 – 75, the change in syllabus forced every school in Goa to have S.S.C. in Std. XI as well as Std. X. The school had two divisions of each class. Sr. Clarinda was a great disciplinarian and had a keen interest in academics. With an unparalleled batch of dedicated teachers, she was able to get outstanding results in the S.S.C. Exams.
In 1982, the school celebrated its Golden Jubilee with the launching of a project : an Auditorium for the School. The foundation stone was laid but the execution did not go ahead due to lack of funds, in spite of the annual fete that was held every year. But the support and cooperation of the parents increased after the P.T.A. was founded in 1989. Thanks to the dynamic Sr. Marcilia, an able and energetic administrator, the school was able to have a gymnasium and a school hall, which is being extensively used for the last decade.
As the new Millennium dawned, the school had the good fortune of having eight of its teachers felicitated by the Archdiocese of Goa as they served for more than 30 years in the same school. Another teacher was awarded by the Chief Minister of Goa as the Best Secondary School Teacher in the year 2004.
Fatima Convent is proud of its students who are spread in every corner of the world, working in various fields from Fashion Designing to Scientific Research. Above all, they are living their faith, reminiscing those years spent in their beloved ALMA MATER, truly their second home.
Fatima Convent held a high standard of education. Girls from far-away spots like Neura, Divar or those whose parents were in Africa and the Middle East stayed in the boarding and attended school. Ghost stories thrilled the imagination of the girls to such an extent that the cops from the Police Station rushed to the Convent one night, on hearing the high pitched screams of the boarders. But the academic side marched on valiantly. The sisters of Apostolic Carmel introduced the first nucleus of girls affiliated to that impressive organization of yester-years – the Girl Guides.
Since Goa was under the Portuguese rule, appearing for S.S.C. Public Exam was quite an ordeal and an adventure too. Exam centres were in Bombay, Belgaum and Dharwad. Identity cards had to be issued at the Margao Police Station. Armed with these cards, the students had to travel to the border Polem, cross no man’s land on foot, arrive at Majali and then leave in the evening for Kharwar. Buses to Belgaum and other destinations would leave only on the following morning and so the students had to spend the night at the bus depot or under the stars ! It took two days to go from Goa to Belgaum ! Such was the tension in Goa in 1954, when the overseas pockets of Dadra & Nagar Haveli were liberated from the Portuguese rule. As a result, in mid fifties, Hindi was a compulsory second language for S.S.C. This led to poor results in the S.S.C. Examination, but definitely increased the resilience of the students.
The sixties were the most challenging years of Fatima Convent. December 1961 brought news of a scorch fire policy for Goa. “Evacuate Margao” was a secret byword. On the 18th of December, while the Sisters and the boarders were at Mass, the Airport as well as “The All India Radio” station were bombed, heralding the Liberation Day. The Sisters made sure that the boarders left in small groups to their homes in villages, in any vehicle available. On the 19th December, Fatima Convent High School welcomed the Indian Army at Margao Praca, some members of the Staff being present at the first Flag Hoisting.
Even though the school did not undertake any special project, the Sisters took a lot of interest in social activities, especially to render service to the poor and needy. Sr. Consolata was well known in teaching the illiterate with the help of Sister Rosalia. She also involved herself in counseling married people or arranging suitable partners. Thus Fatima Convent was a part and parcel of the Margao society. Eminent people such as Engineer Antonio Colaco and Advocate Floriano Barreto were so involved in the building of the Eastern block after the liberation of Goa that it was a living experience of layman’s role in Christian Institutions.
In 1970, Fatima Convent joined in the Centenary Celebrations of the Apostolic Carmel in India. The first Chief Minister of Goa, Mr. D. B. Bandodkar appreciated the performance of the students in the impressive Parents Day, under the direction of the Headmistress, Sr. Casilda.
As the years rolled by, the number of divisions in each class went on increasing. The all-round development of the students attracted more and more admissions. So, the Sisters had to stop admitting boys in KG, so that more girls could avail of the education meant for them. Undoubtedly, the school had to face some stray cases of indiscipline, which were tackled with a great amount of love and diplomacy by every Principal.
The Fatimites have shown excellent academic records right from the earliest, as attested by the Rector of the Seminary of Rachol. In a letter to the Mother Superior dated 8th December, 1933 he writes “I have visited nearly all the schools in Goa, but nowhere I found the care of English accent and pronunciation and I may safely say that your institution is the only one here in Goa that distinguishes from all others and is in no way inferior to those in British India”.
A letter in Portuguese from the wife of the last Portuguese Governor of Goa, Mrs. Fernanda Vassalo e Silva dated 25.10.1961 is a proof that the Portuguese too lavished praises on the education imparted by Fatima Convent.
In the early sixties when the American scientists were engrossed in the preparations to send men to the moon, Fatima Convent strained every nerve to launch a number of projects : “Neighbours of India” , “Goa – the Pearl of the Orient” ,
A visit to Antarctica”, “The land of the Rising Sun”. Each of these projects was inaugurated by children’s parents who appreciated their work and encouraged them to develop and bring to fruition all their innate gifts.
Later, on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s centenary, the school joined in the celebrations organized by Adarsha Vidyalaya High School, thus giving a concrete example of brotherhood.
The Sisters of the Apostolic Carmel take immense pride in the loyalty of their staff. The teachers take a lot of trouble in getting the students to participate in the competitions held in the state of Goa. They ensure the participation of each and every student in the class assemblies. The teachers have always maintained a good rapport with the administration. In the pre-liberation years, Teacher Radha was a clerk, accountant and a Maths teacher all rolled into one, a true asset to the school. She handled all the correspondence in an extremely systematic manner in the absence of typewriters, later assisted by the efficient clerk Flory, whose unmatched handwriting could easily be taken for printing.
Students too were fanatically loyal to the school. As the Eastern block was being constructed in the early sixties, Julia Figueiredo did not hesitate to stand at the Cortalim ferry-wharf to collect funds for the school by selling raffle tickets using her charming and convincing ways. The love of ex-Fatimites is manifested by their frequent visits to their school and the scholarships that they instituted. Many of the ex-students have joined the staff, thus bringing a healthy cohesion among its members.
Fatima Convent remains vibrant, alert to the needs of the society. Its quest for perfection is portrayed in the concerts organized for Parents Day. The parents leave with some real and practical message depicted either through meaningful plays or perfection-centered items. The PTA also has been concerned and actively involved about the traffic safety, garbage bins, hotels and kiosks around the school. Thus Fatima Convent High School draws its support from all levels of the society as it carries on its duty of imparting sound and perfection-oriented education to the girls of Goa.
Vision for the future
Fatima Convent High School continues to be a vibrant force, not only in the city of Margao, but in the State of Goa as well, for we see parents’ queuing up for admission from far and wide and from all walks of life.
Though we have achieved quite a good standard of Education, we realize that we still have a long way to go in conscientizing our staff and students in the spirit of our foundress Mother Veronica. Her quest for the truth and zeal to live up to her calling to the Catholic faith and later as a religious, are values that have yet to be instilled in our students.
There is yet much to be achieved in improving the quality of our Education. We need to work upon areas such as …
- a paradigm shift from “Syllabus Completion” to “student formation”.
- Counteracting with courage, values of the world with Gospel values as of honesty, authenticity, integrity and discipline through the activities in our school.
- An attitudinal change towards self-sacrifice from self-fulfilment.
- To develop an empathy for the marginalized, the down-trodden, the poor and the neglected areas of society, by getting them to associate with such people, with the help of NGO’s.
- We need to seek, find, develop, cultivate and propagate an “A.C. Culture”, and
thus create “AN A.C. ENVIRONMENT”, through which the spirit of Mother
Veronica seeps in, especially her spirit of Obedience, Charity and Humility.
A daunting task as we live in a milieu of hedonism, consumerism, materialism, and are also plagued by a culture of death that propagates and glorifies individualistic trends of selfishness, pride and glamour. However, we fight against hope and do not lose heart, to lead our staff and students to encounter God in the stillness of their hearts and like our foundress Mother Veronica, to be obedient to that still inner voice. To sum up our vision in a nutshell would be…
Persons Rooted in God
Of Our Selves and Society ! ! !
For all that we have achieved so far we give Glory to God.