Nepali Times
St Xavier's at 50


St. Xavier\'s School in Kathmandu, started by American Jesuits with the motto "Live for God, Lead for Nepal", celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. But half a century and nearly 3.000 graduates later, it is becoming apparent that Xaverians have not shown a great enthusiasm for leading Nepal, nor are they as a group particularly religious.

Except for one Xavierian who fought and lost a seat in the 1991 parliamentary elections, there is virtually no one from St Xavier\'s who has entered the rambunctious world of Nepali politics.

Fr Lawrence Maniyar, the current principal of St. Xavier\'s Jawalakhel says: "The school\'s system of education emphasises on its students to be men of character who live for others. And there is no place in politics for such men."

Fair enough. But if the school\'s graduates are indeed so upright, then the Nepali politics and judiciary could certainly use more of them.

Achyut Gautam is one of the very few Xavier\'s graduates who has dipped his toes into the waters of Nepali politics as a leftist student leader during the Panchayat years.

He says: "St. Xavier\'s was a perfect rose garden. We only saw the real world when we came out of school. And that perhaps was one of the reasons why we couldn\'t do well in politics."

One Xavierian who became a powerful behind-the-scenes figure during the Panchayat is King Birendra\'s principal private secretary, Chiran Thapa. He says St Xavier\'s graduates were groomed to be professionals: doctors, engineers, journalists.

"And for 30 years, we had a different kind of politics. I have no doubt that with democracy, we will see Xaverians entering the fray."

Fr Casper J. Miller former principal of St Xavier\'s Godavari, thinks "The first part of the school motto, live for God\', means follow your conscience. This is precisely what Nepal needs: political leaders who follow their conscience."

But if the school hasn\'t turned out politicos,a list of illustrious alumni reads like a who\'s who of modern Nepal in other fields:

Dr Ashok Banskota, Nepal\'s foremost bone specialist, Prabhakar S.J.B. Rana, Managing Director of the Soaltee Group, Umeshwor Joshi, research analyst in particle physics at Fermi Labs in Chicago, Prajwal S.J.B. Rana, the Chief of Army Staff, Bharat Dutta Koirala, founder of the Nepal Press Institute, Shyam Bahadur KC, the editor of The Kathmandu Post, the list can go on.

St. Xavier\'s today has changed so much that the founding Fathers would barely recognise it: the boarding school at Godavari has been turned into a school for local children, the day school in Jawalakhel has (good heavens!) gone co-educational. There are branches in Jhapa, and the staff is now made up mostly of Nepali teachers and Indian Jesuits.

During the early 1950\'s the Nepali elite was packing boys off to St. Xavier\'s in Patna in search of better education. All that travelling became unnecessary after King Tribhuvan requested the Patna Jesuit Society to open a school in Nepal.
They agreed and Fr Marshall D Moran acquired a sprawling summer palace of Juddha Shamsher at Godavari to set up the school. The Nepali boys in Patna were moved to Godavari and on 1 July 1950 the school began in earnest.

Today, St Xavier\'s is a school that most parents want to send their children to. The fees here are a fraction of Fr Casper Miller and (left) the first girls to enrol in St Xaviers at play in front of the school other private English schools in Kathmandu, and the school has a student body of 960 with 38 new girls enrolled in Grade One.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)