It was great to see Father Dominic again and he kindly took us to Loyola HR Secondary School. It took about 2 hours from Chennai with a stop on the way for a drink of coconut milk which was very refreshing.
When we got to the school we were greeted by lots of students smiling and waving. They all looked very happy and a lot of them were studying outside under the trees to keep cool.
The School has over 1,000 students from 11 - 18 years old and is run by the Headmaster and seven Jesuits who all live at the school. There are also a number of teachers and a student from Germany. Every year they have a student and this year the successful applicant was Simara who will be at the school until June. So far she has enjoyed the weather as it has been like summer in Germany. However it is now getting warmer by the day and apparently it continues to warm up until June when it reaches the hottest time of the year.
Father Dominic was very pleased to show us round the grounds as he taught at the school for 2 years between 2005 and 2007. He was particularly pleased to show us the palm trees he planted which have now grown and formed a lovely display along the drive leading up to the school. He also worked on a project to install outside lighting which is very important as it gets dark by 6.00 p.m. even in the summer.
During the tour of the school Brumas noticed that most of the trees were labelled and the students were able to tell us about each tree. We thought that was a very good idea and we will be sharing this with Mrs Leeson and Mrs Guest.
The students were keen to tell us about the Neem Tree which is common in the area of Tamil Nadal. If there is illness in the family the leaves from the Neem Tree are often put outside the house because it is thought that the leaves will help people to get better. The students also explained how important the Peepul Tree is. It is often planted outside Temples and everyone shows great respect for this tree.
Trees are very important because they provide shade around the school campus and some of them also provide fruit for everyone to eat. The staff are very proud of the fruit garden and guess what children? They had Mango Trees which as you know is Mrs MacLauchlan's favourite fruit! We also saw bananas and plantain growing which is like a savoury banana. The other interesting fruit was a Sapodilla Fruit which is also known as a Mud Apple. It is very sweet and is a bit like eating toffee!The students were keen to tell us that over time they have planter 4,000 saplings around a local lake to try and improve the environment for local families and the teachers encourage the students tot talk to their families about nature and caring for the environment. They also have a system of composting like we do at Westfield Infant School so all the fruit and vegetable skins and peel is collected by the students and put in a big bin that turns into compost for the garden area.
As well as seeing the classrooms we also saw the Hostels where some of the students sleep. There is a Hostel for the boys and there are currently over 100 boys who live there. On the other side of the campus is a hostel for the girls. This is where Simara is staying. She showed us some photographs from 10 years ago and there were up to 200 girls living at the hostel. There are currently only 37 girls so they have got plenty of room!
All the students have jobs to do everyday. They have to do their own washing, cleaning and they also work long hours studying. Those students who live in the hostels were still studying at 7.00 p.m .
Father Dominic explained that the students learn English from when they are at Primary School but they do a lot of writing and reading and he finds that they do not always understand or speak English very well. Father Dominic asked Mrs MacLauchlan to test out the students understanding of English. Can you imagine what a difficult start it was when they had to say 'Hello Mrs MacLauchlan'
We then met a representative group of students including K Santhosh who was very pleased to receive a parcel from Margaret his sponsor in Hinckley. The students were interested in the book all about Westfield Infant School and with the help of Father Vincent we managed to understand each other!
Mrs Leeson had asked us to find out what makes the students happy and here are some of their answers;
'Trees and Plants make me happy'
'Learning English makes me happy'
'Happy to be with my friends'
'Happy in the garden'
'Happy to learn at school'
'Happy when I make my friend happy'
'Happy when I have a lot of friends'
They were very polite students and they told Father Vincent that they were happy to see visitors which was very nice to hear!
For a small number of the students who live in the hostel it is their home because they are orphans. That means they do not have a family that they can go and stay with during the school holiday. Brumas was very pleased to know that those students are looked after very well . Simara explained that she had stayed at the school over Christmas and they all had a lot of fun together.