50 GOLDEN YEARS OF
CHRIST KING HR. SEC. SCHOOL, KOHIMA
‘Ketheelics’ have been moving about Kohima village for some years since 1952, singing ‘Ave, Ave’ and they were a sort of nomadic group with no permanent site for worship and holding their fellowship from house to house. The piano-accordion of Fr. Joseph Felix sdb, was a great attraction as he played with gusto with a crowd of boys and girls following him like the Pied Piper, and singing to the tune that he played. Other admirers simply followed the crowd, attracted by the music. In 1964, after the Mission Sunday evening service, this motley crowd, moved from T. Khel to P Khel of Kohima, singing all the way and assembled in the house of Mr. Dominic Mezhuvilie. Seeing the bystanders, and inspired like St. Peter of the Acts of the Apostles, he gave a short speech, saying, ‘that he would build an excellent school for the Nagas like that of Shillong, if anybody would voluntarily give their land. And there would be no further need of sending their children to Shillong at so much expense’. (The Angami Catholic Church, Rocus, 2013). Believe it or not, the next day, a gentleman turned up offering his land for this ‘excellent school’ in Tholeibozou area of P. Khel. The area was full of jungle with no houses and very few villagers dared to go there as it had a bad reputation of being haunted. The man of this generosity to the Catholics was none other than late Mr. Vikuosa Rame, the political Assistant to the then Deputy Commissioner of Kohima. This is the present site of the Christ King Convent of the Bethany Sisters.
A few years passed after this offer of land and nothing took off the ground. The man who promised the ‘excellent school’ was transferred in 1966 and Fr. Paul Bernick was too busy visiting villages and giving baptisms, and he had no time to think about school and education of the children. Finally in 1967, the fathers moved their residence from L. Khel to the present site and occupied the house of the P. Khel Government primary school building. The adjoining land of the Usoumia Clan was given for expansion and the residence of the fathers and the church were built on it. Soon they started clearing the jungle and started putting up the first building which would serve as the Bethany convent and the Christ King School.
In August 1968 Fr. Ittyachen Manjil sdb, an experienced educationalist from Madras Province volunteered to work in the missions of North East, (as foreign missionaries were being sent out from Assam and there was shortage of persons) and he was assigned to Christ King Kohima. He had the help and assistance of Fr. Resto, sdb, another gifted Khasi priest, good in music and sports. The immediate thought of these two was to start a school.
As agreed with Fr. Bernick during the visit of Mother Macrina, BS, to Kohima in October 1968, to send sisters to help in the mission and educational work, the Bethany Sisters arrived in January 1969 led by their Superior Sr. Loyola, BS, and three others of whom Sr. Connely, BS, is still alive, to recall her pioneering days and the hardships they had to endure in a foreign land. Everything was different from their native place of Mangalore, steep hills which they were unable to climb, freezing cold, mist and rain making the limbs numb, not enough warm clothes to wrap themselves up and the fireplace was the only consolation. Water was a scarce commodity and it had to be carried in buckets from a distance down the hill, an exercise which they had to do from very early morning before the sun rose. And the people! Completely different from what they had seen in their lives, with a different language and manners and customs and smile was the only means of communication. The sisters occupied one class room as their convent.
It took them a month or so to settle down, and the fathers looked after their welfare, sharing with them whatever they had, especially food which was a scarcity, consisting mostly of tinned stuff. They recall fondly the care and attention of Fr. Resto. After a month of their arrival Fr. Ittyachen and Fr. Resto started CHIRST KING SCHOOL in February 1969 in one of the rooms where the Bethany sisters were staying and they started teaching and taking care of the children who had been admitted. Recalling her pioneer days, Sr. Connely, BS, wrote on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of Christ King school, in 1994, ‘Christ King School has responded with great sensibility to the felt need of the Kohima Bara Basthi and the surrounding villages since 1969’. (Silver Jubilee Souvenir, p.19). She continues, ‘It has been a school where good moral values are emphasized to follow the path of love, honesty and truthfulness and many other Christian values from the very beginning. The tiny mustard seed sown on the hills of Kohima in 1969 has grown into a huge tree and under its shelter today hundreds of students, who are the future hope of Nagaland and able citizens of the nation’ (idem, p. 19).
The school has marched ahead to the laurels of the Golden Jubilee in 2019, overcoming the initial difficulties and problems, lack of accommodation, lack of qualified teachers, shifting from one place to another, till finally it has settled down in the present building, even though it is not the best that a school could have. But in spite of the lack of all these setbacks, ‘it is our joy and pride to hear that our past students have made use of the education, medical and social service rendered by the Bethany sisters, (and the fathers) have contributed much not only to the welfare of their own people but also throughout the nation as well’ (Ibidem, 19).
Christ King School was initially up to class IV, and students were automatically absorbed by Don Bosco School, Kohima, which was started in 1971 by Fr. Ittyachen, SDB, and it was from class V onwards, and Christ King school was a feeder school for Don Bosco School. Initially the Principal of Don Bosco School stayed at Christ King parish and went up and down every day. This arrangement continued till 1984, when Don Bosco School started admitting students to Nursery classes and there was no automatic admission there and the one in charge of Don Bosco School started staying there and formed separate institution. Recalling those days Fr. PK Mathew SDB, writes, ‘Upto that time Don Bosco School and Christ King School were complementary, in the sense that the students who finished Class IV in Christ King School were absorbed by Don Bosco School. The priests in charge of both institutions, (Fr. MM Michael and Fr. Kuriakose) were staying together at Christ King parish premises and both schools were under the same management.
Later on the need was felt for establishing two separate High Schools, and the two schools became independent. Don Bosco High school began to take students from Nursery onwards and Christ King School too eventually was upgraded into a full fledged High school. At this the Salesian Provincial, Fr. Mathew Pulingatil, sdb, and Bishop Abraham were very happy because the two institutions could serve more people of Kohima and the neighboring villages. The local people were very enthusiastic about the new arrangement and they went out of their way to help in settling the existing land disputes faced by the Christ King School’ (Idem, p. 20).
Mr. Rocus Chasie commenting on the two schools says, ‘Although the people of Kohima village gave land to the Salesians only to build one Salesian school like those of Shillong, they established two schools in Kohima village itself namely Christ King Higher Secondary school (art stream) and Don Bosco Higher Secondary school (Science stream)’ (The Angami Catholic Church, p. 46).
From the very beginning onwards there was no particular priest appointed as the Headmaster or the Principal of the school, but it was taken for granted that the Parish Priest was in charge of Christ King School as well. Fr. PK Mathew recalls, ‘Now an urgent need was felt for a full time Principal to manage Christ King School which was being upgraded. Fr. Tom Karthik, sdb, was busy managing the parish which spread out to the western and northern Angami area. Besides he had to look after the village schools. So Fr. Tom Karthik asked me to look after Christ King School. Thus I entered the history of Christ King School a second time in 1985 and continued my ministry there till 1994’ (Silver Jubilee Souvenir, 1994, p. 20).
Under the supervision of Fr. PK Mathew the school began to grow with more admissions and the school atmosphere took on the Salesian spirit, making the school a home for the children, with joy and laughter and love, while knowledge was imparted. There was order and discipline without coercion and compulsion. Co-curricular activities were promoted, like picnics, games, sports, tournaments, and other activities. There were competitions at different levels so that all the students could participate. In games and sports the students excelled. They managed to capture the Don Bosco Basketball tournament trophy permanently after three years of successive victory. Even at the diocesan sports and games the students excelled. Twice the whole school participated in public performances like ‘Mass Drill’ and won the best school award from the State for Bharatyam Programme. Once the school took part in the National Games at Imphal. In the meantime more and more facilities were built up for the school, a concrete basketball court, walls around the campus etc.
The first batch of students appeared for Matriculation exams in 1992 and ‘they surprised the public as well as the educational authorities by securing 100% pass with many of our students passing in the first and second division! In 1993, too, our students repeated the performance, with one of the students getting a distinction in one of the subjects’. In 1994 also the school gets 100% pass, 9 first divisions, 15 second divisions and 8 third divisions, and Ms. Meena Kumari got letter mark in Mathematics. In 1995 also 100% pass in matric.
Fr. PX Andrew took over as the new Parish Priest and Principal on 6 Feb 1994 from Fr. PK Mathew and on 12 Feb 1994 Fr. PK Mathew was given farewell in the parish and 15 Feb 1994 from Christ King school and he was profusely praised for the good work that he had done in the past 11 ½ years in Christ King and a new chapter begins with Fr. Andrew.
The first big event that Fr. Andrew had to organize was the Silver Jubilee of the school. In view of the Silver Jubilee of the school on 25 October 1994 a basketball tournament was conducted at Baptist English School where 12 teams participated. Dolphin club was the winner and got the first prize of Rs. 3000/-
Silver Jubilee of Christ King School was held on 29 Oct 1994. Fr. Ittyachen SDB, the founder of the school was present along with Fr. Bernick, Fr. MM Michael, Fr. PK Mathew, and most of the fathers who had worked in Christ King, Kohima, in one capacity or other. About 3500 people were present for the occasion and all the VIPs were given a shawl each. Bp. Abraham was there. The Governor of Nagaland, His Excellency O. N. Shrivastava was the Chief Guest and he presented a computer to the school.
The school has been maintaining a high standard of education in all these years as the high percentage of pass (even though it is not 100% every year) and the rank holders testify with their marks. In 1998, Mr. Kevijalie Belho got the 9th rank in HSLC exams. In 2012, Mr. Dzuva Domeh got the 5th rank in the state and in 2013 Ms. Vilabeinuo Kire got the 44th rank out of 50 ranks declared by the NBSE, (Nagaland Board of Secondary Education) and there were two ranks in 2014, Ms. Kesobeinuo got the 25th rank and Mr. Sholu Movi got the 28th rank. This reveals the high quality of teaching of the teachers and the efforts that they have put in.
All the successive Headmasters and Principals have contributed to the development and excellence of the school. Fr. C J Sebastian (2002 – 2004), Fr. Elow Samuel (2004 – 2006), Fr. C J Mathew (2006 – 2009), Late Fr. Salew Thomas (2009 – 2010), Fr. Joshua Gangmei (2010 – 2013), Fr. Kapani Deli David (2013 – 2016) and finally the present Principal Fr. Lonuo Linus (2016 – 2020) who has the honour of organizing the Golden Jubilee of the school. It is because of their guidance and supervision that the school has been able to maintain a steady progress through these fifty years of the school. We also have to acknowledge the hard work of the teachers, in guiding the students in curricular and co-curricular activities. In 1996 Ms. Zeneikienuo Zita has been awarded ‘National Award for Teachers’ by the Government of India, ‘in recognition of her valuable services to the community as a teacher of outstanding merit’. In 2017, Mr. Koijam Jitendra Singh was awarded ‘the State Award for Teachers’ for his keen interest in the subjects that he is teaching and in the past four years, four his students have stood in the Toppers’ list of HSLC examination in Nagaland state. On 5 September 2018, Mr. Lohe David, an Assistant teacher of the school was given the ‘District Award’ by the Department of School Education, Nagaland, for his ‘outstanding service and valuable contribution to the community as a teacher’. On the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of Christ King Higher Secondary school, we cannot forget the people of P. Khel, Kohima village, who made it possible to establish the school in 1969 and for its development and expansion in the following years, by giving or donating or selling and exchanging their land for the various institutions that have come up in the campus, the school, the church, the hostel, the convent and the priests’ residence. Starting with late Mr. Vikuosa Rame, Mr. Kraliethie Rutsa, Mrs. Zasilieü Belho, Mrs. Sonuo Rame, Mr. Puzielie Pienyü, Mr. Vimedo Rutsa, Mr. Salhouzhü Rutsa, Mr. Hievizolie Pienyü, Mr. Zakievi Rutsa, Mr. Krucha Rame, Mr. Mezatuo Pienyü, Mr. Kruzhü Keyho and Mr. Duokuo Sote. It is because of their generosity and foresight, today Kohima village can boast of one of the best schools in their area.
Today the past pupils of Christ King Higher Secondary school are highly placed in society and are well appreciated for their integrity and probity of life. There are highly placed bureaucrats, doctors, business men, contractors and social workers and fathers and mothers of families, who want their children to study in the school that they studied. They bring honour and glory to their alma mater, recalling with nostalgic feelings and sentiments of the early days that they passed in the school and remember with love the fathers, sisters and teachers who were instrumental to their rise in society. Very often it is said that the right foundation that matters and Christ King Higher secondary school lays a good foundation for their students by ‘imparting sound education by cultivating in the pupils habits of piety, virtue, self-reliance and discipline, while they go through their studies. Hence particular attention is given to discipline and character formation by means of religious and moral instruction’.
As the school turns the golden pages, it looks back year after year till it reaches 1969, wondering how half a century has passed, people are still remembering, especially the first students, the humble beginnings and the benches on which they sat eagerly waiting to learn the alphabets and the numbers. Almost two generations have passed and we are crossing the Golden Arch to step into the future with diamond jubilee and centenaries to come, to write more glorious pages about the achievements of Christ King Higher Secondary school, Kohima.
– Fr. Thomas Vattoth, SDB