Jan. - Feb. 2002   
  Vol. 2 No.1   
Message from J. N. Godrej
Know Your Founders Oddities, Eccentricities, Etc. Interviews Of Enduring Interest Archival Interest Corporate Commentary Corporate Concerns Back to Main Page Editorial


How do you feel being selected Principal of the Udyachal High School?
For the last 12 years I have been teaching in the Naval Public School meant for the children of the Indian navy. Being Principal of the Udyachal High School is something new and challenging for me. The management, out of several well-experienced applicants who were already Principals of other schools and living in Mumbai, has selected me. I do not know Marathi and Gujarati, but still they have reposed their confidence and faith in me. So it naturally makes me feel very happy.

I am coming from a defence environment, where there is always enforcement___like it or not, do it. I find some kind of contentment over here. People are happy.



Tell us something about your educational background and work experience, please.


I was educated in Kharagpur, West Bengal, in St. Agnes School. I studied my B.Sc. from St. Theresa’s College and B.Ed. from St. Anne’s College of Education for Women, both in Andhra Pradesh. Within a week of my completion of B.Ed., I joined as teacher teaching Maths, Physics and Chemistry for Stds. VIII, IX and X in St. Agnes School. After working there for 1 1/2 years, I joined the Lonavala Kendra Vidyalaya as a temporary teacher in a maternity leave vacancy.

Then I was at home for 10 years busy bringing up my three children. By that time I was in Jamnagar. Then I had a steady career. I was teacher in St. Annes School at Jamnagar, then 2 1/2 years in the Naval Public School, Cochin, and 9 years in the Naval Public School, Vizag. I was Principal in the last 5 years in Vizag.



What was schooling like to you? How do you find your schooling different from the Udyachal School?


My schooling was in a convent. Of course, we feared the nuns, but still we were quite ahead of the times. We were exposed to different facilities, different environment, the Western culture, Western plays such as My Fair Lady, Sound of Music, Shakespeare ...

This is a school deeply rooted in Indian culture. Here, attention is paid on folk dances and folk music, which is very good. But the need of the hour is that Udyachal children should also be exposed to other cultures. Only then they can step out of the School and face challenges.




Ch. Are there any noticeable differences between the Naval Public School, where you were Principal, and the Udyachal Schools?

Not really. Even in the Naval Public School we had children of sailors, officers, jawaans, commodores, who were all sitting in one class and studying together. Like the Udyachal, we have creative teachers even in the Naval Public School.


  Ch. What is your Mission as Principal of Udyachal High School?

My mission as Principal is to prepare good human beings with deep values such as respect for elders and control from within rather than control from outside.

In my first staff meeting, I said two things to my teachers. Firstly, we have children whose futures we can mould. They are the future of our country. For example, in schools of Pakistan and China the country’s philosophy is instilled in children at a very tender age. It becomes a part of their system.

Secondly, we teachers can change a child’s way of thinking. Since we have to instil certain values and good habits in students, they should realise that this is for their own good. This can come only in a school as they spend maximum amount of time over here.


  Ch. How different are your duties now from your previous position as Principal of Naval Public School at Vizag?

Well, there is a marked difference in duties. In my earlier school I spent a lot of time on finances___collecting fees, checking cash books, salaries, etc. Everything was done like an office staff in that school. Annual budgeting under different heads such as stationery, telephone bills, water bills ... was done well in advance so that there was no chance of overspending. All this occupied precious time. In the Udyachal High School academics and other activities are given great importance. So I have to concentrate on them. I don’t have to deal with finances at all.

Apart from that, teachers in the Naval Public School were writing a daily diary. Here, the diary is maintained only once in 6 months!



What are your goals for the first year as Principal? How do you plan to accomplish them?
My first and main goal is to concentrate on discipline. I see so many children climbing the stairs in hordes. Even if they see a visitor or a teacher, they continue walking ahead instead of giving way.

Another goal is to instil in them the right values. I want to stop children from getting money in school. Once money is in their hands, they have the tendency to spend, and spend on wrong things. One day it can be on food, the other day it can be on a wrong book, the third day they may spend on some wrong material. It is that age when children can go astray, especially boys of Stds. IX and X. It all depends upon how well the Principal and teachers are monitoring the students. Therefore, as I said earlier, it is important to change the inside of children rather than enforce rules and supervise them. Let me give you an example. Everybody knows that the Great Wall of China is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, which could be seen from the moon. However, it did not serve the purpose for which it was built i.e. to keep the enemy out. This is because the enemy was already on the inside. If I have to instil certain values in children, I have to start from inside.

My third goal for this year is to encourage all children to speak in English outside the class as in the class, they are good in their lessons and talk in English with their teachers, but as soon as they come out of the class, they talk in Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati.




Do you intend bringing any changes in the day-to-day running of the School or in its curriculum? If yes, what are they?
One major change I would like to see in the Udyachal High School is that it should be more English-oriented. Right now with everybody talking in Hindi and some other languages except English, it gives an impression as if it is a Hindi school. The oath is taken in Hindi, class monitors talk in Hindi, the assembly is in Hindi, the school magazines, the school diaries, report cards, everything is in Hindi. I want to change this culture.

Secondly, I have already told teachers that I would like to see the diaries every month and there will be no more writing of diaries once in 6 months. Gradually I would like to make it once a week and then every day.

Also, children had the habit of hanging on railings of corridors. Now they have to walk with their hands behind their backs. This has made them stop running in corridors or hanging on railings. Assemblies are now conducted every week and mostly in English.

I am shocked to know that children do not have a library period. And some classes have never gone to our library and some old books were brought to children for reading! We have the best of books in our library. Now reading is made compulsory as one period is devoted to the Library with the class teacher. By going to a library, they learn to access information and look through encyclopaedias. Can you imagine, they have never touched an encyclopaedia!

Also, teachers require to take books from our library to the class and use them as teaching aids. This will ensure that they do some research or reference work before they take the class.

Presently, due to space restraints, there are assemblies for Stds. V and VI together, VII and VIII together and IX and X together. So they never get to see each other’s assemblies and interact with each other. My aim is to find some way in which to combine all classes for assembly. Right from Stds. V to X, everybody has to come together and attend the assembly.

Our management has also brought about a change in the School. Previously we had a supervisor helping out in the administration of the School. Now, we will soon be having coordinators who teach and at the same time help in supervising depending upon their subject. In other words, it is called subject faculty.



Any innovations in programmes/first-hand experiences you wish to bring in children’s education? How different will these programmes be from the previous ones?


Not immediately. Whatever they are doing is good, but I believe that the same thing can be done in a better way by being more informative and being more aesthetically conscious. More and more teaching aids should be used by teachers in class. I don’t believe in teaching by the lecture method. For example, in an English lesson dealing with “Modern Homes___Plumbing”, the whole class is involved in building a house, thinking of other facilities used in modern homes, then the need of a plumber ... The children come up with their own ideas. The idea is to first make them understand the concept not by lecturing them but by interacting with them. They should participate in the lesson.

Another example I can give you is that I see a lot of carelessness on our boards where we paste charts, etc. Old charts are not removed. All boards should have a uniform background colour and brown paper on one side. On some boards, the brown paper is torn for quite some time and not replaced with a fresh one. Therefore, I feel that there is scope for improvement..



Is it a dream come true when you think that you would join a School imparting job-oriented education to its students?


Honestly, I had not dreamt of it. But I was simply thrilled when I saw the workshops over here — carpentry, plumbing, metal carving, wood carving ... The best part is that the Company is backing it. There is a lot of material support. It is simply like being in a dream. The fact that the management is imparting such education at school level and that too in such a professional environment with separate rooms and technical staff, etc. is amazing! I had never seen such a thing in the Naval Public School. I am all for such job-oriented training.

Even in my own house it is I who have always changed the fuse. I know exactly the earth connection and other related things. My mother, who was herself a Maths teacher, once mentioned to me that I should have been a son. I said that even as a daughter I can still do it.



Character-building is considered as, if not more, important than acquiring knowledge. What are the qualities you would like to see in Udyachal students when they pass out from School? How will you instil these qualities?


When my students step out of school, I want them to fondly remember the School days as their golden days. They should know that they had the best in the Udyachal School, the best of facilities, love and care from teachers, an enjoyable environment ... I want them to remember the teachers of Udyachal and not feel that the teachers simply came, did their duty and went away.

Loyalty to the alma mater is also very important. Very recently I was with Mr. R. Tiwari, Past Principal of Udyachal High School and we were walking in the Pirojshanagar complex when a Senior General Manager of Godrej offered us a lift. Mr. Tiwari proudly said, “He is my student.”

I want my Udyachal School students to be good public speakers. In fact opportunities are given to students during assemblies. When they talk, walk, write ... they should be so good, that they should stand out as Udyachal students. The Udyachal School in Mumbai stands out because of two reasons: the Godrej name and love for nature.

The High School students are encouraged to come to school even when it is pouring. Even if it rains cats and dogs they are all playing football from 7.30 a.m. to 8.30 a.m. in this lush green environment! By this teachers help remove the aggression and frustration out of children. Then they have their baths in the school itself, and the masters and students are ready by 9.00 a.m.



What are the challenges you face in the present circumstances filled with excessive competition and failures in Std X leading to suicidal deaths in the country?


I come from Andhra Pradesh where, comparatively, competition and peer pressure is much more than in Mumbai. Over there you are either an engineer or a doctor, or you are nothing! In Mumbai there are many opportunities and wider scope for other activities. Now, you look at one of our own students. He just stood at a distance from the High School and started drawing the School. He came up with such perfection in his drawing, almost like a professional’s! I was happy with his work and encouraged him. Now, he comes and tells me that he is interested in architecture! So Udyachal School gives the students exposure to various fields such as architecture, metal carving, welding ...

Besides, in Andhra Pradesh there is a big coaching racket whereas in Udyachal High School, I find just a few students conscious of high percentages, who want to take tuitions.

One major challenge as Principal of Udyachal High School is language. Leave aside the students, I find even teachers talking to me in Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi! Our School has 3 mediums: English, Marathi and Gujarati. But over here Hindi happens to be the second medium. If, for example, a function has to be organised, there is a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. A lot of finer details need to be taken care of in various items. Last year, fortunately, I had Mr. Tiwari to help me with the Independence Day function. But this year, I will need somebody to translate the plays, etc. for me.

Right now I have been assured that teachers as well as children are doing a good job. I myself take two rounds every day in the School. I am happy to see teachers standing whilst teaching and children involved in their activities.

Another challenge in the present circumstances is that the child should be prepared for good and bad things of life. The teachers and myself have to be alert, anticipate things, counsel the children in advance. We must have a compulsory value education period every morning. I want the class teachers to give the students advise, counsel and share the students’ problems. It can be done either openly in the class so that others also benefit or it can be done on a one-to-one basis. A rapport should be built so that the children confide in their teachers. I want children to feel that they are safe and secure. Not that they don’t feel so now. They do feel so even now. The rapport is good. But it could be even better as I strongly feel that teachers are part and parcel of all success.



You have been selected Principal from outside and not within the School. What are the past experiences and new inputs you plan to bring in Udyachal High School?


I agree with you, Rashna, that apart from God’s hand, I am lucky to be here. I have also been told by the management that I am the first person who has been selected Principal from outside the School as since the past so many years teachers have taken this post by promotion. So I did feel a few flutterings in my heart. But when I came here and saw the support given to me by the teachers and the way they have accepted me in the system, I really thanked God that I didn’t have to cross this particular hurdle. Mrs. Veronica Das very kindly agreed to stay back for a month just to help me out. She has guided me well. Also, the management had requested Mr. Tiwari to come back for another week to do a proper handing over.

I feel that there is nothing drastically required for the School. We have all the facilities, furniture, teachers are appointed by vigorous screenings ... I am also very happy with the P.T. classes. I want to myself take active part in Scouts and Guides. There are only minor things which need to be attended to. Most importantly, to make the School come out as an English school rather than a Hindi school. You’ll be surprised to know that our students are winning a lot of inter-school competitions, but all in Hindi!

One thing that has deeply struck me is the vision of the founding fathers. The interest, the care and concern that they have shown for the School is simply tremendous. The next generation is following it up with the same love and care. The amount of finance spent for the children of their employees has touched me most of all. When I think of it, the Naval Public School always depended on tuition fees apart from government grants. Whereas over here, everything is already there and it is simply the best! The Company people help in maintenance, gardening etc. and everybody is so much involved in School activities right from the Godrej family to their employees, the parents, the teachers ... the School is very much a part of their lives. The Godrej family wants to do the best for future generations.

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