Like a Phoenix from the Ashes, Sankarakhol School Rises to Ignite Fire
On August 25, 2008, all hell broke loose on the Christians of Kandhamal, with religious fundamentalists attacking them for the murder of a Hindu leader, Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, even though Maoist rebels claimed the assassination.
In the rioting by radicalists that went on unabated for months, some 100 people were killed, thousands were injured, 300 churches and 6,000 homes were destroyed, and 50,000 people were displaced, with many forced to hide in nearby forests where many died of hunger and snakebites. The Sankarakhol Mission consisting of the parish church under the Arch diocese of Cuttack- Bhubaneswar and the convent and primary school managed by the Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy were literally reduced to ashes .
The Province immediately suspended all the activities at Sankarakhol to safeguard the lives of our sisters. Later, in 2011, the convent was rennovated, and sisters resumed their apostolic activities. Sankarakhol village, where ordinary people had no access to quality education, was identified by the Provincial team to respond to the call of the Lord reading the signs of the times.
Our sisters, forgave the perpetrators of violence and forgot the wounds inflicted on them. We began welfare activities for the villagers and established a primary educational centre for children in 2011 and named it after our heavenly Patron, St Joseph.
Christian witness through charity and forgiveness is today visible in the village through our convent and the educational institution. Today, Sankarakhol can boast of an “English Medium School” where people coming across all religions, castes and cultures avail high quality education. This is nothing but rising from the ashes both in its real and analogical sense.
Wounds both physical and psychological left by the violence on the victims were healed quickly. Yet suspicion lingered on in the minds of the accusers for years. False accusation of proselytization by missionaries has been used by political masters to keep the society divided for the economic, political and social advantages of a few.
In this scenario, St Joseph’s English Medium school, Sankarakhol, emerged as an institution of reconciliation between communities and re-established peaceful co-existence. As a temple of learning, the school caters to the educational needs and focuses on the academic excellence of students. But the highlight of our presence and the institution in the tribal dominated area is fostering of fraternity, co-operation, community building and collaboration among people of various faiths and cultures.
Today,St Joseph’s English Medium School stands tall in all aspects due to the marked difference brought to the lives of students and families. The extraordinary infrastructure of the school charms parents and students to the campus. The grandiose building of the school is attractive, welcoming and our students along with their parents take pride in being associated with it. Regular classes, school uniforms, cultural/ sports programs, celebrations go beyond education and instill in them dignity, confidence and courage.
The social establishments such as shops, banks, markets, post-office and the people, who boycotted us once, are now eager to be associated with us and are ready to render any service we require. Once we walked on the streets of the village with fear of ridicule and attacks of sarcastic comments and today the same community greets and treats us with love and dignity.
24 th January 2023 was a red letter day for St. Joseph’s School, Sankarakhol as it celebrated the1st Annual Day with all pomp and grandeur. Sr. Leena Jacob, the Provincial and the President of the Education Society of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Annecy, Bhubaneswar presided over the 1st Annual day celebration of the school. Mrs. Janaki Pradhan – Sarapanch of Sankarakhol and Mr. Kirap Pradhan Samidisabhya of Sankarakhol were the Guests of Honour. The air was filled with a spirit of festivity as the campus was decorated with a beautiful colour combination of white and blue. Parents arrived much before time and occupied the seats to watch the enchanting performance of their kids. Priests, nuns and guests from various institutions and communities were present for the function.
The specially invited dignitaries were escorted by selected students to the dais. The formal inaugural ceremony of the Annual day celebration commenced with an invocation dance. Students brought down the divine spirits through their entreating performance. A very affable welcome was extended to the guests and parents. Lamp lighting ceremony enveloped the campus with positivity and divinity. The presentations of the School Annual report showcased the achievements and glories of the school undoubtedly and rememorized the leaps and bounds through which the school reached the current status. The guests of the day were felicitated with bouquet of flowers, uttrias and memento.
The cultural extravaganza began with the theme presentation “Ignite”. The theme for the 1st Annual day celebration of the school was IGNITE. The students rightly said that the very existence of St. Joseph’s English Medium school at Sankarakhol is to illumine the minds of many. This school stands upright here like a flame that is always burning itself and spreading light to others. And the students of this school shine through this temple of learning. Students’ minds are enlightened, passions are explored, souls are ignited, imaginations are bloomed here and the School kindles the fire within everyone. It sets life of the young on fire for the more.
The 1st Annual Day of the school was not just a festival of talents before the guests but it was also a platform to ignite the minds. Each class wisely selected the theme, choreographed it with diligence and artistically presented their message before the great gathering. The dancing babes, concerts of the energetic toddlers and the aromas of this citadel of learning on a chilly winter night became very much a part of history and will remain engraved in memories forever.
St.Joseph English Medium School,