185 year old CBM (Canadian Baptist Mission) high school, Visakhapatnam - to be saved for posterity!

186 year old CBM school Visakhapatna, yovizag.com

Across India there are many  old schools much older than 150 years and they are  facing slow death because of careless attitude of the respective state government. For example  the Canadian Baptist Mission (CBM) High School, Visakhapatnam  which in 1836 itself was  a symbol of  western education and the first English vernacular school between Chennai and Kolkata is crumbling  

Mr. According to Edward Paul, a heritage conservationist, “Rev. Edward Porter and other representatives of the London Missionary Society came to India in 1805 itself and opened many local vernacular schools but it was William Bentick’s British’s English Education Act in 1835, which gave a boom to English education in India, paving way for establishment of the CBM School.”

The old structure in a  pale shadow may look faded and out of sync with modernity  but that still running after  almost two centuries is  a matter of surprise.   Spread over two sprawling complexes in Velampeta area of one-town, CBM School  founded in 1836 was  an educational institution of great repute  until a few decades ago. The rich and famous in the state of Andhra made a beeline to this school for their kids' admission. Believe it or not the school had produced a galaxy of alumni  who got a name in their respective fields. Some were ex chief justice of Madras, Vice Chancellor, ex mayor of Vizag etc.  The most famous among them  was Padmasri (late) Dr Hilda Lazarus, personal doctor to PM late Indira Gandhi. she was also, it is said,  personal gynecologists' for Queen Elizabeth at the peak of her career. Dr Lazarus who was proud of being a product of this school also acted as its Correspondent. 

The school building came up in 1836 (construction began in 1834) in Vizag  under the guidance of London Missionary’s Rev. A Porter, -  the first Anglo-Vernacular school in the entire Madras Presidency. In the 1840s  CBM School's reputation was moving up under the dynamic administration of   Rev. John Hay of London Mission. In memory of his selfless services a scholarship was instituted in his   name and the award continues even today. 

In 1911 Canadian Baptist Missionaries took over the management from London Mission. Though the institution went through hard time, the enrolment once peaked to 2500 students with more than 40 teaching staff. In the last couple of decades the school has experienced poor response from the public  for various reasons. Besides, the old buildings need to be repaired and restored to old glory. 

 CBM School complex has  structures of grandeur an beauty creating a unique ambiance for the prospective students. The better preserved west side  houses famous Fox memorial Building,  a two-story building  made of  stone masonry, round arches and fine staircases. The one on the east side has a large U-shaped building with an open courtyard in the center  with class rooms on the flanks facing  the central courtyard. The part  linking  the two flanks – abutting the main road – is a two-story structure  with upper floor covered by tiled roof supported by  teak wood  trusses consisting of rafters, posts and struts.  

Inadequate periodic repairs, vagaries of weather and monsoon rains had a run on the old structure.  A few years ago powerful cyclone Hudhud (October 2014; estimated damages in coastal Andhra: about $3.58 billion) caused much of the damages and the apathy on the parts of the authority to get the damages fixed was a matter of deep concern for heritage lovers.