Perched at an altitude of 6,800 feet above mean sea level and spread over an area of 36 acres of forest land, pasture land, vegetable gardens and orchards, is an institution whose fortunes have swung in close synchronisation with the fortunes of the country during the last 150 years. The story of All Saints College is one of how a molehill went on to become a mountain; battling against the vagaries of time but always standing firm on its foundation.
If an individual’s life history were to be written as is the history of All Saints College it would, perhaps, run thus; from “rags to riches, from destitution to affluence”. Such has been the fluctuations in the fate of this institution which has survived primarily due to the dedication and determination of its staff at all levels and through all times.
In 1869, a project was formed by some public spirited residents of Nainital, Dr. Condon, Mr. H. S. Raid and a few others for founding a school for the Anglo-Indian, European and other children of the town. Thus, a small co-educational school was started with the approval of Bishop Milman of Calcutta with an English woman, Miss Bradbury, as its first Principal, and with just two students. In 1871, with an increasing number of students, the school underwent a division with the boys’ section being called as the ‘Diocesan Boys’ School’ which went on later to be named Sherwood College. The girls’ section, called the ‘Diocesan Girls’ High School’, was set up at ‘Stoneleigh’ where Ramsay Hospital stands, today. The School was shifted to the Ayarpata Hill, its present location, in 1892.
The same year, the All Saints’ Sisters, an Anglican religious Order, took charge of the school; after which it was known as All Saints’ School. The Diocese of Lucknow bought the estate in 1915 and the School came under the management of the Holy Family Sisters. On the departure of the Holy Family Sisters, in 1945, the present Junior School Building, which was originally the training college for teachers, was shouldered by the All Saints’ College Society, of which the Bishop of Agra Diocese (The Church of North India) is the Chairman. Succinctly, as of today, All Saints College, Nainital, is an English medium residential-cum-day girls’ college imparting quality education to the girls who belong not only to Nainital but to those who come from all corners of the country.
It was in 1914 that the pupils of the College started appearing for the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate. Till 1946, the school flourished gradually but the independence of India in 1947 created an unforeseen problem for the College when its staff members as well as its students from the western countries and Australia decided to return to their countries. In its moment of crisis, Ms. Romela Chatterji took over as the Principal of the College. The school came close to closure with only 17 students in 1950, but its new Principal, Miss Dorothy King, Indianised the college and brought it back on track. By 1956, the college was on a recovery track with 144 students.
Under its present Principal, Mrs. Kiran E. Jeremiah, today the College can boast of being among the best girls’ institutions in the country. The core values in teaching for the college laid down by her are Compassion, Friendship, Courage, Excellence, Responsibility, Community, Integrity, Humility, Respect and Love.
Believe it or not, All Saints College is among the rare colleges in the country where private tuition is discouraged. Its dedicated set of teachers makes every endeavour to spend extra time with their students who require additional help in their academics. Another unique feature of the College is that for the boarders, the Principal is the ‘local guardian’ and the college does not recognise any other legal guardian of the students other than the person who admits the student into the college.
The college may also be unique in the type of education that it imparts to its pupils. There is a positive impetus in an all-round development. Academics is only a part of the curriculum and many of the common extra-curricular activities are just a part of many others. Enjoying the advantage of the Naini Lake, the girls get an opportunity for sailing and kayaking, but there is a social responsibility attached to the use of the lake. Once in a while, the students and teachers sacrifice their free time to help the local administration in cleaning the lake. The College is among the very few hill station-located educational institutions which can boast of a swimming pool which is an added advantage for the students.
The students are never far from the culture of the country. They celebrate not only the widely-celebrated festivals of the country but even the local cultural events and festivals are celebrated with equal fervour. Although many of the boarders are from affluent families, they have a very practical lesson about the dignity of labour. Not only does the College honour its menial staff on Labours’ Day but the girls have to work in the kitchen and prepare their food and clean their utensils.
The quality and the type of education imparted today by this educational institution can be well gauged by the performance of some of its alumni in the outside world. It is remarkable indeed when one learns that its alumni have excelled in almost all spheres of human living. The reason for this excellence is not far to see; students of eighth and tenth standards undergo sessions of career counselling which helps them in their choice of subjects in the next class and nothing can be a better impetus for young hearts to do well when they are able to decide what they want to pursue as a career.
It is remarkable indeed as to how this 150-year-old College has survived through hard times to rise into the firmament and take a firm position like the Northern Star fixed in its position to give the country some of its shining stars.
Gp Capt Achchyut Kumar has been associated with The Teenager Today for more than 50 years as a reader and contributor on varied topics. Having worked in the Indian Air Force and with Forbes & Company Limited, he is now a lawyer in Nainital High Court.