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Xavier Tactics Boost English Standard

Xavier Tactics Boost English Standard
Xavier College students in Ba during their passing out parade last year.
January 14
12:14 2018

A Speak in English programme at Ba’s Xavier College has been the backbone of its success for a number of years now, according to its principal Brother Joseph T Sabu.

The college has perhaps one of the highest academic results for external exams in the country.

It is the only school in the country to achieve a 100 per cent pass in the Fiji Junior Examination for 22 years in a row until the exam was abolished.

“Last year the school had 100 percent pass in Year 13 Certificate Examination and 91 per cent pass in Year 12 Certificate Examination,” Brother Sabu, who hails from Kerala, India, said.

Last year, the college had 692 students on its roll, with 19 streams from Year 9 to Year 13.

Speak in English Programme

The Monfort Brothers from Kerala, India , who run the school,  believe that if the students are well versed in English, then it would be easier for them to learn and sit for exams as everything is in English.

The English programme comes with a notice that all students know: ‘’Speak in English for Success’’.

Some elected students each carry a yellow card and upon catching a student speaking in the vernacular during school hours, the card is flashed and the student’s name is noted down.

Depending on the number of times you are caught, marks are added and then deducted from your term English examination marks.

For those who spoke in English throughout the term, five bonus marks are added to their English term results.

The Principal’s Honour Award is given to those students who spoke English throughout the school year.

In addition, if you are heard speaking in the vernacular by any teacher, you will be asked to write 50 words in English with their meanings which you must learn.

There will also be regular detention for students whose names appear on the yellow cards.

Former students of the school include former permanent secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office and Public Service Commission Parmesh Chand, Commissioner of Police Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho, senior trade unionists Felix Anthony and Daniel Urai and many of Ba’s elite business owners.

How did Xavier College come to be?

The land on which Xavier College was built belonged to the late Sir Hugh Ragg, a businessman, who owned four hotels during that era.

The Ragg family house was built on the property in the 1940s but then donated the land to the Catholic church where the school was built.

The late Archbishop Foley, who was head of the Catholic church in Fiji at the time, did not have funds to build the school. Instead he  opened a minor seminary in 1948.

The students were then relocated to St John’s College in Cawaci, Ovalau.

However, three years later Archbishop Foley then requested the Columban priests to set up the school.

Father Michael Cryan became the first principal.

Seventy students, 25 of whom were sons of cane farmers fom Ba, were the first to start class at 8am on the morning of February 12, 1953.

In those days, Latin was the language mainly used in the Catholic church, especially during the Mass.

So it became the first lesson of the day and lasted 40 minutes, followed by grass cutting, then another 40 minute period of algebra and then more grass cutting.

The school had no source of income except for the annual school fees of 15 pounds (approximately $30) paid by each students.

The government then did not provide any funds so the priests, who taught there, enlisted the help of Mohammed Ali, a teacher of St Theresa’s Primary School to raise funds from the cane farming community to build two classrooms.

A total of 4000 pounds ($8000) was needed so Mr Ali took the priests around the cane farms, introduced the priests to the cane farmers and explained that they (priests) had come from Ireland to provide secondary education for the people of Ba.

They got the support through cash donations and pledges and, in 1954 the first two-classroom block was built with an existing building converted to a science block.

The first batch of students sat for the Cambridge Certificate B in 1956 and 13 out of 14 passed and, two years later, the students appeared for Cambridge Certificate A.

The same year Father Thomas Hennagon became the new principal.

In 1959, Xavier College was accepted under the grant-aid scheme from the Department of  Education and a year later, the school had grown bigger with 100 students and four Columban priests as teachers.

Xavier College began to grow and in the next few years, a chapel was built, mainly through overseas donations.

The Columban priests then pursued building a boarding house, dining room and washrooms in 1963 for the first batch of boarders.

Father Edward McColgan was principal that year which also saw the building of a new Form Six block.

Being a boys only school, a dramatic change took place on February 3 in 1970 when the first batch of girls was accepted into Xavier College.

Fathers Richard Keelan, Colin McGowan and Otto Imholte had short stints as principal until 1973 when Father Thomas Daly from the United States took over.

Excelling in sports

Father Daly’s love for sport showed through the college’s sports achievements in the early 1970s.

That year, Xavier College dethroned champions Marist Brothers’ High School, Suva, which had ruled the sprint events in previous competitions.

Xavier College reigned supreme in the senior boys 100 metres and 200 metres sprints and in the 4 x 100 metres relay.

Under his leadership, Father Daly also saw the completion of the basketball and tennis courts and also the school’s technical wings building.

Father Daniel Ahern, from Ireland, took over as principal in 1985 until 1987 when the school was handed over to the Monfort Brothers, a Catholic society who are internationally renowned for their education mission with its highly educated teachers coming out of Kerala, in India.

New standard of teaching education

The Monfort Brothers brought in a new standard of teaching education that enhanced the already high academic achievements put in place by the Columban priests.

In 1984, the boarding building was closed and more blocks were built that catered for the different subjects and other facilities like a video, resource, typing and computer lab rooms.

Brother Amselm was the first Principal from January 1988 to June 1997, followed by Brother George Palakal who left to complete his doctorate in psychology, then Brother Francis and to the present  incumbent Brother Joseph T Sabu.

Edited by George Kulamaiwasa

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