Mount Hermon School, Darjeeling
|Mount Hermon School|
|Darjeeling, West Bengal, India|
|Established||March 11, 1895|
|Principal||Mr. Terrence Wharton|
|Website||Mt Hermon School|
Mount Hermon School is a co-educational school in the town of Darjeeling, in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is located on North point Singmari. It follows the American education style, rather than the British style in vogue in the other schools of the area. It has ICSE (for grade 10) and ISC (for grade 12) board.
It is the only school in Darjeeling hills where facilities for both boys and girls from standard KG to 12, day scholar and boarder are available.
The school was established in 1895 under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church of America. Its founder and first Principal was Miss Emma Knowles, a missionary sent out to India with the Women's Foreign Missionary Society in 1881. Emma Knowles played a key role in establishing the Wellesley Girls High School in Naini Tal and having worked at the Calcutta Girls' High School she embarked on a similar school to be set up in Darjeeling's cool climes. Her plan gained the approval of the Church authorities in the United States as well as in India, but no financial aid was forthcoming from either quarter. It was only by borrowing and by paying rent out of her missionary salary that she was able to open her school in 1895 in a rented house called Arcadia, in a long low building right in the heart of the town, with just 13 pupils on the rolls. The school was also called Arcadia at that time and was considered as a branch of the Calcutta Girls’ High School.
By 1899 there were 37 boarders when Miss C. J. Stahl was the officiating Principal for Miss Knowles. On a late September evening, following a deluge from continuous rains, “the ledge in front of the school became a river of water.” The children were evacuated to a home higher up. Some little ones had already fallen asleep in their new refuge when a great boulder hit the corner of the room destroying the two walls. The two children just moved to a place of safety were killed, all others went unhurt.
On the same night in a cottage not far from Arcadia, 6 children of Mr and Mrs Lee were living in the care of their older sister and trusted servants. They attended Arcadia as day scholars. The next morning revealed that there was not a vestige of the cottage or anything it held. Mrs Ada Lee turned to God and wrote of her journey in pain in her book, The Darjeeling Disaster. It chronicles her struggles and her faith in converting her disaster to triumph. Out of this heart-wrenching engagement with God the Lee Memorial Mission was born to care for famine-stricken orphans, by providing for them food, education and a decent place to stay. Thus in Wellington Square, the Lee Memorial Building came into being in 1908, “In Answer to Prayer – Psalm 27: 1”.
In the disaster of 1899 ten students had died. Following the disaster Arcadia was closed and opened again on 1st March 1900 in two rented houses named Queen's Hill and The Repose, which were later purchased with a third house, Woodville, on ground leased from the Maharaja of Burdwan. These premises were above the railway station, and the school officially became Queen's Hill School for Girls. A new wing was added in 1902 with financial aid from the Women's Foreign Missionary Society and building grants from the Government of India.
Emma Knowles worked tirelessly for her school until 1915, and retired from active missionary service a few years later. Her greatest hope was to see her school established in a permanent building ‘before her call should come’. She died in 1924 aged 84, but she got her wish when Miss Carolyn Josephine Stahl, who became Principal in 1918, was able to write and tell her of the purchase of the Mount Hermon Estate in 1920. A slump in the tea industry led to the sale of the large estate belonging to the Lebong Tea Company, an ill wind which blew some good for the Methodist missionaries looking for a site for the school. The site was bought for a bargain price of Rs.50,000/- by Bishop Frederick Fisher of the Thoburn Memorial Methodist Church in Calcutta. Fred Fisher was the moving spirit behind the purchase of the site and the building of the new school.
Later he was instrumental in the purchase of Fernhill in 1927, which was to become the senior boys' living accommodation - again at a bargain price, a mere Rs.35,000/-. Cottages sprang up on the new estate and the school itself was officially opened in 1926, still called Queen's Hill. As early as 1899 only small boys were taken into the school and by 1903 there were 20 boys. In 1930 the school was renamed Mount Hermon School, incorporating the original Queen's Hill School for Girls and Bishop Fisher's School for Boys, eventually becoming the fully integrated co-educational boarding school.
The story goes that the school received its name during a prayer meeting of some of the missionaries, the Bishop Fisher and Miss Stahl seated around Miss Stahl's fireplace. When they rose from their knees after praying, the name 'Mount Hermon' came to them of the snow-capped mountain 9,232ft high in the northernmost part of present day Israel.
Since the school was founded in 1895, for nearly 60 years it was run by the Methodist Episcopal Church of America through its Calcutta Christian Schools Society (CCSS), the Management comprising members of other non-conformist churches and missionary societies under the chairmanship of the Calcutta Methodist Bishop. In the early 1950s a new 'united' committee added with co-operating missions from the Australian, New Zealand and British Baptist societies, as well as British Methodists, the Presbyterian Church of Wales and the Church of Scotland. The religious ethos of the school remained evangelical, but the largely American influence became diminished for a short period with the appointment in 1954 of the Reverend D G Stewart, an Australian Baptist, as principal. David Stewart was Principal for ten years and was then succeeded by Graeme Murray, a New Zealand Baptist, who held the post for 15 years. In 1979, the Reverend John Johnston, an Australian Baptist and the school's Senior Master, became Principal, retiring in 1989 after 30 years' service on the school staff.
As the Methodist Episcopal Church decentralized it became the Methodist Church in Southern Asia which included the territories of India, Burma, Malaysia and the Philippine Islands. In 1981 the Methodist Church in Southern Asia further decentralized and gave autonomy to the Church in India, which then became the Methodist Church in India. All its properties were transferred to the Methodist Church in India Trust Association (MCITA). Over all these years the governance of the School continued under the CCSS, and under the chairmanship of the Bishop of the Bengal Regional Conference and through the administrative jurisdiction of the Calcutta District.
Recently, on the 4th May 2014, at the 3st Annual Session of the Bengal Regional Conference, the Presiding Bishop, Bishop Dr. Phillip Silas Masih, placed the Mt Hermon School under the administrative jurisdiction of the North Bengal-Sikkim District providing it greater flexibility. The District Superintendent for this region is the Rev. Noel Prabhuraj, who also is the Vice-Chairman for the School. The present Principal is Mr Terrence Wharton who was appointed in April 2013.
The present principal of the school is Mr. Terrence Wharton along with Rev. Noel Prabhuraj as its Secretary and Chaplain. Mr. Wharton took over from Mr. George William Fernandez who retired end of 2012.The student body is divided into four houses - Dewey, Fisher, Knowles and Stahl, which are named after previous principals of the school.
The school has three departments - the Infant Department (KG to standard 2, the Junior school (standard 3 to standard 6), and the senior school (standard 7 to standard 12).
The subjects taught in the school are English, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, History, Geography, Civics, Computers, Commerce, Accountancy, Political Science, Physical Education, Business Studies, Economics etc.
In standard 11 and 12 the stream is divided into Science, Commerce and Humanities.
Several languages are taught during the vernacular language classes - Hindi, Bengali, Nepali, Tibetan, Mizo (Lushai), Dzongkha and Thai.
The discipline of the school is looked after by the Prefects of the school. Usually chosen from a group of standard 12 students. House captains are elected from students of standard 9 to 12 by the Senior school students by way of vote among themselves to arrange for extra co-curricular activities. Every class has a Class captain. Junior school students are looked after by their teachers in classrooms, matrons in the hostel and guarded by the junior school monitors selected from a group of standard 5 students when they play outside.
Co-curricular activities include football, cricket, swimming, basketball, volleyball, throwball, badminton and table tennis.
The school has a swimming pool, a playground named the Downfield, and a top flat for the junior school. There is a play ground for the infant department students with swings, merry go rounds, slides, sea saws, and monkey ladders.
Singing classes from KG to Standard 8 are taken twice a week. Piano, violin, guitar lessons are individually given. The school has a grand piano in its chapel hall, seven upright piano in the music room and several other upright pianos in the small lounge, big lounge, and cottages. Every year several students sit for the Trinity College of Music, London grade examinations ranging from Initial to Grade 8.The School has three choirs - Infant Choir, Junior Choir and Senior choir.
- Every Saturday morning a class presents a Chapel Play based on a theological topic. Every Saturday evening a class presents a class play.
- The school major production has included My Fair Lady, The King and I, and the Sound of Music.
- Inter-house competition is organized among the students for quiz, debate, elocution, extempore, music competition, basketball, football, swimming, and cricket.
- For the Morning Chapel Service, every day at 7:40 AM, the school assembles at the School's Chapel Hall where they sing a hymn accompanied by the music teacher on the grand piano, a reading is done from the scripture and a short prayer is made by the Chaplain. Thereafter, the Principal of the school makes announcements for the day.
- The students take part in various activities and play against various schools in Darjeeling , Kalimpong , Kurseong and Siliguri district.
- Altamas Kabir - Justice Altamas Kabir, Chief Justice of India and Judge, Supreme Court of India.
- Emil Wolfgang Menzel, Jr. - primatologist and Professor of Psychology.
- Tom Stoppard - English playwright, attended the school from 1943 to 1946
- Brenton H. Badley, Visions and Victories in Hindustan: A Story of the Mission Stations of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Southern Asia, pp 423-430 – “Darjeeling” by Ms Kate A. Blair
- Hazel Innes Craig, Under the Old School Topee, BACSA, 1990
- John N. Hollister, The Century of the Methodist Church in Southern Asia, 1956, Lucknow Publishing House, India, p 182
- Annual Journal, Bengal Regional Conference 31st Session, May 1st to 4th, 2014