by Sean Sprague
George Thomas is a 20-year-old student from the Jacobite Community studying tourism. The college is “too good”, he said, “one of the best in Kerala and the 10th in all India”. He said it had been very competitive to get in, but he was very satisfied with the amenities including the boarding facilities Each student had a single room. (Most of the students at the college are boarders).
It was exam time during my visit to the college, and I was ushered hastily into vast halls where hundreds of students were doing their best. Satchels and school bags were left outside the exam rooms in a mound, while inside you could hear a pin drop. Practical exams in a large, old-fashioned chemistry lab were taking place where students with concentrated expressions manipulated bubbling flasks and test tubes in their experiments. At the botany exam fifty students were peering down old microscopes, while in the physics exam room a similar bunch of very dedicated young people were doing practical experiments in electro-magnetism. I was shown the main college library with its 52,000 books and 73 journals which are subscribed to. Each department also had its specialist library.
In an effort to maintain contact with the community outside, the college has recently “adopted a village”. Students involve themselves with the community of the village and have constructed houses, latrines, roads and taught classes in adult education.
Father Mathew Manakarakavil is a Malankara Catholic priest and also bursar of the college. He was explaining how the college not only excells academically, but also in sports, especially basketball. (Unusual in a country which is normally cricket-mad.) “We are aiming at excelling in arts, sports and academics”, he explained.
Well excellence seems to be the word all round at Mar Ivanios college. Although it is strapped for cash and some departments have that inevitable Indian dusty fly-blown look about them, there are corners like the new computer labs and language labs which are equal to any in the world. The dedicated teachers and the students cannot fail to impress. In visiting the college you have the feeling that you are with the intellectual and academic elite of Kerala. And Kerala itself is the academically elite state of India, with its 95% literacy compared to a figure more like 50%, or less, elsewhere in the country. From Kerala, and particularly from colleges like Mar Ivanios, emanate scientists, academics and inellectuals throughout the sub-continent to fuel the nation’s elite English medium institutions of learning.
Mar Baselios, on the occasion of the recent Golden Jubilee pronounced: “On this occasion I wish and pray that Mar Ivanios College become capable of actualizing the dreams of its founder and remain as a torch spreading its light around. Let the motto of the college come true: Veritas Vos Liberat - The Truth will set you Free”.
Originally published in November-December 2002 in CNEWA’s One Magazine.