I am hoping this will be the first in a series of articles on the good schools of Himachal Pradesh.
Himachal CM during the 159th Founder Day-2006 of the Lawrence school, Snawar.
The Lawrence School, Sanawar was started by Sir Henry Lawrence on 17th April, 1847 with 14 boys and girls. The school was originally meant to be a military asylum. The management passed through many hands before and after independence, including the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Education. On January 1, 1953, it passed under the control of an autonomous society with the Secretary, Ministry of Education as the ex-officio Chairman. Today the school is among the most renowned co-eduational boarding public schools of India with 650 students and 70 faculty members.
This postage stamp was issued by Govt of India to commemorate 150 years of Sanawar.
Sanawar is situated on an independent hill and covers a massive area of 139 acres. The campus is heavily forested with pine, deodar and other conifer trees. To get to the School, one must take a detour from Dharampur on the NH22.
Walking around the campus, one can see a mixture of colonial buildings, many of which are over a century old, nestling side by side with modern facilities.
Amongst the oldest buildings is the 140 years old School Chapel with its exquisite stained glass windows. Whilst the school has no specific religious affiliation, the Chapel is the spiritual centre of the community, and regular assemblies are held in which all students and staff take part. The daily routine includes a silent march past the War Memorials beside the Chapel, connecting the pupils of today with those of the past who have played their part in the nations call.
Amongst the new buildings is the Central Dining Hall, a state-of-the-art solar heated indoor swimming pool, an Indoor Sports Complex and modern squash courts.
Gaskell Hall, which used to be the boys school, is now the school Gymnasium. Inter-house Boxing and Gym competition are some of the main events held in Gaskell Hall. On one of the walls of the gymnasium is a quotation from Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim”, and it reads “Send him to Sanawar and make a man of him.”
There are many other buildings and facilities of interest, supporting both academic and non-academic activities. Particularly worthy of mention is the main teaching block, the ‘Birdwood’, which also contains the Barne Hall, where plays, shows, films and lectures are regularly held. Around the campus are numerous playing fields, the newest being a superb basketball court. The main cricket and football ground, Barne Field, to which the descent and ascent alone will exhaust, leaves the fittest of players and spectators breathless!
The School is constantly upgrading its facilities, most recently, Parker Hall, now the schools’ Learning Resource Centre, provides easy access to archival memorabilia, up to date library resources, and computer and internet facilities. In this building alone, over thirty new computers have been installed along with the first ISDN line in Himachal!
The School is financially self sufficient and has its own printing press. A resident doctor heads the staff of the Schools 60 bed infirmary, having its own ambulance.
Starting from a modest 14 children in 1847, the school now has 650 students coming from different backgrounds irrespective of social status, religion or nationality. There are 70 faculty members, thus making the ratio of 1 teacher for 9 students among the best in India.
Owing to its military patronage, the school reserves a few seats for children of Armed Forces Personnel. Preference is also given to the children of Old Sanawarians.
Life on Campus
Students have a very busy schedule through the day and are involved in a lot of extra curricular activities apart from studies. The day begins at 6 a.m. with chhota haazri and PT – either a cross-country run or mass exercises followed by a quick change, House inspection and two classes before breakfast at 9 O’clock.
After breakfast the School congregates in Chapel on Monday and Thursday and then the classes begin. The morning break at 11.30 provides a drink and a snack, otherwise it’s working through to lunch at 1.10 p.m at the Central Dining Hall.
From morning break onwards, the timetable includes games and hobbies alongside academic classes. This allows a varied day and makes best use of the time and other resources available.
At 6.00 p.m. all becomes serious once again, as all students ‘fall in’ for evening prep in the Birdwood School, an hour and 20 minutes of concentrated, self disciplined study. At 7.40 p.m., the bell sounds ‘time for dinner’. After dinner, and some free time, there is a further study hour in the dorms before the ‘final bugle calls’ all to rest.
On Sundays, students are free to plan their own time having enjoyed the luxury of an extra hour in bed and a relaxed breakfast. Students may practice for sports, visit Kasauli or just relax.
Hobbies: Children at Sanawar select a number of ‘hobby’ activities, which they pursue at different times of the year.
These activities include:
- Needle Work
- Paper Recycling
- Indian Classical Music & Dance
- Bugle and Brass Bands
At certain times of the year, children are involved in a wide variety of social activities ranging from fire fighting and tree planting to working in the School’s Rural Centre. Other major projects are Adult & Child Education, a Crafts Centre, and annual international village development camps (organized for the Round Square International Service). Membership of the Round Square International Service gives X1th Class children an opportunity to take part in a student exchange programme with other member schools throughout the world. During a visit of 2 months duration, they study at the host school, staying either with families or in the school’s dormitory facilities, playing a full part in the life of the school and community which they are visiting.
Dramatics, Debating, Elocution and Quiz contests are a regular feature. Each House produces a House Show each year, giving children of all ages a chance to perform live on the stage, or learn the arts of stage management and production.
Membership of SPIC MACAY ensures that artistes of repute visit the School on a regular basis for a lecture demonstration on classical Dance and Music. The North Zone Cultural Centre organizes folk and classical performances to give an exposure to the students.
Visiting the School Museum is an educational experience in itself. It includes Sanawar’s Colours, photographic and printed records, awards, mementos, teaching instruments, musical instruments and one of the worlds’ oldest operational printing presses.
Sports: Physical activity is an essential ingredient of life in Sanawar. The daily routine itself requires movement between dormitories, classes, dining hall, hobby and game locations spread over the 139 acre site at differing levels: in Sanawar, all paths either go up or down!
All children take a half an hour physical exercise every morning (except Sundays). During the early Spring term, this takes the form of The Hodson Run, 3-5 kms around the school site, culminating in the fiercely fought Hodsons’ Finals in April. During the rest of the year the children practice their mass PT movements, preparing for perfection in the Parade at the annual Founders Celebration in October.
NCC is compulsory in the senior classes and the School maintains a high standard in military training.
In addition to these compulsory activities, each child also has the option to pursue a wide range of sporting activities, both as team games and as individual pursuits, within the school timetable.
The school boasts of facilities for diverse sports such as Cricket, Hockey, Soccer, Basketball, Squash, Tennis, Badminton, Table Tennis, Athletics, Swimming, Gymnastics, Rifle shooting, Boxing and Kayaking.
Interactions with other schools through sporting and cultural activities are a regular feature of the weekend programme, and where the level of achievement is appropriate, international sports tours can be arranged!
Camping and trekking are an integral part of the life of the School. Easy access to the remote Himalayan regions is a real asset for its trekkers, and additional activities such as white water rafting, mountain cycling and rock climbing are also in this programme.
The school’s alumni has a very strong network and the list of famous alumni reads like Who’s Who of India. Some notable alumni of the school include Former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, Param Vir Chakra Awardee Lt. Arun Khetarpal, politicians Omar Abdullah, Sukhbir Badal & Maneka Gandhi, actors Sanjay Dutt, Rahul Roy, Puja Bedi and business professionals Rana Talwar, Pankaj Munjal, Jeh Wadia, sportsmen Shiva Keshwan, Ajeet Bajaj and many more.
Ajeet Bajaj is the first Indian to ski to North Pole on April 26th, 2006.