LETTER from BARISAL
God is our refuge and strength, a present help in trouble: therefore we'll not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea. Ps 46: 1-2.
I'm happy to write this report about what is happening inside the Oxford Mission.
Let us praise the Lord for an excellent result in the last school final examination in the O.M. High School. The school had the best results among non-Government schools in the Barisal zone. The percentage of passes was 84%. It was very exciting and a praiseworthy performance in the year.
The news was flashed in the local daily newspapers. The criteria for the standards of a school usually depend on the result in the public examination. Our Hostel girls who appeared at that public exam did fairly well. The local school Management Committee is always co-operative and aware of the school's interests. At the same time the teachers are doing their best to maintain the standard and discipline of the school, and the credit goes to them as well.
The names of Christ and Christians are proclaimed throughout the schools (High and Primary), in this Muslim-majority region. I thank the donor agency for the subsidy given to the schools. The authority is alert to run the schools with a gradually decreasing subsidy. The school is still run by the acting headmaster. Brother Martin S.P.B. is doing his B.Ed., and will be given the charge of the school.
The O.M. Primary School is functioning well. The Management Committee plans a special shift or section for the play/nursery group from January 2005, which may help to raise the income of the school and to reduce the amount of O.M. subsidy in the future. According to the Bishop's plan we are happy to have Sister Lucy Holt in the Mission campus. She is a good help to the schoolteachers as well as the girls for the English language. We plan to use her in the Primary School as an English teacher (part-time). Being a foreigner she'll be an attraction to the children as well as to the guardians.
We are delighted to inform you that the year 2004 is a year of marriage for the girls of St. Clare's College Hostel. Five girls in the present session got married during the year. It was the highest number of marriages that ever took place in one single session, and was due to the opportunity received by the girls to qualify themselves through the O.M. The academic achievement in the session is also notable. Seven girls appeared in the Intermediate class and all of them were successful. Sukla and Sahthi appeared at the B.A. Hons. Final and were successful. Miss Ema appeared at the Master's Final, and we hope she will pass. According to the decision of the Committee, new admissions for Intermediate students is going on. The Committee has further decided to introduce a fee, named as Annual Contribution, at Tk500 only per student, including caution money of Tk200 only.
The consecrating day of St. Paul's Brotherhood was observed on 30 June. A discussion meeting and cultural shows, followed by a banquet, were organised by the Brothers. More than 500 people were invited for the occasion, including Bishop M. S. Baroi and many other elite members of different churches. St. Paul's Fellowship card was also distributed to the guests, and many willingly promised a regular prayer and a donation for the Brotherhood.
New Construction: The construction of more than 709 ft. of additional new boundary wall on the south-east side of the compound is completed. Two main gates, one on the north and another on the south boundary wall, were newly made. The total cost of the new wall and two new gates will be Tkl,516,000.00, including the Engineer's supervision charge. Tk740,000.00 only has already been paid to the constructor. Bishop Baroi has kindly allowed us to take the amount as an advance from the Diocese, which will be adjusted with the next budget for 2005. The Committee, through Father Francis, is going to make a humble request to the O.M. donors for the necessary funding. The construction of such a wall was necessary to stop the illegal occupancy of our land by the Government and by the surrounding neighbours. In this connection I must thank our kind donors as they have given us 50% of the previous construction cost, and we are expecting the remaining part too.
Three old employees who worked for many years in O.M. Barisal have been retired. Two of them were gifted with a small amount each as an extra bonus when they left the compound. The third has not yet left. O.M. is grateful to them for their long and faithful service. We also pray for their peace.
The O.M. is an old institution and therefore the houses, internal roads and especially the edges of the old tanks need much repairing every year. Simple repairing on the tanks' edges are not enough nowadays: they need the construction of guide walls to about 800 ft. and that may cost more than Tk3 lakhs, which is not possible to manage within the running budget of the institution.
The land revenue and corporation taxes are increasingly high every year. For our vast O.M. area this will be a real problem in the near future: the local income is very little and at the same time the flow of foreign money is under threat. We have to find a way to minimise the expenditure and maximise the local income.
A happy occasion is going to take place in September, when our Brother Martin S.P.B. will be ordained as a priest along with four others.
The schoolchildren have already enjoyed their autumn holidays and will now be getting ready for the annual exams in December. They are dreaming of the Christmas holidays. But before they go home for Christmas they will have the joy of the pre-Christmas banquets, cultural functions and carols in every section. This term is the most important period as well as the most exciting time for the students in the year.
You must have heard about the recent devastating flood in Bangladesh. There was enormous loss of life and property throughout a vast region (the north and north-west part) of Bangladesh. Barisal, being located in the southern part, was very little affected. The employees in O.M. organised a very special prayer meeting for the flood victims and collected money through donating one day's salary, and giving their tea for the day. The children also collected some money and donated their clothes to flood victims. We sent all the collections to the Diocesan Relief Fund. But after such a fatal flood, the political situation is becoming restless. The law and order of the country are disturbed, which is gradually affecting the economy and education. Let us continue to pray for Bangladesh.
I'm very sad to write we lost two of our employees during the year who died of a sudden heart attack. We tried to extend our best possible help to the grieving families. We pray for rest and peace for the departed souls.
I must thank God for the opportunity to prepare this newsletter for you. I gratefully remember all His blessings, love, help and protection up to this time. Through the utmost prayer of our readers and well-wishers, our work in O.M. is going smoothly. Otherwise we could hardly overcome the adverse situations in our day-to-day administration. We heartily seek for your prayer in all the works that are going on in O.M. Barisal.
T. K. BYAPARI Manager, O.M. Barisal