Kolkata’s last surviving Chinese school set for 2nd innings

Members of the new managing committee most of whom studied in Pei May


One of the city’s last Chinese schools that had closed down seven years ago has got a new lease of life. Members of the community in Tangra’s Chinatown are drawing up plans to reopen the institute that has taught Mandarin to at least two generations of Indian Chinese before the classrooms were padlocked in 2010 after the management committee was taken over by a Chinese businessman. The Chinese Tannery Owners’ Association has won the legal tussle and regained control.

“The sweat and blood of our grandparents and parents went into establishing the school so that we could learn the Chinese language and culture. When it was set up nine decades ago, the Indian Chinese community wasn’t prosperous. In fact, most were impoverished and earned a living from sale of leather waste. In our generation, we have not been able to create any infrastructure. It is our moral responsibility to look after the school so that future generations are not deprived of education,” said Chu Ying Wah, vice-president of the school’s new managing committee.

The three-storied U-shaped school building with a football field and basketball court sits on 3 bigha, 13 cottah of prime land in Tangra that developers have been eyeing for a while. With a cottah now selling for Rs 25 lakh in the area, it is a virtual gold mine waiting to be grabbed. Aware of the threat, the committee wants to restart the school from the next academic session, initially from KG to Class V, then till VIII before approaching the CISCE board for affiliation. “Students who get admitted next year should be able to sit for ICSE and ISC exams,” said Yeh Chi Yan, the president of the managing committee.

While restarting the school will be relatively easy, the committee is aware that convincing parents to admit their children in Pei May instead of an established English medium school will be a challenge. “Times have changed. It has to be an English-medium school that will be open to all. Chinese will be available as a second or third language but English will be the first language,” said Chan Yung Sheng, treasurer of the committee. Also, instead of Chinese and world history and geography that was taught earlier, students will now learn about Indian history and geography.

The school’s fortunes had begun to decline from the 1970s when the Indian Chinese community, embittered after being interned during the Sino-Indian border conflict in 1964, began to migrate. The population declined from 10,000 in the 1960s to 5,000. Another wave of migration in the late 1990s after the government decided to shift tanneries out of Tangra saw the population decline to 2,500. This apart, the school also lost out when another school — Grace Ling Liang — was set up and offered English along with Mandarin.

“At present, there are only 2,000-odd Chinese in Tangra. In the 1960s, the school had over 1,000 Chinese students. Now, there will be only a few. Most of the students will be non-Chinese,” said Chen Khoi Kui, secretary of the association as well as Tangra Chinese Youth Club. Such is the situation now, the committee may well have to appoint a non-Chinese to teach Mandarin.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Kolkata News> Schools & Colleges / TNN / July 09th, 2017

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