Sunday, July 4, 2021

Uganda Goans: The man with an encyclopedic mind


The man with an encyclopedic mind

By Savio Rodrigues s.j


The grandchildren of Mr. Antu Rodrigues, [as he was known within the Goan community or, officially, Mr. A.N.F.S. Rodrigues,] kept asking their parents and uncle to pen down some lines about their so-called encyclopedic granddad and also to enlighten them about the conventional lifestyle in Goa. So, we, (my sister, Blanche, my brother Rene and I) finally decided to write a short outline of Mr. Antu Rodrigues, our dad’s life story. 


Mr. Antu Rodrigues, my dad, began his primary education unusually not in the Escola primaria (Portuguese primary school) in Carmona or Orlim, both of which were equidistant from the Rodrigues residence, but in the house of a gentleman in Orlim. It was under his tutelage that Dad appeared for his Primeiro Grau, the first Portuguese examination on offer in the curriculum, which he passed.


Dad did not continue with his studies in Portuguese but in English instead, with the same gentleman. While there, Dad made friends with Jose Vaz, another student who lived in Orlim who would also follow him to the next stage of schooling, in Margao. For his secondary schooling, he was sent to Union High School in Margao, which was owned by the Gracias family. The school was later handed over to the Archdiocese of Goa. The school was renamed Dom Teotonio High school, after the Archbishop himself. In 1946, the Archdiocese of Goa, handed over the school to the Jesuits, who renamed it, Loyola High School.


We are uncertain as to why Dad was sent for his further education to an English medium instruction school when at that time, the Portuguese were ruling Goa and most students were taught in Portuguese. Was his father planning to send him to work in Bombay or on board a ship? There was a sizable Goan community speaking Konkani and English living in Bombay, and it was also relatively common for Goans to be employed abroad in English-speaking merchant ships in the lower classes of employment. It is interesting to note that all his siblings, however, did their studies in Portuguese, (except Griselia and Melquiades). They attended the seminary at Rachol, after their Primerio Grau, as there was no secondary education available in the villages and in Margao one could go only up to Quinto anno (SSC - ‘Secondary School Certificate’ exam - equivalent to Ordinary Levels in the United Kingdom). They attended classes in the seminary in Rachol but lodged with private families who kept borders for a fee.


Mr. Antu Rodrigues was forced to give up his studies a few months before he would have answered his Matriculation Examination [ today called S.S.C Examination, or O levels in the U.K].  The reason being his father wanted him to go to East Africa [Uganda] and earn some money so that his siblings could go to school. He was just 18 years of age then. He worked for 15 years, in almost every District town in Uganda, as the town clerk. 


Dad began working as a junior clerk in the civil service, in the District Commissioner’s office, and was transferred to many small towns and villages in this capacity over the next eight years or so. These included Lira, Gulu, Soroti, Kitgum, Arua, Mbale and Masaka. However, he was never posted to the bigger towns of Kampala, Jinja and Fort Portal. These district towns had a District Commissioner and an assistant, who were both mzungus (British-Europeans). In 1946, he was selected to work in the Secretariat, where he stagnated for a decade, as a clerk.


Dad’s writing skills were admired in all the Government offices, not only in Uganda, but also in Kenya; after all, Dad had for years drafted and typed all the official government circulars. In 1949, his real worth was discovered and he made phenomenal and rapid progress to end up as Permanent Establishment Secretary.  He was the first non-Englishman to hold this post, otherwise reserved only for the English. He thus opened the gates for others to follow. He was also honoured by Queen Elizabeth II, with the M.B.E, in recognition for his services.


After retirement he was given two, three-year contracts, on the same scale, to train the Africans to take over the jobs after independence. In recognition of this, the Ugandan Permanent Secretary called Mr. Rodrigues,” The man with an encyclopedic mind.”.


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