Nightmares at St Teresa’s Boys High School
Some of my former classmates (61) have been reminiscing after Bill de Silva shared a few photos of the St Teresa’s Boys’ School and the St Teresa’s Church in Eastleigh. Bill went back there after 61 years spent in many parts of the world.
For some of the boys, St Teresa’s was hell, for others it was some kind of heaven, and for others yet it was OK, sort of. However, most people considered it second class to the “Goan school” aka Dr Ribeiro’s Goan School.
Personally, I always thought that the headmaster and parish priest Father Patrick Hannan was a bit of an enigma: most parents loved the guy, quite a few of my friends thought he was a sadist (I learnt that word many years after I left school at the age 12) and yet others treated him as a saint.
Worst of all there are boys who were sexually abused by Hannon. Many have taken this awful secret to their grave. Others have had to face it every day of their lives and continue to do so. The Catholic Church has remained silent.
I did not have any problems with the teachers.
For more than one of my classmates, Hannon and school were hell on earth: Here is one of the stories: Once again we are reminded of our past. We all went through some good times as well as bad. I felt more sadness looking at the state of our former classroom than any of the bad experiences I had in that school.
Over the years as I reflected on my time in St Teresa’s Boys High School, I realised that our school was run more like a Nazi prisoner of war camp, than a school; and to some of us by an evil Commandant.
As I think back, I realise that every day we experienced intimidation and fear. I know I couldn’t accept that and I resisted constantly paying the price almost daily. I remember being called to the office one day and being caned. When I asked what that was for, I got a lecture about Protestantism. I was then asked to denounce someone I chose to call a friend. When I refused, I got another six canes.
Many years later I thought I was also friendly with a Muslim (Khoja) guy (though I didn’t know at the time). Why wasn’t I asked to denounce him. But I guess he hated Protestants much more than Muslims.
Another method used was to separate the students into different groups. Some were favoured (different degrees) and used them to tell (we called it sneaking) on others. A lot were spared the rod. Some were never caned. I know I was reported many times and was punished for either a real or perceived wrongdoing. I want all who may have told on me, to know I never blamed anyone for anything they were forced or intimidated into doing, I know what the alternative would have been.
I have to admit, I was no saint (rubbish Skip’s words). I did everything that was wrong. I rebelled, resisted, questioned the teachers, and even fought with the “Commandant” in his office. I ran away from school constantly. I smoked from an early age, and smoked in school, sometimes even in the classroom, but mostly in the restroom and John’s (d’Souza’s) shop across the road from the school, where we could buy one cigarette at a time (I’m sorry I never got to meet him to thank him for what he did for us, smokers).
I have to say that we survived everything that we endured and used whatever talents we were born with, or like some of us by our wits. Yes, we can say we survived and got to where we are today in spite of it and not because of it.
I want to say that I am sorry to know that so many of us lost our faith, and I don’t blame them, but I am also glad to know a lot of guys that kept their faith in spite of the men and women of the church that failed them. I always believed that the church and the people that represented it were there to tell us about the teachings of Christ, and in turn, make us better people. As I told Bill once, I was always able to separate the man from the priesthood and the church. I could put the blame where it belonged, squarely on his head. I have also accepted that everyone is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs, so I accept and respect everyone and I expect the same from them.
In closing, I just want to say that I’m sorry we didn’t have our first reunion in Nairobi like a lot of us wanted, but we went with the majority vote. Now I can’t see it ever happening.