- Oak Grove School (Jharipani, Mussoorie)
Oak Grove School'Tamaso ma Jyotirgamaya'(From Darkness to Light) Location Mussoorie (Jharipani), Uttarakhand, India Information Type Government Aided Public Boarding School Established 1 June 1888 Founder East Indian Railway Principal Mr.Anurag Tripathi, IRPS Grades 3-12 Campus Oak Grove Estate, Jharipani, Mussoorie Hills Color(s) Red, grey and white Board CBSE Website Official Website
Oak Grove School is a residential public school, owned and run by the Northern Railway. It is situated on hill tops covering 256 acres (1.04 km2) in Jharipani, Mussoorie, India. Jharipani means drizzle and the onslaught of monsoons.
The school was started by the British Raj on June 1, 1888. The students predominantly consist of the children of Indian Railways employees; 25% of seats are reserved for outsiders. At present there are 560 students. The school consists of three semi-independent parts — Oak Grove Boys' School (commenced 1888), Oak Grove Girls' School (1890s) and Oak Grove Junior School (1912). The buildings were designed by the chief engineer of EIR. The School has been nominated for World Heritage Status by the Government of India.
School crest and symbols
The traditional colour of Oak Grove is maroon but the colour is changing to navy blue. The school flag is divided into two parts diagonally, one maroon and the other white. This is reflected in school uniform – grey trousers, white shirts with maroon ties, jerseys or blazers. The school crest has evolved from the pre–independence days to the modern Indian version – featuring the lotus – the symbol of the deity of education and wisdom – with the motto Tamso Ma Jyotirgamay – "From Darkness to Light".
The school is owned by the Northern Railway. Its board of governors comprises the Northern Railway top brass – with the General Manager as the Chairperson, and the Chief Personnel Officer as the Executive Governor. Earlier the principal was an educationist but since 1984 the Principal has been an officer of the Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS). Under him, come the three wings – The Junior School, Senior Boys’ School and the Senior Girls’ School. The three schools are semi-independent with their own timetables and event schedules, sub administrations, etc. The JS and GS were traditionally headed by Headmistresses while the BS was headed by a Headmaster – however, this trend was broken recently, when a Headmistress adorned the HMBS office.
In the three schools, day to day activities are supervised by an MOD (Master/Mistress on Duty), who looks after the day to day activities of the particular day. In the senior schools, the MOD is assisted by the POD (prefect on duty). The prefect system is a legacy of the public school system. All three schools have a team of Prefects, headed by a School Captain and the School Vice Captain. In the BS, the decorated prefects are in Class XII – however, the real administration is run by Class XI, who earn their badges in Class XII – this is done to avoid too much work load on Class XII, a ‘Boards Class’. However, the SC and the VC have a lot of responsibilities, both actual and ceremonial. In addition to these offices, there are separate House Departments – Captains, Vice Captains, secretaries, treasurers and the Captains/Presidents of sports teams, who are responsible for their domains.
In the colonial period, it was 'a fair gem of the Empire's Crown' - a part of the group of prestigious schools started in the 1800s, namely St. Georges College, Oak Grove School and Wynberg Allen School. In fact, the schools share some of the oldest sports rivalries in India. The chief sources of information on the early days are the Principal's logs (a practice now replaced by MOD books), archived school magazines and papers, and the writings of Old Oak Grovians.
In the pre -Independence era, OG was an important public school, catering even then to the wards of railwaymen. The school was intendedc to provide the wards of the employees of the EIR with an education comparable to that provided by the public boarding schools in England. A railway school had been established earlier at Fairlawn Bungalow near the present school, by the NWR. The land on which Oak Grove is situated was called the Oak Grove Estate, obviously owing the name to the oak trees that grew (and still grow) in the area.
The work on the school building, which would be the present Senior Boys’ School building, was started under the Chief Engineer Prescott. It was still not totally complete when, on the 1st of June, 1888, a small batch of first timer students joined under Col. A.C. Chapman as the Headmaster. Later, in the 1890s, the Girls’ School came up, and the wife of the Headmaster took over the post of the head at the GS.
In 1912, the separate Junior School was started. Later, the post of HMBS was separated from the overall Head of the three wings, a position now designated as Principal. Col. Chapman was the first Principal, with Mr. Gibbs as the first independent HMBS. The school saw most of its pre-independence days under the charge of Mr. H.P. Watts, the longest serving Principal, who is also the lyricist of the School Song – ‘Oakgrovians young and old’.
The school was affiliated to the Cambridge system of education. The syllabus was not very varied – the languages, physics, mathematics and physical education.
Discipline was harsh - a certain Mr. Lubeck, and his Physics classes and 'six of the best' figure in many OOGians writings. Emphasis was given on military training and cadets were trained in firearms - one photograph in the archives show the boys as winners of the Viceroy's cup. Sports included cricket, football, hockey and athletics. Swimming was also a regular feature - Oak Grove was the first in the region to feature a swimming pool. Interschool matches in cricket, hockey, football, swimming, boxing etc. were held regularly. In fact, the sports rivalries between the schools of Mussoorie are a part of the folklores in the families of all who are alumni of Mussoorie Schools.
After Independence, there was a question over the continuation of Oak Grove, because the railways were being nationalized, and Oak Grove was then a property of EIR. However, the new government owned railways decided to adopt the school and put it under the charge of the Northern Railway. The Indianisation of the school began under the first Indian principal Mr. Bhaduri. Another notable name of the post independence period is that of Mr. Pasricha, who led the school as the Principal for a long tenure. During this period, a lot of changes happened. The school crest was changed, changes were made to the school song, refectory menu – to lead to a complete assimilation of the school into the Indian system. The Cambridge system gave way for the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) affiliation.
Another long serving Principal was Mr. R.K.Kichlu, who guided the school through a period of stability. However, he was the last academician to be posted as the Principal. Following him, the railways started to appoint officers of the Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS) as Principals. The longest serving Principal under this system has been Mr. Rajeev Kishore, whose tenure changes in the school ethos – his sharp but commendable ways brought the school back to the path of excellence, from which it had started to veer a bit. Another notable tenure was that of Mr. Peter Gabriel, whose era saw a lot of ‘emancipation of the downtrodden’ as the boarding school life was made a bit ‘less harsh’ to suit the modern sensibilities. The current Principal is Mr. Anurag Tripathi.
Three main buildings house the junior school, girls school and boys school. The Senior Boys' School (Boys' School or BS) building is the oldest - built in 1888. It features the original school house, a long two storied building, with a long corridor running through - classrooms on one side and amenities like the refectory, indoor sports and the common room on the other, on the ground floor. The upper floor houses the dormitory - the largest continuous dormitory in Mussoorie. Originally partitioned notionally into the four houses - Wellington, Kitchener, Haig and Nelson, and after Indianisation - Ashoka, Patel, Shivaji and Tagore. However, in 2003, in attempt to break down the boarding school tradition of 'ragging', the dormitory was physically partitioned into senior and junior wings - the efficacy of the move is open to question. The bathroom passages are attached at each end of the long building, on both floors. The dorms feature bunks for the junior classes and single wrought iron bedsteads for the seniors. The BS building is the least pleasant looking of all the three wings, but it is the sturdiest by far, and features redundant beams and columns to provide support in case of an earthquake, not uncommon in the Zone IV location of the school. The dominant colour in the decor is greyish blue.
The Senior Girls' School (GS) building is situated on 'the other side of the valley' - on another hillock separate from one housing BS and JS - completed in the 1890s. The amount of playing areas is lesser, and more greenery is around. The dominant colour in the decor is green.
The Junior School (JS) building is the latest of the three, completed in 1912 - it is the most beautiful of the three wings. It has two dorms for both sexes, on the top floor, with the ground floor being similar to BS. The dominant colour of the decor is bright blue. The hospital for students and staff with resident doctor and paramedics is situated below JS. Originally a full fledged health unit with functioning inpatient treatment, it is now largely reliant on referrals to sophisticated Mussoorie hospitals.
The smallest would be the flats – the general purpose small grounds inside the boundaries of the JS and GS, which are covered with rounded gravel to avoid slush in the heavy monsoon rains, and are used for all sorts of play by the students. The grounds include the lower pitch, a small gravelly ground, designed as a volleyball court, but put to use in all sports by the juniormost of the BS classes. Next is the slightly green and larger Front Pitch. It is designed as a football field, however, like any other ground, is put to multiple uses by the junior classes. The front pitch complex also has the main tennis courts, basketball court and the squash court – the latter has fallen to disuse of late. Even the front pitch is in terrible shape, after it has been used as a parking lot for vehicles coming to the auditorium.
The main ground, where the senior class students play is the back pitch – designed as a field hockey ground – it is gravelly, and plays host to the annual D.M. Swing Memorial Hockey Tournament every year – which is keenly contested by all top schools of the Mussoorie Dehradun belt. In July – October, the pitch is used as football field. Occasionally, less important cricket matches are also staged here.
The pride of Oak Grove and the envy of the neighbouring schools is the Valley – it is really a part of the valley between the main hillock housing BS and JS and the separate hillock housing the GS. Its USP is the lush green grass cover it sports all the year round – it is the only grassy pitch in all of the Mussoorie schools. It is the main cricket cum athletics cum ceremonial grounds for Oak Grove. All important cricket matches are played here. It hosts the Annual Athletics meet in October, and the Founders’ Day celebrations on 1 June.
The auditorium, designed by the RDSO, was inaugurated by the Minister for Railways on the day of the Centenary Celebrations, on 1 June 1988. It can seat about 500, and is acoustically designed. The auditorium(populary known as AUDI) also serves as a venue for the Interschool badminton tournaments. It has a wooden court between the seating area and the stage.
Beside the auditorium, are the staff quarters where the teachers of BS live. Some of the quarters are situated behind the Front Pitch at a lowland. The structure of the staff quarters are similar to the BS building.
A litte further on the left hand side of the front pitch is a restroom designed for people visiting the school. The restroom has a lawn which is placed at the edge of the hill, thus allowing residents to take a glimpse of the entire doon valley.
The lab complex flanking the back pitch is functional – and serves as a good open stand for watching the matches being played on the back pitch.
The campus also hosts a power-substation to look after the electricity needs of the campus and the water supply is taken from the Mossy Falls uphill, through a piping system designed back in 1888.
Of late there has been a great deal of concern and debate among the school alumni over the state of affairs in the school. Several of the facilities offered by the school which contributed to its pride of place among the residential elite schools have been wound up. The school hospital has closed down, the quality of the food has deteriorated, the school no longer competes with the top Mussoorie schools but does so with the second tier schools in Mussoorie. The principals of the school choose to send their children to nearby St George's, as a clear reflection of the deteriorating academic standards in the school. Some efforts have been made by the newer Principals to "improve" things. The school staff/teachers seems to be unionized, again a reflection on the deteriorating administration in the school. The handing over of the administration of an old, well established, large residential school to young Railway administrators who have no exposure to a quality residential school is partly responsible for this deterioration.
30° 26' N latitude 78° 6' E longitude
Altitude: 5,222 feet (1,592 m) Temperatures: 34 °C to - 2 °C
The School Year
The new session begins in the middle of April, when the students are promoted to new classes and new admissions are made. The classes are punctuated by Inter School Cricket matches and events like Intra-School Debates and Quiz. Near the end of May, preparations for the Founders’ cum Prize Day celebrations begin. Rehearsals for the Valley Function and the Audi function feature daily in the evenings, while the days are occupied by individual practice.
The term ends on 1 June – with the Founders’ Day celebrations. It comprises two functions. The Valley events are the remnants of the Annual Prize day function of the pre-independence era – after a guard of honour and a parade, the school reports are read out and the prizes for scholarship are awarded. The Audi function is a cultural programme featuring the three schools – musicals, skits, dances – both folk and western and solos and duets are performed by the students. After the function is over, the summer vacation begins.
The school re-opens for the longest of the terms – more than five months long, on 26 June. The monsoon rains pour incessantly and it is the time for largely staying inside, so that most of the syllabus is covered in this period. Football is played in the rainy season. The term features two examinations – the Quarterlies in mid August and the Half Yearly, at mid November. The important events of the term are – Inter House Football (mid July), Inter House Dramatics (end July), the Marathon (end September), Annual Athletic Meet ( October start) and the Fancy Fair (the School fete – held in the valley, in the beginning of November). After the half yearly examination, the school closes for two months of winter vacation.
The spring term starts on the February 1. By the end of the half yearlies, most of the syllabus is generally completed – still, if remaining, the remainder is completed in February and March. Major sport played is field hockey. The term features the important Board Examinations – AISSCE (XII) and AISSE (X). The Home Final Examinations too are held from mid March, and end by April start. The first fortnight of April is usually free, used for Inter House Cricket and educational trips to be made by the houses. The promotions happen by mid April, and a new session starts.
The school is affiliated to the CBSE, New Delhi, and the studies in the senior Classes reflect all the high and low points of the CBSE system. However, from Class III to Class VIII, the education is characteristic of OG. The level of education provided in these classes is lightly higher than the standard, so the students enetering Class IX in the phase of centrally regulated syllabus find it quite easy. In the JS ( Classes III to V ) – it is mainly about the languages, Science, Social Sciences, Value Education and soft skills like music, dance, art and crafts. In the BS, the course in Class Vi is suddenly very large – the subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Biology, History, Civics, Geography etc. are treated separately, and the students end up studying as many as 12-13 subjects. Class IX onwards, the regulated CBSE syllabus is taught.
The performance of Oak Grove students has been very good in the AISSE (Class X) examinations over the years – recent record show as many as 45%(2011 pass-out batch) of students getting in the 90 % marks. In AISSCE ( Class XII ), the performance has been good, but not outstanding. Perhaps the reason is that after ClassX, the cream of the batch leaves for studying at Delhi and other such places where they can take ‘coaching’ for the Engineering Entrance Examinations.
The students are called Oakgrovians. The typical OG life comprises an early rising, at about 5:30 am, and an hour of running / PT followed by showers and then the morning prep. Breakfast happens at 8 and the morning assembly, presided by the Head of the school, at 8:30. the classes follow – 8 periods of 45 minutes each, punctuated by 3 sets of breaks, one for lunch at 11:45. the evening tea is done by 4, and then there are two hours of playtime, usually class play, but during sports’ seasons, interhouse competitions may be held. Then there is the evening prep from 6 to 7, and then the supper, followed by another prep from 7:30 to 8:30. The ‘boards classes’ (X and XII) are allowed to study late, but the school generally goes to sleep by 10:00.
One aspect of the Oak Grove life is the senior junior relationship. Modelled after the fagging system of the English public schools, in the OG too, the juniors are supposed to obey the seniors and run small errands and do minor chores for them – but this system has been declining under successive IRPS Principals.
Like all public schools, Oak Grove has history of sporting culture. The history of Annual Athletics Meets, also known as the Sports’ Day, is almost as long as that of the school itself. The main sports played are Cricket, Football, Field Hockey, Lawn Tennis, Squash, Badminton, Athletics, Swimming and Indoor Sports. The school has two major grounds (the Back Pitch and the Valley) and a host of smaller grounds to provide space for sport.
In the pre-independence days, the big three sports (Cricket, Football, Hockey) were regularly played at the inter house levels, as well as the interschool level. Matches were played between OG and SGC, and it is one rivalry that alumni of both institutions recall with pride. Some sports which were played then, but have been discontinued now are boxing and shooting. The pre –independence honour boards list out champion shots for each year and the students have been recipients of the Viceroy’s Cup. However, this sport is not practiced now, may be because of the general decline in the military traditions at boarding schools. Boxing has not been seen at OG since 1957.
The school sports are held in both open and division categories. The divisions may be two – Junior and Senior, or they may be four – Sub Junior, Junior, Intermediate and Senior Divisions. Earlier, a height-weight index was followed for qualification to various divisions, with the Senior being open. However, that system has been abandoned now, because it was leading to crash dieting amongst the students to fit into their targeted divisions. Now, simple age based divisions are used.
The sports’ season at OG starts in July, after the school reopens for the monsoon term. The major sport of the time is football – the back pitch is prepared accordingly, with the larger goal frame and nets. The season is apt for football – as torrential downpours render any other sport unviable. It starts with the Inter House Football tournament, held on a knockout basis. Two matches of knockout are followed by a 3rd 4th playoff and the final. These matches are held mostly in two division –Junior and Senior. This is followed by the Inter School Football League, where each school team plays against the other school team, in all four divisions – generally SGC hosts the senior division, OG hosts the intermediate and WAS hosts the two junior divisions. After the league, there are a lot of invitational or open tournaments, like the Jackie Memorial at the SGC, or the ARM at OG. Participation in these is not regular (except the ARM, which OGS hosts), but generally teams do go for participation.
The rainy season is also the time for indoor sports like badminton, Table Tennis and Chess. Inter house and inter school tournaments are held in the former two.
Near the end of the monsoons, the inter house cross country, popularly known as the Marathon, is run. It is a part of the Annual Athletic Meet; in fact it is the richest event in terms of points to be earned. The race is run in all four divisions – the longest being 6.5 km in the senior division, which may not seem too long, but it comprises some very steep stretches, on which, the stamina for the best is tested. It has been seen that the leader at the Marathon usually goes on to win the Shield.
After the Marathon, the other long distance events are held – notably the mile race on the October 2nd. The heats start after that, in full swing, for qualification in all short distance races, some field events and for medals in other field events. Generally, by the end of the first week of October, Annual Athletics meet is held, with all the pageantry befitting the occasion. The march past is followed by the Oath taken by the Boys’ School Captain. The meet is declared open, and an action filled day follows. In the end, the house with most points wins the coveted Cock Shield. It is the most important sports’ honour in the school, and before the House Cup was reinstated recently, it was the most important trophy, and the house rivalries, generally subdued compared to class rivalries, grow much stronger in these days.
Usually, two weeks after the Annual Athletic Meet, the Inter School Athletic Meet, popularly known as the Mussoorie Olympiad is held. Earlier, it was a very large event, held by rotation in different schools. However, after the skirmishes of 1994, the old MSSA was dissolved, and the Older of the Mussoorie Schools – SGC, OGS, Wynberg Allen, Woodstock School and CJM Waverley founded a smaller but intensely competitive league.Earlier the Inter School Athletic Meet was held at the Wynberg Allen main grounds, and is an important event of Mussoorie. Principal Anurag Tripathi took the initiative to reunite MSSA.It was reunited in 2009 but earlier like SGC, Wynberg discarded and rejected to be part of it due to includance of some low schools. So in 2009 Inter Schools only MSSA schools took part and was held at OG.
After the Winter Break, the grounds are dry and the season starts with Field Hockey – again the first feature is the Inter House Hockey tournament, held on the lines of the Football tournament. Then the matches of the Inter School League are played out – before the Final Examination. The days between the Final Examination and the promotion feature long sunkissed days, with no classes being held – ideal for the longest of sports – cricket. The Inter House Cricket tournament is played in this period, in both divisions.
After the new session starts in mid-April, Inter School cricket matches are played. Then comes the turn of another important feature of the Mussoorie – Dehradun sports calendar, The D.M.Swing Memorial Hockey Tournament – hosted by OG at the Back Pitch. It features the top flight teams of Mussoorie and Dehradun, and the matches are played in round robin basis followed by knock outs. Oak Grove Team and the Welham Boys’ team have won the tournament for the most times. The sports season ends as the preparation for the Founders’ day begin.
Oakgrovians young and old, Come join in cheerful song;
The honour of our school upholds, With voices clear and strong.
We leave the plains and heat, Our homes and friends below;
And on these rugged mountains meet, Life's purposes to know.
Our glorious valley green, With wooded hills around;
As games we play with vigour keen, Doth oft with shouts resound.
In classrooms and in field, Oak Grove has made her name;
We strive and hope our time will yield, New glories, wider fame.
We love this school of ours, We're Oak Grove's children true;
We'll serve her in her darkest hours, And in her glory too.
This place wherein we live, Fair gem of this earth's crown;
Claims earnest work which we must give; Regardless of renown.
And when we leave Oak Grove, Embarking on life's sea;
We'll ne'er forget the school we loved, But loyal to her be.
In future years we pray, God's blessing she may see,
And that her sons and daughters may, "In all things faithful be".
H. P. Watts
The song is an Indianised version of the original, which had phrases like 'we are Empire's children true', 'we'll serve our King', and 'fair gem of Empire's Crown'. The song was changed to suit the Indian sensibility in the post Independence era.
Oak Grove School on Facebook ( http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=18307785234&ref=ts )
- Schools in Uttarakhand
- Education in Dehradun
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.