What is essential for a human being is attitudinal change!

Rev. Dr. G. Joseph Antony Samy, SJis the Principal of Loyola College in Chennai. He holds a PhDin Historyand a Theology degree. With an overall teaching experience of 16 years, he is also the Director of TATA- LOYOLA Community college at Kovalam, Director of Ignatian Institute of Loyola College, and Deputy Director of Loyola College Alumni Association.

Dr. Joseph Antony Samy has published six books, recent ones being: Unified Mission Plan – a book on Leadership in Tamil and Ethics and Values- Foundation for Quality Education.

Dr. Joseph Antony Samy shares with Marie Banuhis passion for education.

Can you tell us about your childhood?

I hail from Nagarigatha village in Ramnad District which is near Oriyur where St. John Britto was beheaded because he stood for truth.

My fatherwas a bold and honest man. He was one among the four Panchayat members in our village and I have seen him sufferbecause he stood for truth. My mother is a housewife and a strict lady. She is hardworking and used to go along with my father to work in the field.Being the eldest son, I used to take care of my sister while my mother was at work.

I helped my father to plough the field and after school gatheredgreen grass and creepersto feed our cattle. I used to collect water from a pond that was 300 yards away, and prepare rice and keep the oven ready for my mother to cook dinner soon after she returned from the field.

After supper, I joined my peers for a swim at a lake which was 250 feet deep and played games like Kabadi and nila vilayatu.We spent hours gazing at the stars and would return home only around 10pm.

Until ninth standard, I studied in a government school that was five kilometers away from home.I went by walk carrying my lunch pack. I then shifted to a school at Oriyur and studied until eleventh standard here. I was very much influenced by Saint John Britto.

How important is sports for holistic development?

I will start by talking about our Government as this value should be passed on from the top. In every ward, there should be a place for walking and playing. Government should create such facilities, else they have to be blamed for the poor health of people. In Chennai, I would expect at least few thousands of parks and playgrounds with all facilities.We do have parks in our city, but they are not maintained well.

I feel that everyone should spend time to exercise. Parents should take their children for a walk and share their day’s experience with them. Physical exercise is very important for the health of an individual.When parents teach, their children learn.

What are the values that you believe is most important for an individual?

I believe in discipline and punctuality. We should respect one another. Punctuality is a sign that I respect you. There are some who take pleasure in making people wait. A leader should be a role model. He should be punctual for his meetings.

I have introduced a system where the staff sign the attendance register by 8:10am so that the classes start at 8:15am. Late comers sign a register which is kept at my PA’s desk.Three days of latecoming is considered as half day’s leave.More than 99 percent of our staff are positively responding to this system.

We have a rule where students or staff are not allowed into college if they do not wear a helmet while riding.I follow the Government rules in my college.The future of the nation is here! Controlling staff or students using technology like biometric system is simple.But, I believe that individuals should develop inner strengths as you are dealing with human beings.If we don’t have a value then we are not communicating any content to people.

I am a villager, and learnt all these values in the Society of Jesus.

About the caste system. Your thoughts?

Many are using the caste system for their own benefits.They do not use it to empower people, but instead to exploit them. I don’t have consideration for people who say that they are working to liberate their caste.I feel that they should instead ask the government to remove the caste name from the certificate.

To start with, our StateGovernment should take efforts to remove the caste system in our state. The parliament should create a category NC– NO CASTE. Those who openly state that they do not want to be identified by caste must receive this certificate. No certificate from school to death should reveal the caste of an individual.

We should strengthen the Panchayat Raj system where the people from the lowest rung are brought up.
The village Panchayat should nominate a group to identify deserving children based on their economic status and such children should be given priority by the Government for education.

Religion is contaminated and become a de-humanising factor because of caste. Some argue that by removing the caste system, few communities will get affected. They may not benefit from scholarship or reservations.What is essential for a human being is attitudinal change!If Kerala does not have a caste system, why not Tamil Nadu.We have tangible structures to show that there is God. Therefore religion is important and cannot be bypassed. But, is there a structure for caste in our county?

It may probably take 10 or 15 years for one to realise what I am saying, otherwise the caste discrimination and related issues will continue for another 100 years.

About the launch of School of Commerce and Economics by our Hon’ble President of India?
There is great demand for commerce related subjects and Loyola is known for its quality of education. We receive1000of applicationsevery year for 100 seats. Due to the need, we felt that we should have an exclusive School of Commerce and Economics.

It took more than two years to construct the buildingaswe did not having sufficient funds. Our alumni donated 3.5 crore rupees. We needed 100 classrooms, but could construct only 44.

Our alumni also took the effort of invitingthe President of India to launch the School of Commerce and Economics on 20th December, 2013.The President of India being the first citizen is a symbol of our country’s value.Dr Pranab Mukherjeeis an educationist and from his contribution we can understand that greatness of the person. He appreciated our effortsand it was an encouraging moment for our staff and students.

On the occasion, Dr. Pranab Mukherjee spoke about the excellent education offered at Loyola. He shared his concern that none of the colleges in our country are within the top 500 colleges across the globe.

I am willing to take this up as a challenge!Loyola College is capable of educating 25000 children providedthe government provides us with infrastructure and scientific equipment.We receive 30,000 applications every year, but the system allows us to admit less than 3000 students. This is a quality institution. We may have the poorest of the poor students studying, but we have the best of teachers.

I don’t want to collect more fees from students in order to provide education.Education should be treated as a service sector and not as a business sector.