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An Interrupted Dream Print E-mail

ImageIn journeying with their Founder’s dream, the Brothers of the Christian Schools (also known as the De La Salle Brothers) traveled to the far corners of Asia to help the “street urchins” or disadvantaged youths to seek a better life through education. They voyaged to Malaysia in 1852 and then to Burma some eight years later.

ImageAccording to Captain Win Than Oo, Joint-Secretary of the Old Paulians’ Association, Myanmar, all the Brothers’ schools were nationalized in 1965 and hence their Alumni Association’s membership is only made up of Old Boys who studied in a Brother’s school prior to 1965. “The schools got nationalized and the Brothers had to stop teaching. All foreign Brothers had to leave the country. That was a very sad day for everyone,” he wrote in his email to us.

Therefore, one should not be surprised when the youngest La Salle Old Boy in Myanmar is over 54 years of age. Well here it is, direct from the horse’s mouth: “Unlike Malaysia, our La Sallians could not see their promising juniors ……. The youngest of La Sallians here is me at age 54,” declares Captain Win Than Oo.

But the trying situation does not kill off their Lasallian Spirit as they band together to form a Brothers’ Old Boys’ group whose membership is open to those who had attended any one of the six Brothers’ schools prior to nationalization in 1965. Though coming from different schools, “we all are La Sallians and united like a stick,” says Than Oo who has kindly compiled a brief history of Lasallian education in Myanmar.


A brief History of Lasallian Education in Myanmar

It was on the 4th April 1860, that the first group of Brothers arrived in Maw La Myaing (Moulmein) from Kolkata (Calcutta) and took over what is known today as St. Patrick’s High School.

On the 12th September that same year another group of Brothers came over to Yangon (Rangoon) from India at the invitation of Bishop Paul Bigandet and thus began St. Paul’s High School.

In 1897 the Brothers were handed over a two storeyed brick building and began St. Peter’s at Mandalay.

When Brother John took over the Directorship of St. Paul’s in 1915, he planned to give the poor children a theoretical and practical training on an industrial basis. The scheme included a rubber plantation of some 1,800 acres.  The De La Salle Orphanage, Twante started with 38 boys in 1921 on February 1st.  

During WWII Japanese occupation, the Brothers from St. Peter’s were quartered at another town name Mo Gok and St. Peter’s was requisitioned as  hospital. Therefore Brothers went to their country house at Pyin Oo Lwin (May Myo).  Upon the town’s people request Brothers opened St. Albert’s on July 2nd., 1945.  

The Bishop of Toungoo  handed over to the Brothers some 10 acres of land at Loikaw, the Capital of Kayah State, standing on a flat expanse of land 3,000 feet above the sea level. In May 1958, St. Joseph’s was opened with an attendance of about 180.

On May 27th, 1959, St. Columban’s High School came under the Brothers’ management on a land of some 8 acres with all existing buildings from the Fathers of Maynooth Missionaries.

The youngest of the Lasallian Schools in Myanmar is St. Anthony’s High School – young, not in age, but in adoption.  For St. Anthony’s has been in existence for not less than ninety years, and it came under the De La Salle Brothers in April 1960.

ImageIndeed for quite a number of years, a large percentage of Juniors, Novices and Scholastics from Myanmar were sent to Penang or studied in Penang. After the War, the Juniorate in May Myo was established.

In 1962, a New Government came into power and in 1965, all schools were nationalized consequently the Brothers’ education was ceased.  Brothers are still maintaining a Provincialate in Yangon.  All Brothers’ schools turned into government curriculum and renamed as Basic Education High School No. … of  ( name of township ) except St. Albert’s High School  was transformed into a vocational technical high school  and lately was transformed again to an office of technical research.

ImageThe Brothers never give up and now succeed to open a small training center of learning English and Computer basic skills for poor in Yangon.  Some BOBs (Brothers’ Old Boys) of Myanmar visit there and take some sessions of teaching as well as donation.

ImageAlumni of each schools regularly hold the annual reunions on their own and some holds the annual ceremonies for paying homage to the teachers and brothers of De La Salle era. For example: Old Paulians of Myanmar hold such ceremonies for thirty consecutive years as of 2009.  Old Paulians’ Association of Myanmar is a strongest but its extension of official registration was not granted since 1989.  However, the OPA of Myanmar still manages to exist and was recognized by local authorities by sympathy only.

This year 2010 is first in fifty years to unite all alumni of De La Salle Schools of Myanmar to commemorate the Sesqui Centennial Anniversary – Unquote

ImageAccording to Than Oo, LaSallians in Myanmar will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Brothers on 13th November, 2010, The Alumni shall come from all over the world and we have formed the organising committee to host the great event. We shall try to gather as much as alumni we can including people from the remote area. We shall prepare the accommodation for those people coming from afar and we'll stretch our wide open arms to our Brothers and brothers.

(NOTE: The photo shows Bro. Mark Murphy chairing a committee meeting)

The Superior Brother General Alvaro Rodriguez Echieverria from Casa La Salle of Rome, Brother David Hawke, the General Councillor for Asia - Pacific Region and Brother Edmundo Fernandez, the Provincial for Philippines shall attend too.  I'm thinking to invite a Wayne Rooney of Manchester United  as he was from a La Salle school too. We, the Brothers' Old Boys of Myanmar warmly welcome the La Sallians of Malaysia to join hand with us in forthcoming Sesqui Centennial Anniversary of La Salle Schools of Myanmar.”

Sithu, an Old Boy of St Peter’s Mandalay is organizing a football match between the Burma BOB (Brothers’ Old Boys) and the international BOBs. They are hoping that Fellow-LaSallians from Malaysia will participate.

Members of the e-Lasallian Family Network worldwide salute the our Myanmese counterparts for their resoluteness and commitment  in keeping the Lasalle Spirit alive for the last 4 decades even though the last Lasallian school was closed in 1965. We wish them every success in their forthcoming Sesqui Centennial Anniversary Celebrations on 13th November, 2010.



Captain Win Than Oo

Captain Cyril Dawson

Dr. Robin Chan

Richard Boudville (Photos)

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