This Hyderabad Septuagenarian Is Defining Selflessness For 25 Years

It is a well-known fact that a nation’s prosperity depends not upon the elderly, but upon the children who’ll become the leaders of tomorrow. But to lead a nation, one needs to be knowledgeable enough to realize the pros and cons of every decision take and this requires education without discrimination. 

However, the present academic infrastructure is such that only the affluent can afford education while the poor, barely being able to do so, results in generations of uneducated children. To bar this financial discrimination against education, 77-year-old Beula Gabriel took the onus on her shoulders and has changed hundreds of lives till date.

Caring in the DNA

Born in Secunderabad, Beula was the oldest of nine siblings. At an age as early as eight, she learnt to care for her siblings as well as the household. Her father, Louis Emanuel was an engineer while mother Emilia, a doctor.

Growing up, she observed her mother bringing home rural girls, educating them and enrolling them for nursing training. Even her father helped several underprivileged people set up small businesses. This made her believe in the power of education and she grew up with the sole aim of becoming a teacher who would impact the lives of children who were the neglected sect of the society.

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She started on her plan in 1985, by setting up a school called St Andrews, in Hyderabad. However, disagreements with her family who wanted to use the school as a money-making business just like the other schools in the vicinity, led her to abandon that plan.

“I opted out of the management because I wanted to start a school where I could bring children from all walks of life – from the richest to the neediest, from highly educated families to first-time school-goers,” says Beula.

An Undiscriminating Approach

So, in 1993, she started St Joseph’s Secondary School in Hyderabad’s East Marredpally with the underlying philosophy that they wouldn’t shut doors to any student. This was pioneering in the sense that schools at that time were conducting screening processes not only to test the child’s skills but also check whether the parents were educated and could speak in English or not.

Beula, on the other hand, decided to follow a different approach. The test that her school conducted was not one that would debar aspiring students based on their skills or their parents’ affluence, but one which would help them understand where the child stood in terms of their learning level and thus cater to their needs accordingly.

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Soon, she started bringing in students who were children of house helps, rickshaw pullers, labourers, watchmen and so on. And now, while the school is open to children from all backgrounds, the underprivileged are never turned away. It has 300 students studying from KG to Class 10.

The Dedicated Staff

Beula’s school also stands out because of its dedicated staff, many of whom have been there ever since the school’s inception. One such person is Sangeeta, the school’s ayah and Beula’s right hand. Despite battling cancer during her tenure, she never disassociated herself from the school. 

Also, many of the teachers have remained loyal to Beula and her school despite the nominal fees they receive solely because they all share the same vision- uplifting students through equal opportunities. Not only that, Beula was also compelled to sell the house gifted by her son Gerard to meet with the expenses of maintaining the school.

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As the school completes 25 years, instead of a pompous celebration, Beula has asked her students to collect basic necessities such as grains, pulses and other essentials, and distribute them in their neighbourhoods. More than 100 families received goods through the student's efforts on the first day itself of the month-long celebration.

Even at the age of 77, Beula has no plans to retire, for she believes in serving common people through education. It is people like her that we need to create a harmonious world where every child is educated and knowledgeable enough to lead the world of tomorrow.

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