When Campion School's retired physical education teacher, 55-year-old, needed a knee replacement surgery, his former students came together to fund his surgery.
"He served the school for so many years and bonded well with the students. In the earlier days, there was no medical insurance for teachers, therefore the association decided to pay for the expenses," said Uday More, vice president of the Old Campionites' Association. Although the association was formed 50 years ago, it has begun actively contributing to the school only in the past few years.
It is common to have active alumni in business schools and engineering colleges, but recently even schools have witnessed larger participation from alumni. From providing medical insurance for the staff to mentoring students, alumni associations have gone beyond mere reunion dinners.
Schools, of course, couldn't be happier. With rising competition among schools and parents demanding better facilities, schools are expanding like never before.
"Our fees are as low as Rs five a month and the school has not received non-salary grants since 2004. We needed funds to upgrade our laboratory and auditorium. Our building is a heritage structure so even the maintenance is expensive. There is no way other than to garner support from ex-students," said Jennifer Dias, principal of St. Xavier's High School in Dhobi Talao. With wealthy alumni such as Deepak Parekh, chairman, HDFC, Adi Godrej, chairman, Godrej group and Maharashtra Chief Minister, Ashok Chavan, support was not an issue. At the reunion dinner to celebrate the school's 140 years in 2009, the alumni trust donated Rs 1.25 crore to the school.
"It is an instant nostalgic attachment with the school that makes us want to return to our school and do something for it," said Darius Engineer, managing committee member of the school's alumni association.
The alumni of St. Xaviers' Boys Academy in Marine Lines conduct mentoring programmes for students and seminars for teachers. "We are extremely grateful to our superb teachers, who instilled discipline and values that stood by us through our lives," said Kamlesh Desai, vice president of Boys' Academy Past Student Association.
The alumni of Holy Family High School in Andheri carve time out of their busy schedules to organise various inter-school competitions and sports tournaments. The association of the 65-year-old school was formed only in 2001. To make up for the delay, they ensure that every student who passes out becomes a member. They have also put in place a nutrition programme through which 45 underprivileged students are given breakfast before school every day. "They need much more than education at the school. The school cannot undertake such activities. Involvement by ex-students adds to the school's effort," said John Neelankavil, president of the Ex-students' Association of Holy Family School.
School years form the largest part of a person's academic life, which is why, feel educationists, the bond is far stronger. "Students who do well in life want to contribute to the school and are always there when schools need assistance. It is not charity but more like payback for the relationship a student shared with his/her school and its teachers," said Father Lawrie, an educationist.
With alumni associations comprising people of all backgrounds, a school has a large talent pool to choose from.
"For the past few years we are trying to make substantial contributions to the school. From offering career counselling and conducting aptitude tests for the students to educating teachers about cyber security, we pool in all our intellectual resources," said Jerry Mascarhenhas, vice-president of the St. Stanislaus Ex-students' Association.