This academician liveslife with a purposeUpdated: Dec 28, 2019, 20:20 IST
LUCKNOW: This gentleman wears multiple hats. ‘Educationist by choice’ and ‘politician by accident’, he is a social worker too.
Meet Peter Fanthome, 67, an academician who later became politician (former Member of Legislative Assembly) and social worker. Fanthome taught English and Mathematics for nearly 45 years and for 35 years, he was principal in St Teresa’s Day School and College that grew from strength to strength under his leadership.
He also established and financed Audrey Fanthome Auditorium on Ashok Marg. The proceeds from the hall go towards the senior citizens of the Dorothy Crosswaite Homes in Lucknow as medical treatment of elderly people required money, he said.
Virtues of being a good teacher
“A teacher has to have leadership quality of an all rounder like Kapil Dev and visionary like that of Shubash Chandra Bose. Both are worshipped as demi gods and led by examples. One is a champion captain who helped India win 1983 World Cup when nobody gave them chance and another is a pioneer leader. If teachers can inculcate virtues among students of these two stalwarts, they are bound to excel in life. They will become role models for their students. And teachers having these qualities command highest respect from their pupil both present and past,” said Fanthome, sitting on a sofa in his Model House residence, clad in a thick woollen pullover with a muffler round his neck.
Teachers command respect
He regrets, “Today the so-called teachers are unable to command respect. It is time for them to introspect. They must ponder over why their teachers got so much respect. Maybe there is some disconnect between the present generation teachers and their students.”
Fanthome’s father was a senior railway officer and his parents wanted him to join the Indian Railways. Fanthome, however, decided to chase his dream of becoming a teacher. “Teaching always fascinated me. So I became a teacher by choice,” said Fanthome who joined Goethals Memorial School, Kurseong, Darjeeling in West Bengal as a teacher way back in 1974 and worked for about a year.
Teaching career blossomed in Lucknow
He joined St Francis’ College, Lucknow in January 1975 and taught English and Mathematics till December 1981. “In all these years, I found most students feared Mathematics for reasons best known to them. The subject is not so difficult provided you get the concepts right. Teaching Mathematics naturally became my instinct. Now I have students who are chartered accountants and did really well in their professional life,” he said.
“When I see my students in high positions it gives me immense joy. I feel proud that I lived a life with a purpose and contributed my bit so that others may lead a purposeful life. The thrill I get on seeing my students do well in their professional life cannot be expressed in words.”
“That is why I keep saying teachers can’t demand respect. You earn or command respect for certain good things that you have done in life over the years. Yes, there are certain new laws and guidelines that have restrained teachers from disciplining their pupils but this should not be a hinderance in getting respect from their pupils,” he said.
As principal of St Teresa’s Day School
After his mother’s death, Fanthome decided to quit St Francis’ College and became principal of St Teresa’s Day School & College, Lucknow, situated in a densely populated Model House area. “There were just 300 students and it was only up to Class 4. Each year, I added one class and finally in 1990 the first batch of students appeared in ICSE (Class 10) examination. Classes 11-12 were added after sometime,” said Fanthome, former president, Association of Heads of Anglo-Indian Schools, UP.
There was no looking back thereafter for Fanthome. He opened two more branches of St Teresa’s—one in Aashiana and another in Itaunja. In addition to this, there is also a playschool ‘Little Audrey’ in Triveni Nagar.
Politician by accident
To become a politician was never on his agenda. Way back in late 1990s, an ex-pupil and a bureaucrat called him, saying that the then chief minister Maywati wanted to meet him. “I went to see her and she told me that I should be going to the Vidhan Sabha as an Anglo Indian representative. I told her to give me some time. She gave me only few minutes. I called up a few well- wishers who told me that I should not miss this opportunity,” he said.
Fanthome loves to call himself politician by accident. He was three times nominated member in the Legislative Assembly of UP from 1997 to 2007 in the 13th and 14th Vidhan Sabha and then again in the 16th Vidhan Sabha. “I have worked with different chief ministers. It started with Mayawati, Kalyan Singh, Rajnath Singh, Mulayam Singh Yadav and later on Akhilesh Yadav. “I have good relations with all these chief ministers. But I found Akhilesh more diligent who did well given whatever opportunity he got,” Fanthome said.