Sister Cyril Brings “Education, Equality, and Justice” Presentation to DeSales University

by Andrew Ritter' 12 | Apr 26, 2012

Sr. Cyril Mooney will speak at DeSales University on May 1Sister S.M. Cyril will speak at DeSales on Tuesday, May 1, at 8:00 p.m. (Photo courtesy of Biswarup Ganguly)
DeSales University will be hosting Sister S.M. Cyril on Tuesday, May 1, where she will deliver an address on “Education, Equality, and Justice.” Sister Cyril will speak on her remarkable tenure as principal of  Loreto Day School - Sealdah, and how her humanitarian efforts have brought dynamic social change and hope throughout Calcutta. The event will be held at the DeSales University Center in the Commonwealth Room, beginning at 8 p.m.

Sister Cyril is internationally recognized as an educational innovator. In 2007, she received the Padma Shri Award, the Government of India’s fourth-highest civilian honor, and has been presented with the Kolkata Telegraph Award for Social Service seven times. In 2010, she was presented with an Honorary Doctorate in Education from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Monmouth University awarded Sister Cyril with 2011 Global Visionary Award.

Sister Cyril joined the Loreto Order, the same order as Mother Teresa, in her home country of Ireland. She relocated to India in 1956 where she earned a Ph.D in zoology and began teaching upper-income children at the elite English-speaking Loreto Sealdah. However, Sister Cyril was dismayed at the established order and unyielding caste system.

“I was appalled by the poverty almost outside our gates...You have a peasant class that never went to school, they were there to serve, and you had the well-off people who they served,” she explained.

Sister Cyril assumed principalship of the school in 1979 and immediately opened enrollment to needy children; today 50% of students attend Loreto Sealdah free of charge, the majority coming from Calcutta slums. In 1983 she pushed her humanitarian outreach further by opening the school gates to street children, inviting them inside for a meal or bath. Children off the street were never forced to stay at the school, yet the option was left open to the children.

Another groundbreaking community program is “The Rainbow Program,” an effort to curb risks of street children trafficking into the sex trade. The Rainbow Program currently provides housing, food, and education for 250 girls who previously lived hard lives on the street. Every day-attendance student from a wealthy background is required to spend two hours per week tutoring the Rainbow Children, in an effort to integrate the under-educated into the classroom and allow them the opportunity for a better life. The program has also led to the establishment of Rainbow Homes across the region, where children are welcomed into larger schools which traditionally lie empty from 2 p.m.-8 a.m. Such arrangements are already providing overnight shelter to 600 additional children.

Loreto Sealdah is also responsible for outreach programs such as the Barefoot Teachers Program (which provides preliminary education training to young adults who lack the means to attend formal institutions), Hidden Domestic Child Labor Outreach (combating abusive child labor, particularly at the expense of their education), and the Rural Child-to-Child Education project (which provides more highly educated students the opportunity to tutor classmates confined to very large class sizes, promoting a more intimate learning experience.) Sister Cyril remains an extraordinary example of education beyond the realm of mathematics and phonics: allowing students perspective of their world, and the heart to meet it fully.

For more information, contact Jaime Gerhart 610.282.1100 ext. 1889

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