"A group of Indian professionals working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after long deliberations, came to the conclusion that the deliverance of the Muslim community lies in education. The other major conclusion they had reached was that there is need to provide quality education at affordable cost. The dream became a reality in the form of Mount Mercy School (MMS), which was inaugurated in June 1999 by the then Governor of Andhra Pradesh, Dr. C. Rangarajan." *
As the name implies, this school is truly interfaith, where 40% students are muslim. Out of the entire student body, 50% are female.
It's located in Hyderabad in the state of Andhra Pradesh, where the regional language is Telugu.
This is not a boarding school but rather a day school with 800 students. Under the leadership of their forward-thinking and progressive principal, students in grades pre-K to 10th receive their education in a safe, multicultural setting. Although most students' families pay tuition, many students receive a subsidized education through charitable grants from sponsors.
All the classrooms that I visited were clean, attractive and comfortable. The students and teachers welcomed us warmly, and were eager to show us their work. What impressed me the most was the fact that the students are learning multiple languages: Telugu, Arabic, Hindi, and English.
Some of the classrooms have been newly equipped with interactive white-boards, and I saw a roomy, air-conditioned computer lab with desktop computers, an interactive white-board, and access to the Internet.
One of the tour's highlights was a simulated wedding ceremony in the local style, with the participating students wearing beautiful clothing typical of the region.
If I lived here, I would send my own children to this school because I saw an openness and respect for all faiths and cultural backgrounds. Here children are learning to work and play together despite their religious or socioeconomic differences.
*Quoted from a flyer I received from MMS on July 19, 2013
Early this morning we left Hyderabad for Madurai. We were fortunate to enjoy cool rainy monsoon conditions throughout our 5-day stay in Hyderabad.
I was a bit worried (okay, I was terrified) when I saw our smallish plane.
I don't like propellers.
All photos by Chris Gibson
Thankfully the flight to Madurai was smooth and uneventful, despite the propellers.
As soon as we arrived in Madurai (aka Madras), we noticed something different. Here, the sun was shining and the wind was almost hot. The streets here are smaller and just a bit congested mostly with motorcycles and very few cars. The population is just over a million (as of 2011 census), much less dense than what we've seen in other cities. It has a small-town feel. The city of Madurai is the hub of the state of Tamil Nadu, and is important because people consider it the religious center for South India's Hindus.
Unlike what I've seen in northern India, the men here wear either slacks or the traditional Veshti, which is one and a half yards of unstitched fabric, simply wrapped around the waist. The women wear typical Indian styles including Salwar Kameez, or Kurthas. Speaking of clothing, I've noticed many people wearing the world famous "madras" pattern. I think it's all beautiful.
Tomorrow we will visit the Meenakshi Amman Temple, with its ancient brightly-colored tall towers. Tonight I'm going to make sure I fully charge my camera battery! I can't wait to share with you the pictures.