It might be a pale shadow of its former great self, but to be still running after almost two centuries is a feat that very few institutes can lay claim to. Join us as we trace the origins of the once highly esteemed CBM School in Visakhapatnam
183 years and still going on; this fact is corroborated by the simple notice board behind the headmaster’s chair in the majestic Fox-memorial building that very humbly specifies ‘1836’ as the founding year of CBM School in Visakhapatnam. Spread over two sprawling complexes in Velampeta area of one-town, CBM School was a highly prestigious institution until a few decades ago. The high and mighty of the entire North Andhra had their schooling in this institution. P C Gupta, famous British era politician in Madras Presidency, famous actor-writer Gollapudi Maruthi Rao, ex Madras High Court Chief Justice Vepa Kamesam, famous Indian football star of yore Varahalu, M Gopalakrishna Reddy, ex VC, AU, DV Subbarao, ex-Mayor and ex-Chairman of The Bar Council of India were just some of the luminaries. Also, NSN Reddy, who had worked as a teacher at CBM School, went on to become the first Mayor of Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation. The most famous and celebrated of them all was Padmasri (late) Dr Hilda Lazarus, who personally attended to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In fact, she oversaw the deliveries of both Rajiv Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi. Further, it has also been reported that she was a personal gynaecologist for Queen Elizabeth at the peak of her career. Dr Lazarus had been so enamoured of with this institution that she later helmed it as its Correspondent.
Both the complexes of CBM School have a majestic elegance about them that adds grandeur to the institution. The west-side complex houses the better preserved and the more famous Fox memorial Building; it is a two-storeyed edifice built using stone masonry, round arches and staircases. The one in the East is a large U-shaped building with an open courtyard in the centre. The rooms on the flanks of the ‘U’ face the central courtyard. The portion connecting the two flanks – abutting the main road – is a two-storeyed structure roofed with tiles on teak wood trusses consisting of rafters, posts and struts. The course of time, change of seasons, weather patterns, public apathy and our recent visitor Cyclone Hudhud have caused harm to the physical structures at some of the places.
The construction began of CBM School in 1834. In 1836, under the aegis of London Missionary’s Rev. A Porter, the school was started in Visakhapatnam. It was the first Anglo-Vernacular school in the entire Madras Presidency. CBM School attained glory in the 1840s under the helmsman-ship of Rev. John Hay of London Mission – his legacy has been so strong that a scholarship instituted under his name was being given to meritorious students until very recently. Mr Daniel Lazarus became the first native to take the reins from British in 1875. In the 40 years till his retirement in 1917, CBM School became a strong institution. In 1911, the management changed hands from London Mission to Canadian Baptist Missionaries. It grew, notwithstanding many trials and tribulations – chiefly the devastating floods of 1923 and fire accidents that later raged many rooms, to reach pinnacles of glory under the able leadership of Ms Hilda Lazarus and subsequently Dr John Louis Nayar. Dr Nayar was a great doctor, philanthropist, freedom-fighter, singer, dancer and inspirer all rolled into one. During his stint, the student and staff strength rose to as high as 2500 and 40 respectively. However, of late, owing to the paucity in demand for studies in vernacular medium, its patronage has lessened.
In order to arrest this trend, great and spirited service is being rendered by its management, headed by Sri Jyoti Swarup Nayar – Dr Nayar’s son – current Chairman and Correspondent. When contacted, he informed that the strengthening of staff is being undertaken to enhance the teacher-student ratio. He had many ideas up his sleeve to bring glory back to the CBM School in Visakhapatnam. We wish him success in all his endeavours.
Written by GV Ramesh. The article was first published in Yo! Vizag magazine in 2015