Sunday 24 May 2009
Source: The Nation.
KARACHI — On the eve of completion of hundred and fifty years of Bai Virbaiji Soparivala Parsi High School, Karachi, the Pakistan Post has issued the commemorative stamps of Rs. 5 each. The stamps will be available in the markets from today (23rd May 2009). The designer of the stamp is Faizi Ameer Siddiqui and its format is rectangular in shape.
Not only the Parsi community of Karachi but the entire city is indebted to Seth Shapurji Hormusji Soparivala and his family for laying foundation of the respected and prestigious school in 1859. It was a small Parsi Balakshala housed in the residence of one Dadabhoy Palonji Paymaster.
As the school going community increased, it outgrew the building. In the year 1869 Shapurji was deprived of his beloved wife Bai Virbaiji. In May 1870 Shapurji who had been so far the greatest benefactor of the school, donated a sum of Rs. 10,000 on the condition that it should be named after his late wife. The opening ceremony was performed in September 1870 by the then Commissioner of Sindh, Sir William Mereweather; and Jamshedji Framji Master was nominated as the Headmaster of the institution. During the formative years, Gujrati was entirely a co-educational institution.
In October 1904, the eldest son of the Founder, Seth Khurshedji Soparivala laid the foundation stone of the present school building on Victoria Road. In 1909, the school observed its Golden Jubliee.
In 1919, the Cowasjee and Virbaiji Variawa family set up a trust fund to feed and cloth the poor Parsi students and to date the “Bhojan Fund” does just that.
The period from 1920-1946 was momentous. The school was raised to the status of High School, saw the extension of building. It boosted the motto “Towards that Best Light”. In 1947, at the request of M.A. Jinnah to the community and the Principal Behram Rustomji, the school opened its doors for the very first time to non-Parsis.
Hence as of today, BVS Parsi High School thus holds the distinction of being one of the oldest and prestigious institutions for young boys in the city of Karachi.
The consecration of the first Dokhma (“Tower of Silence”) in Karachi is dated 22 April 1847. On 25 January 1848 when this Dokhma (Ghadialli’s) was completed, the Hirjikaka Agiari, Fire temple, situated in the Saddar Bazar, was also commenced. This shows that by the middle of the nineteenth century the Parsi Community in Karachi had settled in appreciable numbers.
The first available census figures of 1872, show that there were only 777 Parsis: 427 males and 350 females. The child population must have grown considerably, for within ten years of the opening ceremony of the Hirjikaka’s Dare Meher, on 3 May 1849, a move was made to open a school for the Parsi children of Karachi.
The second volume of the Parsi Prakash, of Seth Bomanji Patel, mentions as foot-note the following:
The Zoroastrian residents of Karachi feeling the need of imparting religious education and a knowledge of Gujarati, commenced collecting donations and subscriptions from the members of the community and opened on the 23rd of May 1859 “The Parsi Balakshala”. The lead in this matter was taken by Seth Nanabhai Framji Spencer, who for the first three years was its Secretary. In the month of June, when Seth Nanabhai Spencer had to return to Bombay, the Parsi Zoroastrians of Karachi, presented to him an address of appreciation on 23 June 1862. In place of Seth Nanabhai, Shapurji Hormusji Soparivala was appointed the secretary and Seth Pestomji Byramji Kotwal the Joint Secretary so that he could look after the school daily.
Nanabhai F. Spencer was the Founder-Secretary and Treasurer in 1859 while Mobed Naurozdaru was the first teacher at “The Parsi Balakshala”. In 1862, Seth Shahpurji became the Honorary Secretary and Treasurer as he was regarded as the Founder of the School because of his services and donations. In 1869, Bai Virbaiji Soparivala, wife of Seth Shahpurji, died and in 1870 Parsi Balakshala was renamed after the deceased wife of the Founder as Parsi Virbaiji Soparivala School (P.V.S.S.). The School also shifted to Soparivala House in the same year.
In 1875, Parsi Virbaiji Soparivala School became Bai Virbaiji Soparivala Parsi Anglo-Vernacular School and H. E. Sir Robert Temple, Governor of Bombay, visited the P. V. S. In 1877, Seth Shahpurji was awarded the “Certificate of Loyalty” by Queen Victoria for his services in the field of education and social sector.
In 1904, the construction of the present building started, and, in 1906, P.V.S shifted to the new building at Victoria Road (now Abdullah Haroon Road). The second story of the building was constructed in 1923 while the Gorwala Hall was built in 1932. Eduljee Bejanji Kandawala Library was founded in 1916 at the P.V.S. In 1918, organizational restructuring takes place at the school and the school is bifurcated into “Mama Parsi Girls School” for girls and Parsi Virbaiji School for boys. In 1922, formal English education starts at the school and it is renamed as Bai Virbaiji Soparivala Parsi High School. In 1927, Cowasjee-Variawas Scout Band was formed at the School. In 1940, Cowasjee family gifted the School Gymkhana to the B.V.S. B.V.S was recognized as a Technical High School in 1945. After the partition of British India, non-Parsi students were admitted at the school at the request of Mohammad-Ali Jinnah as there was a shortage of good schools in the newly created state of Pakistan. The Centenary functions were held at the School in 1959.
Eduljee Bejanji Kandawala Library received gifts from Minneapolis (1958-59) and Asian Foundation (1954). The School’s Technical Hall was gifted its machinery by the Ford Foundation in 1956.