President Patil visits ‘Republic of India’ in Chile

April 23rd, 2008 - 10:09 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pratibha Patil
By Liz Mathew
Santiago (Chile), April 23 (IANS) Jamin Andrale, the 11-year-old Spanish girl does not know where India is. But she sings “Jana Gana Mana”, India’s national anthem, every morning along with her 789 schoolmates. The Escuela Republica De La India, a small school in the outskirts of the Chilean capital, would make any Indian proud. It does not have a single Indian child studying there. But all the children in this school - right from Class 1 to Class 8 - come to school wearing a tie with flags of Chile and India imprinted on it. Pictures of Taj Mahal, elephants and Om adorn the walls of their classrooms.

So when visiting Indian President Pratibha Patil paid a visit, it was a day of celebration for them. Children carrying Indian and Chilean flags welcomed the president and her team and jostled with each other to get photographed with her.

“No English” was the response of the most of the children. But “Jana Gana Mana” came very easy to them.

The school, established in 1940, has been renamed as Republic of India School by an agreement entered into between the school and the Indian embassy here. Since then, the Indian flag was hoisted at school ceremonies and national anthem was sung after the Chilean national anthem for every official ceremony.

The school has its flag, which has a picture of two shaking fraternal hands showing the flags of two countries.

The ambience and the enthusiasm appeared to have moved the president herself. Ignoring the security personnel’s advice, Patil went to the thrilled children to be photographed with them.

In a brief address she said: “We appreciate the continuing interest in our culture and the respect shown for India as evinced by the singing of the Indian national anthem everyday.”

Patil, who is the second top Indian leader who visit the school after former prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1968, gifted Smart Boards - interactive white boards - to the school.

According to Indian Ambassador in Chile Sushmita Gonguli Thomas, the school has a special curriculum to teach the students about India. India has been giving $1250 (Rs. 50,000) annual grant to the school. Last year, the government has announced $30,000 for modernization of the computer laboratory.

“The school authorities have approached the embassy for a dance teacher in the school. We are trying to get one for them,” the ambassador said.

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