June 9th, 1963 – on this sunny day, a team of seven intrepid teachers and 38 students began a journey with Mrs. M. E. Mody at the helm. The students ranged in age from junior Kindergarten to Class 5.
This new institution christened ‘Lady Vissanji Girls’ Academy’ was started in the quiet suburb of Andheri with the campus boasting of a sprawling playground, spacious classrooms, complete with a laboratory, library, drawing room and display centre all set up.
Alongside the regular curriculum, there was an interesting mix of subjects taught, with students being able to choose languages from Marathi,Gujarati, Sanskrit or French .The girls were taught stitching, embroidery, cooking, Indian and Western Music. Our students excelled in art and we won a number of prizes nationally and internationally.
Outstanding among them were...
1) Miss ShailejaNair : Secured the first prize in the ‘On the Spot’ painting competition organized by the Indo-Soviet Cultural Society. Dr. Leon D’Souza, The then Mayor of Bombay, distributed the prizes. Her painting was sent to Leningrad as an exhibit.
2) Miss Vibhooti C. Shukla : Secured a gold medal and a free trip by air to Delhi, for coming first in all age groups out of 3200 entries at the IESCO painting competition and was a guest of the Govt of India, and had the honour of meeting the then President, the Vice President and Prime Minister of India.
3) Miss NanditaJhaveri : One of the proud winners among those declared by the Western Regional Advisory Board of the Soviet Land Nehru Awards Committee (1967). She was awarded a free trip to the U.S.S.R. at the Artek Young Pioneers’ Camp on the Black Sea.
The students, in their cream pleated pinafore with a snow white blouse, knitted navy blue sash knotted at the hip and the metal badge, stood out at any gathering of school children.
‘Love & Learn’: The motto of our school has always been simple yet very focused and crystal-clear, emphatically aims at an all-round development of a pupil. Children were taught not just to be good students, but good human beings as well, where the mind and heart were given equal importance. In 1967 the students made a collection for the Jawans of the Armed forces and handed it over to Mrs. Tara Cherian at the Governor’s bungalow. Since then, through the years, this spirit of loving and sharing continues.
A house system in an educational institute fosters among the students a sense of belonging, collective responsibility and competitive spirit . The school, from its early years had four house. The Ruby House (Red), the Emerald House (Green), the Sapphire House (Blue) and the Topaz House (Yellow). The Overall trophy was keenly sought by each house, and they were especially competitive during the Annual Sports Day.
As our school moved on, so did our students. Mrs. M. E. Mody, the ever capable and amiable administrator, continued to be the guardian angel. The number of students increased as did the number of teachers and we proudly announced that the school has been securing cent percent results at the S.S. C. Examination with many of our students securing a Distinction or a First class. One of our students even secured the highest marks in Gujarati among the thousands that appeared.
This decade too, had its fair share of acclaim for our budding artists, in fact, the drawing of Hansa Bhatia, then a Class 5 student of our school was chosen for the Children’s Day stamp of 1976.
Students who had passed out of our school now excelled in every field from aeronautics to medicine to philosophy to law. These and many more success stories amply demonstrated the strong base that was created by the dedicated teachers and Mrs. Mody. The most memorable events, that both students and parents recall to this day, were the Parents Day functions. Themes varied each year including a Circus theme in 1975. Parents who attended that particular event still marvel at the brilliant skills on show.
The winds of change had begun to blow. It was a decade during which the next generation came to the fore. Ms. Bina Vissanji took over as the managing trustee of the school. She took an active interest in school activities and frequently met with the staff and the students.
Mrs. Mody handed over the reins to a young Ms. ManazMizan who brought with her fresh ideas and new zeal to the school. She was determined to push the school to achieve new levels of excellence. Behind her strict demeanor lay a genuine concern for all her students, and the students did their best to achieve the inspirational goals she set them. The Lady Vissanji Girls’ Academy was growing in renown and the school decided to add an additional class in each year to keep up with the growing demand.
In the latter part of the decade (1988), the school welcomed boys into its fold. Sir Mathuradas Vissanji Boys’ Academy initially began as a primary school from the Annex to the main building.
The pre-primary classes also started functioning as a separate section, the Pushpa Vissanji Nursery School. PVNS, named after Mrs. Pushpa Vissanji, donned the mantle of nurturing every child’s first step into the world of knowledge with the promise of a bright future.
In keeping with the times, the uniforms underwent a radical change. Girls now wore a white pinafore and a white tie with their house colours.
The school provided it students with experiences that other institutes could only dream of, from organizing Sports Days in an International Stadium, to taking over an entire theater for screening on Children’s Day to organizing international tours for its older children.
The 90s saw radical changes – both in India and in the school. The boys and girls school were merged under the unified banner of ‘Lady Ratanbai and Sir Mathuradas Vissanji Academy’. Ms Mizan left to pursue family commitments in Canada, and each section of the school was managed by a Head teacher, who shared joint responsibilities.
Mr. Hemant Vissanji took over as managing trustee, He infused new progressive ideas aimed at providing a holistic education. He was keen that the school keeps pace with the changing times. Seth Pratapsinh Mathuradas Vissanji Library and Research Centre and a fully equipped Computer laboratory were set up. Students from Std 1 to 10 were trained in computer education. The staff was also trained in computer basics. There were other new technological innovations afoot, including a television in every classroom, close circuit T.V. monitoring and a punch card system for teachers and students.
Sports was given a boost as also extra-curricular activities, based on the firm conviction that a synthesis of physical and academic training secured each child’s future. Games and activities were incorporated into the regular time table. The school timing was extended to 3pm. Between 2pm and 3pm children were trained in two activities to be selected across a wide spectrum from Western dancing, Indian Folk dancing, Gymnastics, Judo, Cooking, Bands, Swimming and various games. The school wore a fun packed atmosphere for that one hour.
It was in this decade that the students won many Inter-School trophies for Throw Ball, Judo, Karate, Drawing and Folk Dancing . The Garba dance performed at a Parents Day Function was appreciated and later televised by Doordarshan.
The houses were renamed Sera (Red) ,Drepung (Blue) , Ganden (Green ) and Jokang (yellow) after the Buddhist monasteries in Tibet.
The school building also took a new shape. First the third floor was built , then from an “L” shaped building , it is now “U” shaped.
The turn of the century has witnessed a transformation on the academic front. We are now affiliated to the I.C. S. E Board. The emphasis is now on thinking and reasoning process, encouraging students through projects to display their latent talents. The institution boasts of the best of class-rooms (where the old traditional black-board have been replaced by white-boards), a full-fledged Research Library, an extensive library which is updated with latest edition of books at regular intervals, state-of-the-art computer laboratories, science laboratories, a cafeteria, auditorium, activity rooms, a well-equipped infirmary with an in-house nurse, multi-purpose outdoor playing grounds – we’ve added Archery, an Olympic game to the ever expanding sports programme. Despite all this, we adhere with added fervour to our established traditions.
In fact, this decade witnessed many students getting laurels in various fields of sports like Lawn Tennis, Swimming, Throwball, Karate, Cricket, Chess and Athletics. Three of our students went to Sri Lanka to participate in the international Indoor Cricket Tournament and one of them was felicitated for taking a hat trick. Three other students brought international recognition and gold medals to the country by excelling in throwball. The school also bagged the ‘Best School Chess Players Boys Category’ Trophy in the biggest Bournvita Chess Tournament. Our school emerged champions with a huge margin of 86 points at the Inter School Karate Competition.
In addition to the superb performance on the academic front, social responsibilities are not overlooked. The willingness to share and help those who require it is deeply inculcated and this continues unabated – students of Vissanji Academy were felicitated for collecting a substantial sum for the National Association for the Blind as they celebrated their 50 years of tireless service towards the blind.
Our students display the true manifestations of learning and sport. We acknowledge their triumphs as they negotiate the swirling currents of the river of life. ‘There is nothing constant but change’ is something that Vissanji Academy has embraced. It is this willingness to move with the times, to constantly re-invent itself while remaining true to its ethos that has made the School the success it is. But when you think about it, what’s important to the school hasn’t changed at all. What’s important to the school always has been, and always will be, it’s greatest strength, its students.
"The hallmark of a good school is its ability to lovingly develop future citizens and we take pride in continuing to give this world some wonderful ones. Our students have taken the values learned at this Academy and successfully translated them into life skills wherever they have gone across the globe. Our students take joy in telling us how being here has given them the skills that give them confidence and the values that bring satisfaction in whatever they do. To us that is the greatest accolade. To know that our students pride themselves in being both successful and proud of themselves is what inspires us to continue on the path that our founders had envisioned for our school."
Vissanji Academy began a year-long celebration to commemorate the Golden Jubilee on June 30, 2012. The presence of teachers from yesteryears and the alumni filled the atmosphere with nostalgia and emotions.
The evening of celebrations started with the customary lighting of diya followed by the unveiling of portraits of our founders – Mr. Pratapsinh Mathuradas Vissanji, Mrs. Pushpabai Pratapsinh Vissanji and the Founder Principal Ms. Maneck E. Mody by the Trustee Mr. Hemant Vissanji.
Ms. SunandaLeelaram, an alumnus of the 1972 batch, a widely acclaimed international speaker on Vedanta, was the Chief Guest for the evening. The daughter and protégé of the internationally renowned philosopher Swami Parthasarathy, Sunandaji, enlightened the audience with her thought provoking speech.
Ms. ZarineVirji, an alumnus of 1980, now a Principal of a reputed school in Mumbai, sent waves of laughter across the audience with stories from her school days. Another proud alumnus from 2000 batch, Mr. Gursimran Singh, who is currently making his mark in the world of advertising, shared how Vissanji Academy set a strong foundation for a successful life ahead.
The magnificent 50 year-long journey of the Vissanji Academy was showcased perfectly in motion through
the school documentary prepared by Mr. DharminChanda, an alumnus of 2001.
It was a fabulous evening and a wonderful walk down the memory lane.
This was not the end but just a new beginning…
The whole year-long Golden Jubilee celebrations shall go down in the history of Vissanji Academy forever. The journey of Vissanji Academy which began 50 years ago, shall continue for many more years to come.