Cyril Mooney

Ashoka Fellow
Calcutta, West Bengal, India
Fellow Since 1990


This profile was prepared when Cyril Mooney was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1990.
The New Idea
As principal of Loreto School in the Sealdah area of Calcutta, Sister Cyril has been able to realize many of her (and the National Policy Planners) dreams within its compounds: She has beaten the existing polarity in Indian education by bringing together children of "good schools" with those usually locked out of the charmed circle, to their mutual benefit. "The ripple effect" she's demonstrating – founded on the belief that everyone receives to give – has helped to transform the school into a center for community development rather than continuing as a stand-offish academic ivory tower. She has also managed to maintain a minimal dropout rate among children of the most diverse standings – academically, financially, even culturally and religiously.These achievements demonstrate something important, how the number of children benefiting from one school may be raised at no additional cost to the nation. Having developed a highly successful case example, Sister Cyril would now like to structure her cost-effective, new methodology so that it can be adopted easily by other schools. To the degree she succeeds, she will be helping to bridge the deep chasm that separates India's privileged children from those born to poor parents.
Soon after she took over as principal of the school in 1979, Sister Cyril began introducing one leveling idea after another. The "Outreach" programme, which is now virtually a part of the school's core curriculum, comprises weekly visits to village schools by her school's full time students from Class Five upwards. There, in a delightful role reversal, they become "teachers", maintaining registers on each of their "pupils". Both groups climb up through the classes together. The work continues during the monsoons, and there is systematic follow-up. It is one of the rare practical and effective ways of drawing urban and rural youngsters, now in far distant worlds, together.
A "drop-in" system by which slum children can enter the school at any stage, the use of school facilities and students to teach pavement-dwelling children every afternoon, the operation of a simple labor exchange, the formation of Mother's Clubs to impart literacy, income-generating skills and knowledge about childcare, and the reorientation of the rules and structures which used to make financially disadvantaged children feel inferior are further, mutually reinforcing elements of Sister Cyril's magic.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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