The new manager of ACPA faces administrative challenges

The new manager of ACPA faces administrative challenges

Founder's dayAzad-Hye Special

On 05 April 2009, His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, gave his permission for Reverend Father Khoren Hovhannisyan to be reinstated as a clergyman of the Armenian Church.

Father Hovhannisyan (baptismal name Nshan) was defrocked in 2002 for willfully deserting spiritual duties, but after showing regret he was accepted back and appointed as Manager of the Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy (ACPA) of Calcutta (Kolkata) and parish priest of the Armenian community of India.

Currently, the College, which holds historical significance for the Armenians in Asia and worldwide, has about 80 students, mostly from Iran, Iraq, Armenia and India, with several Indian and expatriate teachers.      

?ACPA has a rich historical past and is one of the oldest educational institutions in the Armenian Diaspora. Today it continues to strive forward with enthusiasm and energy. Father Khoren Hovhannisyan, the newly appointed pastor of Armenians in India and the Manager of ACPA – together with the Church wardens of the Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth have not spared any effort to upgrade this historical institution of Kolkata?, emphasizes a recently issued press release by the school management. 

This year, eight students from ACPA have obtained their school-leaving certificate (see photo). Six of them enrolled in leading schools in Kolkata for further studies and the remaining two returned to their families in Armenia.

According to some reports, the management of the school did not provide the necessary support for the rugby team this year. Participation in the local games was not allowed until the last moment. This created negative impact on the students. The rugby team has a history of achievements (see and old and new photo of the rugby teams).

Another report states that several teachers who have served the school in the last few years have been forced to resign and were replaced with local teachers.

The alumni ? school administration relations are not always in good terms. Many of ACPA graduates occupy high positions in their careers worldwide and continue to support the school, morally and financially, with a great sense of commitment. They always raise issues related to the school, but it is rarely that they feel satisfied when they visit their old school. Besides the poor living conditions, the students lack specialized guidance for their educational, social and emotional needs. Funds are available, but are rarely spent on their vocational trainings and other aspects that can improve their academic life.

The children of ACPA need all the moral support they can get. The methods used in the school are not pedagogical. The students are constantly threatened to be sent back home (where in most cases war and uncertainty prevail). 

Until 2005, Sonia John ruled the school with semi-authoritarian approach. Father Oshagan Gulgulian, a member of the Etchmiadzin Brotherhood, was appointed in 2005 as head of an interim school board to govern the activities of the College and rectify problems caused by the old management. He managed to resolve some of the pressing issues.

Students and staff at ACPA Kolkata, 2009.

Students and staff at ACPA Kolkata, 2009

During his tenure, the 300 years celebrations related to the Saint Nazareth church took place and Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, visited India with a large group of pilgrims from all over the world, including ACPA graduates. They visited the Armenian monuments in several places in India, as far as Chennai (Madras). Several monuments were renovated on this occasion and prayers were heard in abandoned structures. There are some indications that not all renovation work was of good quality. Works in the Madras church complex for example were carried on hastily, to meet the celebration deadline.

Many of our Diaspora establishments suffer from discontinuity. As soon as a new administrator is appointed a new page is opened, often without taking into consideration the old experience.

Our community life is a combination of laymen and clergymen working together in a well defined roles, sharing duties and responsibilities. If the balance is shifted, then one of the sides will abuse its authority. This has happened in ACPA in the past and may repeat itself, if the local Armenian society is not effectively involved in the community life.

The upcoming community elections in November 2009 could be a good opportunity to create a new atmosphere. Reports, however, indicate that two wardens (Susan Reuben and Sunil Sobti) have submitted a petition in the Calcutta High Court in September 2006 and subsequently received judgment in 2008, according to which an amendment to the scheme governing the Armenian Church has been accepted by the Court. The amendment disallows people holding non-Indian passports to serve on the Church Committee and rules that only those who are exempt from receiving financial aid from the Church and who have been residing in Kolkata for the last 4 years have the right to vote and be elected.

Since more than two thirds of the tiny community receives financial aid and others have foreign passports, voting and electing rights are practically left with a handful of Indian Armenians (about 15 persons) who will keep the governance amongst themselves. The chief accountant of the Church Committee is in close relationship with them.

Most probably, Etchmiadzin is not aware about this scenario, that can endanger the future of ACPA and other Armenian properties in India.

There are children in Iran, Iraq and elsewhere who yearn for a chance for education. The well-known Melkonian Educational Institute had a role to play in educating the European and Middle Eastern Armenian students and ACPA has a similar role in Asia. The lessons derived from the closure of Melkonian should help us make the best use of ACPA. 

Until this happens, we would like to ask the Catholicos of All Armenians not to consider India as a place for pilgrimages only. ACPA has been functioning without interruption for 188 years. ?The doors of ACPA are always open to welcome the Armenian students? says a press release. Let us work together to guarantee the continuity and best implementation of this pledge.

Upper-left photo: The anniversary of the establishment of the Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy of Calcutta (ACPA) was marked on Founder?s day, 02 April 2009.

School children celebrating Vartevar

Eight students have obtained their school-leaving certificate in 2009

The Most Rev. Lucas Sirkar, the Catholic Archbishop of Kolkata meets  Fr. Khoren Hovhannisyan, the pastor of Armenians in India and the manager of the Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy at the former?s residence on 13th July 2009

The most recent rugby team 2009

One of the older rugby teams






































































ACPA address:

Armenian College
56B Mirza Ghalib Street
Kolkata 700 016
Tel: (91-33) 4010-9051 / 2229-9051
Fax: (91-33) 2227-5869
[email protected]
Very Rev. Father Khoren Hovhannisyan, Manager
Rev. Father Avetis Hambardzumyan, Administrator

  1. Bul Bul Hazra Saha August 28, 2009, 7:07 am


    This is in response to the article in Azad-Hye, as I being a part of ACPA could not ignore it. Although I am not Armenian it gives me happiness and pleasure that I am proud to work in Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy. I really thank God who has given me such a wonderful opportunity to be a part of serving ACPA.

    Currently there are 78 students in the school from Armenia, Iraq, Iran and India. The school is following the ICSE pattern of education and has till class ten.

    The students are very happy to be in this institution. It is true that no one can take the place of ones parents but in this school one does not feel away from home. They form a part of the extended family which include our Very Reverend Father Khoren Hovhannisyan, the newly appointed manager of ACPA and pastor of  Indian Armenians , his administrator Reverend Father Avetis Hambardzumyan, the principal, Mr. Soumitra Mallick together with the teaching and the non-teaching staff. The school has been flurrying with lots of activities after the newly appointed manager joined the office.
    The Manager?s doors are always open for everyone. The students are inspired by his motivational speeches and they have to learn a lot from his polite attitude towards everyone. Father Khoren feels that only by providing better facilities, both in terms of infrastructure and amenities, we can create a healthy environment for healthy minds and it is the dream of the college authorities to ensure the preservation and continuation of the cultural heritage and legacy of the great founders of ACPA. The new manager also specifies that the Armenian community in India was always keen to pursue education for the advancement of their nation. The efforts of the community led to the establishment of schools to train and educate their children of their forefathers. ACPA is a living testimony to the love and dedication the founders of the school had for the Armenian community in India and the manager pledges sincerely to carry the torch of enlightenment forward.

    All what one finds here in this school are love, care and affection. The manager shows so much of love to the children that they feel that they are in their own family. They show a lot of respect towards him and at times shares laughter with him. He enquires about everyone. In so many instances he pardoned several students for disobeying the school rules which are to be followed by everyone. He gave them so many chances as he feels that one has to correct them and make them better human beings as ignoring them or sending them back to their country will later ruin their character. The thank you cards which he received stand as a proof for the kindness he has shown towards the children. This is certainly injustice done to him when one says he faces administrative challenges. No one speaks a word against him because of his naive and humble nature and no one is threatened to go back home. It is the manager?s generosity and simplicity that he keeps on pardoning students even if they have committed some serious wrongs. During the commencement of his tenure there were students who had one way tickets but he changed them giving them round trip tickets and a chance to prove their better selves.

    For the whole day Father Hovhannisyan with his attends to various problems including the concerns of the teaching and non-teaching staff. The manager is never hesitant in doing anything for the betterment of the school and the children especially as he feels that all his tiredness washes away when he sees shining faces with smiles and gratitude. After he joined the office the transport facilities of students who are studying in other schools were taken care off so that they do not face any transportation hazards and they are full of energy when they reach their schools.

    The student?s daily schedule is filled with various activities. After the usual school hours they are engaged in various sports like rugby, football, swimming and table-tennis, each of which has a specialized coach. There are also specialized and trained music and dance teachers who do their best to develop their more creative and sensitive faculties. The school has got a rich library which is stocked with books and journals from all fields.  During the study hours the children have tutors to guide and help them in every subject, even after the school teachers dedicate their entire time to help the children out. The senior students take outside tuitions and the management pays for it.

    The school teaching staff is highly qualified and trained according to the requirements of a teacher in any good educational institution of India. This is absolutely a false accusation to the management and also the teachers that their teaching methods are not conforming to the need of the student and which is also not scientific. One has to remember that this is a very special school with children who are so far from their native land and they have to learn a completely new foreign language, English. It is obvious that the teaching methods have to be slightly different for the grown up children from the other schools.

    Regarding the living conditions of the students I would have felt jealous if I was still a student from a different school. The school has the best kitchen in the town than any other day schools, serving Chinese, Continental, Muglai, Armenian Dolma and Indian dishes. The student?s dormitories are spick and span, there are people to clean up their linen and their clothes and rooms are regularly disinfected. For the last months I have not seen a single child suffering from any major ailments like malaria, yellow fever, typhoid or jaundice. They get purified drinking water and there is always an in-house nurse and several attendants to look after the children throughout the day and also at night.

    In a few months there have been new members in the teaching staff.  No one is forced to leave ACPA unless the management feels that someone?s actions are going against the school?s interest. The Armenian Church in Kolkata and the school work in unison with the sole intention of giving every child a fresh beginning, higher and better education for all of them. The two wardens of the Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth, Mrs. Susan Reuben and Mr. Suniel Sobti are putting their endless efforts and supporting the Armenian College with their dedication and sincerity towards the institution. Higher education, rugby expenses together with the construction and renovation is being entirely funded by the Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth. The school auditorium, though not in a dilapidated condition needed a lot of repairs. Now the entire hall is being remodeled with marble flooring and tiles which would create an ornamental expression and the members of ACPA would be really proud to show their auditorium where many important functions take place. The senior boys? dormitory with newly designed interiors and modern amenities makes someone think that are the children really living in a hostel or not. What more can a student want more than all this love and care shown towards them? The manager echoes the words of Brian Tracy when he expresses by saying ?Manage by responsibility. It is a powerful way to grow people.?

    The school arranges occasional trips outside for the student?s recreation, out knowledge and refreshment. The students are taken to museums, science parks, theatres as a part of their educational trip. Father Khoren rightly remarks that by caring and vigorous work of the teachers and the administration the children are becoming better Armenian Christians and better human beings.

    I wish him all the best and success in his office  as he feels that in motivating people, one has to engage student?s minds and their hearts and the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. By having productive ideas the manager shows how to make other people feel involved. 

    By: Ms. Bul Bul Hazra Saha
    ACPA teacher

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