Dr. A.C.L. deSousa, Community Leader in Nairobi
By: John J. D'Souza
Dr. A.C.L. de Sousa
1883 – 1958
Our next hero is Dr. A.C.L. de Sousa, also a medical doctor, but whose lifetime achievements and service to the community warrants a special place in our collective memories. This narrative can only provide a summary of his work and life, which even today is seen reflected in the institutions Goans create for themselves in many parts of the world.
The word "Paradigm Shift" is a current fashionable term originating in business management circles. It is used to describe a radical shift in the outlook or priorities of a group or company often resulting from the enlightened insight and leadership of one person. This seems to have been the case in Nairobi Goan community in the late twenties. There were around then a number of number of thriving clubs and institutes mostly based on sports or other narrow interests, but none capable of addressing the outstanding problem of the time – the education of Goan youth. Before then, most Goan school children waited their turn to get into either church schools, or government schools organized broadly on ethnic lines. In many cases children were sent to boarding schools in Goa.
Dr. de Sousa took the initiative and formed the first Goan Overseas Association in 1927 and obtained the mandate from the government of the day to build and run the Goan Schools in the town. The community closed ranks with generous donations, the major patron being Dr. Rosendo A. Ribeiro, after whom the school was named. Dr. de Sousa served as the president of the school board for more than three decades and saw its evolution into a fully fledged secondary school in the late fifties. The school mitigated the age-old social consciousness of parents, and gave their students a basic education, imbued with self confidence and distinctive character still evident today.
Dr. de Sousa was a formidable person with immense presence. When students saw his white Pontiac in the school parking lot, or sensed the distinctive whiff of his cigar in the school corridors it was time to quieten without prompting from teachers and stay clear of the front offices. At Goan homes, the mention of his name, or impending arrival, was known to have instantly cured many a sick child.
He was a fearless politician in the white dominated Kenya Legislative Assembly the speeches he made there in defence of his Indian constituency were brilliant and played a part in preventing Kenya becoming a 'whites only' colony, as was the case with Rhodesia. During his lifetime he founded and edited The Goan Voice a weekly newspaper, and played an important part in establishing affordable housing estate for Goans which is named after him.
Dr. de Sousa outlook on the question of Goan identity is as relevant today as it was more than fifty years ago. At one time he served as the Honorary Portuguese Consul in Nairobi. However, when it came to supporting the cause for India's self determination, he left us in no doubt on this subject. The delegation of the of the Indian National Congress visiting Kenya in the late forties was given full use of Dr. de Sousa's own home for their entire stay while he and his wife were away on holiday in Goa!
His legacy today is reflected in the many Goan Overseas Associations in the world serving the needs of our dispersed community. His protégés can be counted among the founding members of these institutions. The memory of his tireless efforts for the cause of Goan well-being inspires us all to do likewise.
DR. A.C. L. de SOUSA
THE FOUNDER OF THE "GOAN OVERSEAS ASSOCIATION"
AND A GREAT PROTAGONIST OF GOAN EDUCATION IN EAST AFRICA
Author: DR. JULES DE MELLO (PRESIDENT, G.O.A. NAIROBI 1959)
Re-printed from brochure commemorating the first anniversary of the death of Dr. de Sousa
July 17th 1959
It is an undeniable fact that it was due to the genius of the late Dr. A.C. L. de Sousa that the Goans Overseas Association came into being; and, at the first meeting of the Council held on Friday, 15th July 1927, the doctor, who was the elected President of the Association, opened the proceedings of the Council Meeting by congratulation the members, an in welcoming them, he said, he hoped the Goan Community would co-operate with the Association in the task it had undertaken "to promote and safeguard the interests and welfare of the community."
Soon after the formation of the Goans Overseas Association, its immediate task was to deal with the matter of Goan Education, and towards that purpose, an Education Committee was appointed, of which D. A. C. L de Sousa was elected the Chairman. This Comm ittee began its work in earnest; as, according to the resolution which was unanimously adopted at the Mass Meeting of the Goan Community held at the Goan Institute on 9th July 1927, it had empowered the Council of the G.O.A to take over the whole scheme o f Education.
It will be pertinent to recall the interview which the deputation consisting of Dr. de Sousa the Chairman of the G.O.A. and Messrs. P.S. Fialho, P.C. de Mello and L. De Cruz had with the Director of Education on May 20th, 1929: "Dr de Sousa stated that th e Goans Overseas Association consisted of about 600 members. I asked them if they had never been recognised as Indians. They said they had not, and that the Education Tax which had been collected from some Goans was subsequently refunded and that Goans h ave been exempted for the tax, from which they argued Government did not recognise them as Indians. They urged their distinctiveness as a community in as much as they had assimilated western standards of life and civilization under the Portuguese, and, a lthough they were nominally Portuguese citizens, their lives were spent in British territories and many of them had settled either here or in British India. Hardly any of them had been naturalised here but there were many naturalised Goan British subject s in India.."
The deputation then stated that, "the organisation of the school should be boys and girls mixed school, as Goans have none of the difficulties which face the Indians; and the teachers, they thought, could best be obtained direct from Goa, or through the B ombay Government. What they are asking for is the establishment of a primary school which would take their pupils up to a standard at which they could be taken into the Indian High School in the English medium classes, The difficulty of the girls is rec ognised and foreseen, but it is not possible at the present stage to see any way out of it".
The interest and the enthusiasm with which De. de Sousa worked for promoting an Education Scheme can be best understood after reading the several letters he wrote to prominent Goans in October 1929, at the time of the proposed launching of the Educational Scheme for Goan children. The pilot scheme was a provision for 75 pupils, to be housed in a three-roomed building guaranteed for one year. One graduate teacher to be brought from Indian, and assisted by two locally engaged. The provisional estimate wa s about 900 for one year, provided the Government met them halfway.
Mass Meeting of the 7th November, 1929
At the meeting of the Goan Community held at the Goan Institute Hall on the 7th of November, 1929 at 5:30 p.m., the President Dr. R. A. Ribeiro, in his opening speech said: "About the history of the Goan education I should say the Community has never negl ected it. In 1910 the Goan Institute put forward a scheme to have some arrangements mad for a primary school and a the same time the mission opened a parochial school but for want of funds the scheme could not be put into execution. About 4 years after, the Consul General for Portugal took the trouble of organizing the Community, but nothing came out of it. In 1927 the Goans Overseas Association was formed among other duties was one of the opening of a preliminary school here and in fact the school was opened, conducted and is still in existence. This School has been the cause to get the present grant, due of course, to the efforts of the Managing Committee , and representation made by this Committee have been given due consideration, and largely due to the efforts of the Director of Education Mr. Scott we got the grant-in-aid. Now, it is up to us, to avail of the opportunity and put our efforts to have a better organized school, As I have taken this office only a few days ago, I am not well acquain ted yet, with the actual position, as to what the previous Management has been doing. I shall be obliged therefor, if De. de Sousa has anything to say in the matter. I declare this meeting opened"
It was at this meeting, that the Community unanimously adopted the following resolution: "This Association firmly adheres to the attitude that has always been maintained by the Goan Community, that there should be no interposition of any outside agency be tween Government and the Goan community in the discharge of their mutual responsibility toward education of Goan children."
That position has been accepted by Government and the present satisfactory condition of efficiency and expansion of Goan education is largely due to the assertion of earlier days of the principle embodied in that resolution.
Dr. Ribeiro Goan School
At an urgent meeting of the G.O.A Council held on 16th of November, 1929, a letter from Dr. M. Ribeiro re-proposal to donate 1,000 for the school building was read. Mr. L. D'Cruz explained to the meeting about the proposal of Mr. Thom. D'Sousa of Shs. 15 ,000 for the school building. After some discussion Dr. M. Ribeiro gave out the name of Dr. R. A. Ribeiro as the Donor referred to in his letter, whereupon Dr. A.C. L. de Sousa moved that the proposal be finally accepted and recommended to the General Bo dy with a hearty vote of thanks to the Donor. At the public meeting of the Goan community held, at the Goan Institute Hall, on 20th November, 1929, the following resolution was carried by acclamation: "This Meeting accepts the recommendation of the Goans Overseas Association in regard to Dr. Ribeiro's offer and in thanking him for his munificent donation resolves to name the school "Dr. Ribeiro Goan School". (By August 1931, Dr. Ribeiro had increased his donation towards the School Building to Shs. 30,00 0).
The names of the Donors who contributed Shs 500/- and over were recorded on a tablet displayed in the School Assembly Hall.
They were: –
|Dr A.C.L. de Sousa||Shs. 700/-|
|Mr. M. P. de Mello||Shs. 550/-|
|Dr. M. Ribeiro||Shs. 500/-|
|Mr. Rosario Viegas||Shs. 500/-|
|Mr. Jos. A. D' Souza||Shs. 500/-|
The public subscribed about Shs. 24,000, and the foundation stone of the school was laid by His Excellency the Governor Sir Joseph Byrne, K.C.M.G., K.B.E., C.B., on the 22nd July, 1931.
|The cost of building 4 class rooms, offices, etc.||34,294|
|Assembly Hall, lavatory blocks, etc.||31.200|
|The grand total with cost of furniture, etc., amounted to over||73,000|
At the opening ceremony of the Dr. Ribeiro Goan School Building, in December 1931, the then President of the G.O.A., the late Dr. R. A. Ribeiro, O.B.E., said, "I cannot help referring the great services rendered to the community by my friend Dr. A. C. L. de Sousa, on of our Vice-Presidents who was until recently the President of this Association which he founded in 1927 and under whose inspiring leadership the present education scheme tool material shape. Also by his suggestion and efforts this inspiring site was secured for the school building in exchange of the desolate one towards the Racecourse."
It was Dr. de Sousa, who, at a great sacrifice of his time and money, negotiated for the plot, as Government was giving the G.O.A. a plot near the Muslim School, Park Road – the site near the present Salvation Army Hostel ! Goans, therefore must be grate ful to Dr. de Sousa for the very excellent site in which the School is situated , and also to Sir Charles Mortimer , C.B.E. who was at the time the Commissioner for Lands.
The progress made by the School since, has been stupendous. All the achievements are due to the impetus given by Dr. de Sousa, whose force of purpose and determination can be best judged by the opening remarks made by him at the Council Meeting held on 1 9th September, 1933: "the Chairman laid stress on the fact, that the Council has now to face a strong opposition and adverse criticism from without, which will not spare them in the slightest degree should the Council give any cause for any such criticism . He therefor exhorted the members, individually and collectively, to co-operate with good will and to help carry out the duties with which the Council has been entrusted, thereby not only making the school a huge success, but making it felt among the cr itics and others that the Council is, heart and soul, for the welfare of the young generation for which the School has been established."
And so it has done these may years. By 1941, the School had attained the secondary status, and by 1953, the Council of the G.O.A. embarked on the scheme of building the Goan Secondary School.
Goans' War Welfare Fund Fete
In 1940, the Goans Overseas Association, under the patronage of Mr. G. M. Rennie, Chief Secretary of Kenya, and the chairmanship of Dr. A. C. L de Sousa, organized a Fete in aid of the Kenya War Welfare Fund; the East African Standard in its editorial wro te: "There are not more public-spirited people in Kenya than the Goan community and they gave ample evidence of that quality in organising this handsome contribution to the Colony's Welfare Fund."
The Chief Secretary expressed this thanks to the Goans Overseas Association and reminded Kenya that this was the first community effort for the Fund, a happy though and an example which had already encouraged others to get busy on organised community line s.
The final figure which the Fund Committee handed over was 6,000 shillings a very handsome sum for a small community of Goans in Nairobi.
Goan Secondary School Building
On 24th of May, 1955, Dr. A. C. L. de Sousa laid the foundation stone of the Goan Secondary School, which provides accommodation for a maximum of 288 pupils. The building cost about 25,000 towards which the Kenya Government gave half, and the Portuguese Government 5,999. The Portuguese Consul-General, Dr. Antonio Ressano Garcia formally opened this commodious and up-to-date modern Secondary School on 24th May, 1956. It was another milestone in the progress of Goan education!
Goan Housing Estate
It was as early as 1946, when the East African Goan Inter-Territorial Conference was held at Mombasa, that Dr. A.C.L. de Sousa, whose "brain-child" the Conference was, envisaged a plan for Goan Housing Scheme in Nairobi. This was realised and officially opened on Thursday the 30th May, 1957 by His Worship the Mayor, Alderman I. Somen, who at the suggestion of the Town Planning Committee, named the estate after Dr. De Sousa. Tributes were paid to him, who, as the President of the Goans Overseas Associati on had played an important part in bringing the estate into being. This scheme was approved by the City Council during the Mayoralty of Dr. J.R. Gregory, who took a very personal interest in it. Land was allotted to provide for 26 semi-detached storied houses. Through the good offices of the City Council, The Saving and Loan Society, who agreed to finance the scheme, the Goans Overseas Association Council produced the plans for the houses by appointing the Architect and took a keen interest in it.
At the opening ceremony of the Estate, Dr. J.R. Gregory said it would have been a tragedy if the Goan community had missed the opportunity of honouring one of the Colony's great leaders.
"The Goan Voice"
Dr. A.C. L. de Sousa took a leading part to guide the community towards self-realisation, by infusing in them the spirit of co-operation and comradeship. His close association with the Nairobi Goan Institute, of which, he was eight time the President, an d his determination to establish a Goan weekly in Nairobi, made him an outstanding personality in Kenya.
He spoke to the community and championed their cause through the 'Goan Voice', which is an organ devoted for the welfare of Goans wherever they may be. – which weekly he founded and edited until his dying day.
He had the tenacity of a lion, – I remember, how he sat with his typewriter and wrote to several prominent Goans on the 16th June 1958, emphasizing that: "all our centres associate with us in protesting against the high-handiness of the Education Departme nt in imposing on us an ad hoc Committee to replace the present Council of our Association as Managers of the school, an imposition which might be imposed on you at any time. If only for this reason, if not for Goan solidarity, it is the duty of your Uni on to make common cause with us…"
Here then, was the spirit of the man abundantly evident, wanting to establish and maintain Goan solidarity in these territories. Though physically crippled by illness, which he bore with fortitude, he was able to wield his pen, which, as he expressed it, was mightier than the sword! He had the stuff of a fighter to his dying day.
On the morning of Thursday the 17th July, 1958, he died, by half and house before his death, he enquired about the affairs of the Goans Overseas Association and the School, both these institutions which he had founded, and of which he was still the head. For 44 years he had worked for his people in this Colony, and indeed, as the Honourable N.S. Mangat, Q.C., M.L.C., expressed it – "even in death he looked magnificent…" the spontaneous manner in which Goans paid tribute to him both at his funeral and a t the Condolence Meeting showed that they would not forget the services he rendered and the irreparable loss they suffered by his death.