2 October, 2018
Committed to accompanying the young-NECDBS 2018
-Fr Bernard Fernandes

Salesian India is blessed with a vast network of schools, institutions and parishes. Close to 250 Don Bosco schools with their unique identity and vision, cater to young students across India. Every two years the Principals of these schools meet to discuss, plan and deliberate on their works and mission. This All India meeting termed as NECDBS (National Education Conference of Don Bosco Schools) was first held at Don Bosco Alakananda, Delhi in 2010. This year over 150 delegates from the 11 Salesian Provinces of India assembled for the 5th such convention at SRM University at Chennai for NECDBS 2018 from 28 Sep to 1 Oct 2018. The Salesian sisters were invited to be a part of this program for the first time. The theme aptly chosen as ‘Committed to accompanying the young’ reflected the Rector Major’s Strenna 2018 “LORD GIVE ME THIS WATER. LET US CULTIVATE THE ART OF LISTENING AND ACCOMPANIMENT.”
The six sessions spread over the three days provided enriching inputs on themes that further elucidated the main theme of the conference. The themes:
1.Accompanying the youth (Physically, Intellectually, Emotionally and Spiritually)
2.Education in the Digital age-New age pedagogy
3.Overcoming the challenges faced by schools
4.Creating the leaders of tomorrow-how we can contribute to create an open society
5.Creating celebrities at our schools
6.Principals as change agents and leaders; the Profile of a Don Bosco teacher
Eminent personalities from all walks of life passionate about education especially the Salesian values and mission engaged us at the conference. These resource persons included prominent alumni, public servants, principals and professors of esteemed colleges, and Salesian superiors and educators. They touched on varied aspects that would help us accompany youngsters in their early impressionable years of growth and learning. Their clarion call to the august gathering was to make our students better human beings amidst the clutter and noise of technology, social media and the internet. Our goal ought to be children who turn physically strong, mentally tough, morally upright, spiritually mature, emotionally balanced and socially committed. We cannot ignore generation z that is our future nor stay oblivious to changing times. In an impressive keynote address, Dr Sandeep Sancheti, Vice Chancellor of SRM University appealed to the educators to use the new modus operandi of education (technology and internet) to creatively uncover the subject and not cover the syllabus routinely in an age where life-long learning is here to stay.
The daily schedule at the Conference included spiritual nourishment at the Eucharist in the morning and scintillating cultural programs in the evening after the tight schedule of the day. Nestled in the comfortable seats of the vast T P Ganesan auditorium-Asia’s biggest-we got to view the rich culture of the state of Tamil Nadu and India besides catching a glimpse of the prodigious talent prevalent across the Don Bosco schools of the Chennai Province. This also was to be the story of the meet-planning, talent, hard work and hospitality of the Salesians of the Chennai Province, our hosts, who left no stone unturned to ensure the success of this event.
NECDBS 2018 while reflecting on our works across India was a gentle reminder to all DB principals that we cannot afford to look away from the immediate challenges that encompass education in present changing times, nor let our resolve slip in being passionate educators. Fr Maria Arokiam, the Salesian Regional Superior of South Asia remarked in the concluding session that we must allow our Salesian identity and educative system-with the three pillars of religion, reason and loving kindness-remain strong and constant while absorbing the many transformations in society, culture and beliefs along the way. We remain sturdy in our resolve to continue this journey!