SUMI – Dr. Sonam Wangyal

– Dr. Sonam B. Wangyal

When the Scottish Universities Mission (SUM) was formed it was decided that Sikkim would be its field of operation. Keeping that in perspective Reverent Macfarlane was sent to Kalimpong, as the first SUM missionary, to start a training school for teachers and catechists who would later go to Sikkim and spread the message of the Bible.

On 19 April 1886 the Training Institute was formally opened with twelve students. They lived in long low-roofed houses containing rooms that accommodated two to three students. The number of pupils gradually increased and in the turn of the century an English medium school run by Harkadhoj Pradhan was amalgamated to the Scottish Universities Mission’s Training Institute raising its numerical strength and also the associated problems that come with such a sudden increase. Rev. Dr. Sutherland, the first Principal, had recently left for Scotland having managed the school for over twelve years and the new incumbent must have found the job quite a hand full. Despite the sincerity of the mission and the historical importance of the institution the formative years were difficult and actual success was some distant years away.

In 1901 the school was in its fifteenth year and was still struggling to stand on its feet. The muster roll of 26 March showed a strength of a hundred pupils but the actual attendance was almost 50% less with only 53 students in the class rooms. The weak turnout would have, in a way, suited the new Principal, Rev. John Macara, for the school was short staffed with only one Pundit and three “chela” Pundits. The medium of instruction was in Hindi and you readers will be surprised to know that in the primary section the children were made to learn Latin and how that would be of use to the hill lads seems rather uncertain.

In 1907 Rev. Sutherland returned for his second stint as the Principal. The school had grown substantially but the facilities had not kept pace and that year Mr. N. Lambert, the Inspector of Schools, commented, “With the exception of Mr. Sutherland the members of the staff have poor qualifications and are poorly paid.” Rev. Sutherland was to change all that and set right whatever other shortcomings. The improvements were so rapid and substantial that the new Inspector of Schools, Mr. P. Chatterjee, when he visited the school in 1914 wrote, “The school is unquestionably doing excellent work and I would like some of our teachers in the plains to come and see the work done here.” A year later Lord Charmichael noted, “It seemed to me that the nature study in the school is the best which I have met with any school in Bengal.” The rickety old school was now standing on solid foundations and Sutherland could now look forward to heading home having given over 25 years (1887-1899 & 1907-1920) of his active life to the growth and development of the school. It was a time well spent and when he left Kalimpong in the beginning of 1920 he must have been a very satisfied man.

Today SUMI is one of the best schools in India. The nouveau riche may gauge the standard of a school by the fees charged but the proper method is to rate a school through its alumni. In the final count it is not the fancy buildings, heated swimming pools, grand parks with stadiums etc. etc. but how the finished products of the school have fared in life. This deciding factor in the case of SUMI’s is so impressive that it will easily put to shame many better endowed and more celebrated institutions. The SUMI gave Bhutan and Darjeeling their first doctors, produced a Chief of the Army, an Inspector General of Police, several Cabinet Ministers, Ambassadors, numerous educationists, top ranking bureaucrats, the first Nepali Judge in an Indian High Court and the list could go on endlessly. Suffice it to say that the young ones of SUMI have a wonderful legacy to uphold which sums up to a heavy but at the same time a delightful burden of making themselves successful SUMITES.

2 thoughts on “SUMI – Dr. Sonam Wangyal

  1. Sushant Basnet

    Although I spent only 2 years in this prestigious institution, but it gave me the pleasure and knowledge which i did not receive in other schools. Thaks to all the teachers and special thanks to Mr Arvind Pradhan (Agri).


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