Remembering Rex D’Rozario: Science Editor, Rural Teacher and Social Activist

D’Rozario made his most enduring contributions to science education and journalism, as well as to writing for children and publishing a science magazine for them.

Rex D'Rozario. Source: Author provided

Rex D’Rozario. Source: Author provided

A senior journalist of leading English science journals willing to leave them for starting a magazine in Hindi to encourage scientific thinking among children. An educator from Kerala very much at home spending long hours in the rural schools of Madhya Pradesh to spread a pioneering approach to science education. A member of the National Focus Group on science teaching finding time to help a farmer in repairing his ring well. Rex D’Rozario was all this and more – and above all, he was a kind human being who will be remembered not just by the friends he knew but also by the many students and children who grew up reading his interesting science magazine and textbook lessons.

Rex D’Rozario, who died on January 19 in the US aged 68, represented an increasingly small minority of people who did not hesitate to take the road less travelled, who constantly asked themselves what the most useful and creative path for them is, and then simply started walking it. It was only his willingness to make such changes regardless of all difficulties that enabled D’Rozario to make his most enduring contributions to science education and journalism, as well as to writing for children and publishing a science magazine for them.

D’Rozario started his career with Science Today and later moved, with its editor, to start a new journal named Science Age. Both these journals are highly regarded in the progress of science journalism in India and D’Rozario’s contribution is notable. However, his yearning for finding an even more relevant role closer to the grassroots brought him to the villages of Hoshangabad district in Madhya Pradesh.

Here, he joined a volunteering organisation, called Kishore Bharti, which proved to be a starting point for some of the leading educational and health activists of the country – like Anil Sadgopal, Ilina Sen and Binayak Sen. He mixed freely with farmers and villagers, helping with several odd jobs, as though he had been a part of life for a long time. He also endeared himself to his colleagues and villagers alike. He gradually became more involved in a program to improve school education that was being prepared for schools of the district alongside the state government. It was later taken up at a wider level by a new organisation, Eklavya, with more focus on educational issues, and D’Rozario moved over as well.

While the science education project received much acclaim, there were several hurdles at the bureaucratic level due that stalled the overall initiative. This prompted its members to explore other avenues of science education. One idea was to start a magazine to encourage scientific thinking among children and involving them in several creative activities. This magazine was named Chakmak. It soon became quite popular and started getting subscriptions from many parts of the country. D’Rozario was the first editor of this magazine. He emphasised a reader-friendly style while avoiding the preaching tone of some of the other educational magazines of the time. There were some changes later under subsequent editors and the magazine also had some ups and downs. Nonetheless, it has generally maintained a special place of its own among children’s magazines.

Another valuable effort was to begin a science articles and features service cum science journal. Here also D’Rozario, as editor, played an invaluable role, at least in its early days. To increase their reach, for example, the news and articles service released several news items and articles to a large number of Hindi newspapers, magazines and other organisations every week. Then, at the end of the month all the news and articles released during the four weeks were reedited and accommodated in a journal called Srote (Hindi for ‘Source’).

This compiled journal was more suitable for use in schools and educational institutions. And at the end of each year, bound volumes of all 12 monthly issues were also published. Thus, valuable material on science education was prepared in Hindi and D’Rozario ensured it reached a wider audience through newspapers and magazines. This way Srote was able, and continues to be able, to make a very important contribution to science education and journalism over two-and-half decades. D’Rozario also contributed to another science magazine by Eklavya called Sandarbh, as well to a publication titled Kyon Aur Kaise (‘Why and How’ in Hindi).

His colleagues remember him as a very warm-hearted human being who was always willing to lend a helping hand, whether to a farmer or a colleague. He leaves behind his wife, Alethea, one son and two daughters. Alethea shared his passion for education and is known for her contribution to English-language teaching. D’Rozario was also a voracious reader, not just of science but also several other subjects including literature. Some of his colleagues also recalled his boxing bouts as a schoolboy but these were later boxed out in the middle of his more peaceful pursuits.

Bharat Dogra and Baba Mayaram are freelance journalists who have been involved in many social movements and initiatives.