The Institute of Sathya Sai Education
By Sumana Shashidhar
Those were the days in ancient times, when the moral, ethical and social values among the people were very high. The educational system - at all levels - was imparting human values such as compassion, humility, truth, non-violence, righteousness, etc. Nowadays there is significant progress in all the fields of external knowledge, with the ever growing scientific advancement. But a little introspection makes us realise the state of melancholy in our lives. This is because external knowledge is becoming dominant and human values made recessive, though these human values are very much within everyone to experience. In short, education and literacy are not necessarily moulding the character. Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba – the world’s best education reformer - says, “The end of education is character”. Otherwise it is like a fruit without juice.
Today what we need is young men and women of high moral values to transform the whole world into a peaceful state where ‘brotherhood of man and fatherhood of God’ manifests. To achieve this state it is very essential to inculcate these Human Values such as Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Love and Non-violence at a very young age among children. Schools should provide such conducive atmosphere with the help of dedicated teachers of high values.
Origin of Sri Sathya Sai School
I had an opportunity to undergo a residential diploma course at the International Institute for Sri Sathya Sai Education in Human Values, to which the Sri Sathya Sai school is affiliated. As the name suggests the inspiration for this school is the teachings of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Dr. Art Ong Jumsai, Dr. Judo and Sr. Lorraine - The Director, Assistant Director and the Secretary respectively - are the three emissaries of Bhagawan who have pioneered this noble education method under the Divine guidance of Bhagawan. Whilst enjoying the blissful experience to the fullest satisfaction, I have realized during my tenure how a value based education can be imparted to children with love.
Location and Aim Of the school
The Institute of Sathya Sai Education (ISSE) and the Sathya Sai School are situated in the same campus. It is in the north of Bangkok, in a province called Lobpuri. The place is very scenic with beautiful tall trees and other flowering trees cascading down the mountains, giving the natural landscape a poetic beauty. The Pasak River flows across the area, giving life to this natural forest and the people living there. The whole place is like an ashram. The Institute building is a beautiful Thai-style house located on the school premises, on the banks of the Pasak River. It is approximately 1 km from the main school building. The school reminds one of the Gurukula of ancient times. Sages who lived in hermitages were imparting education along with strict spiritual discipline. The children were taught to lead a life based on moral, ethical and spiritual values, so as to become ideal citizens. Based on the same principle, Sri Sathya Sai School is providing a conducive atmosphere for the children to develop their humane qualities.
The Sathya Sai School was started in 1996. This is the second school to be set up outside India, the first being in Zambia. Today there are many Sathya Sai Schools around the world - in Australia, Nepal, Fiji, Indonesia, Canada, etc. The Sathya Sai schools around the world follow the national curriculum of the respective countries. But it is imperative that the essence of human values are blended into the academic subjects. This is the principle of SSEHV. The school has a unique way of teaching these values. For instance Peace could be the theme for one of the weeks. During that week all subjects taught will carry the significance of Peace and its sub-values such as concentration, honesty, patience, self-confidence, etc.
The school in Thailand has grades from 1 to 8 with 180 children in all. The children are brought up in an atmosphere of love, reverence, mutual respect, co-operation and spiritual discipline. The children begin their day at 5:45 am in the prayer hall along with the teachers and other staff of the school. The prayer hall is huge, with a capacity of 300-350, where symbols of all the major religions are displayed. The portrait of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is prominently seen in the hall. The children of the Sathya Sai school respect all religions. Swami has said that He has not come on behalf of any particular religion but has come to foster the roots of all religions. They start with a Buddhist prayer “Buddam Sharanam Gachahmi” and chant a few Buddhist verses. This is followed by 3 Aums and Gayathri mantra which leads to Light meditation. The prayer session ends with an EHV teacher narrating a value-based story. This is a healthy start to induce in the child right thinking, right behaviour and right living throughout the day.
The children then proceed to the canteen for morning breakfast. Children fill their plates themselves and clean their plates after eating. This is the only school in Thailand where children are served only vegetarian food. The whole country in the beginning looked with a lot of scepticism at the school because vegetarianism is alien to the people there. But today people from other schools are coming to study the secret of the excellent health of the children of this school. As a substitute to high protein animal products the school has introduced soyabean formulations, which is the richest source of proteins and essential nutrients.
The school begins at 7:30 am after the national anthem. The children go to their respective classrooms. The first period invariably begins with EHV. In the EHV class the values are imparted to the children in a direct manner. Every period begins with the chanting of Gayathri Mantra. As a part of our course we trainees got this wonderful opportunity in planning and presenting EHV for all grades. The memories of this class room experience are unforgettable. The children are taught all other subjects like in any other school, but stressing on values all the time.
The principle of the school is to build the character of the children. This is the main function of the school. In every facet of life in the school, be it living, studying or playing, much more emphasis is placed on teamwork than on individual achievement. Universal human values like truth, honesty, love, loyalty, sharing, compassion, courage, determination, etc. are imparted in day-to-day functioning. The weekends are exclusively devoted to activities like planting trees or planting rice seedlings, to inculcate environmental awareness. In the process the children are taught to develop their commitment to the society.
Behavioral studies of these children
Once an Education Inspector visited the school and was going from class to class. He stopped at grade 3, where the teacher was taking mathematics class. He asked one of the students, “If you are given 500 bahts and asked to buy envelopes for this amount, how many would you buy if each envelope costs 25 bahts”? The child immediately answered, “Why should I buy envelopes for all 500 bahts? I will only buy whatever is necessary as money should not be spent unnecessarily”. The inspector was taken aback at this reply.
For everything here love is the only weapon. Once while having lunch I noticed 3 boys seated opposite to each other, away from the rest and feeding each other. Later I found from one of the teachers that these boys were quarreling and this was the punishment given to them to mend their ways. For the next 3 days they had to feed each other.
As a result of food habits, disciplined spiritual practices and most importantly the understanding of human values, the children look very peaceful, contented and charismatic. Love radiates from them at all times. It is a normal sight in schools to see children topple and fall while playing and get hurt in the process. One day I noticed a boy crying as he fell down while running. I was proceeding towards the boy who was a few meters away but before I could reach the boy a group of elderly boys surrounded him and consoled him, while a few others rushed to fetch water. Seeing the boy crying, others expressed compassion from the bottom of their hearts. The concern displayed for fellow beings was an incredible sight to watch.
Though there are many plants and trees in a forest, one jasmine creeper is enough to spread its fragrance to a wide area. Similarly when these children go out into the society they will transform the people around, bringing peace and harmony, and make the world a better place to live in. Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba says, “Education should serve not only to develop one’s intelligence and skills, but also help to broaden one’s outlook and make him useful to society and the world at large. This is possible only when cultivation of the spirit is promoted along with education in the physical sciences. Moral and spiritual education will train a man to lead disciplined life”.
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