The goal of education is to increase awareness not information. Watching our inner responses, knowing that they are there, increases our self-awareness.- His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Since the advent of the encyclopedists and the dawning of the Age of Reason, Education has played a great role in the shaping of Western society, politics and economics. In India, at the end of the colonial period, the traditional Indian system of education was in shambles and almost extinct and the substituted Anglicized form was a poor substitute to suit the temperamentand world view of the Indian with his mother tongues at constant war with the phonics, grammar and syntax of English.
Care for Children- Gift a Future, Gift a Smile Program:
In 1981, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar embarked on opening free schools to provide access to a higher awareness to every child, irrespective of his/ her family’s economic/ social condition. Today, that one school has multiplied to 425 educating more than 53,000 students across India. From tribal forests to city slums, these schools are an oasis of learning in the midst of many apparent “difficulties”.
What makes the schools so unique is the very process that causes the creation of the school in the first place. Be it local villagers, or tribals, or slum dwellers, on completion of a leadership program of Art of Living Foundation, they invariably manifest their latent quality to serve their immediate community. For the most part, these projects end up either being a school or providing water (river rejuvenation etc.), cleaner environments etc.
Next comes the provision for land. Most of the schools stand on donated land as the community members discuss the value of having a school in their midst. As the land gets donated, the mental alignment of all the stakeholders of that area makes the construction and the physical manifestation of the school possible in record time, with the monetary support of donors from around the world.
With that comes the staffing of these schools where most of the local women and men, established in the meditation and breathing practices of the Art of Living Foundation, on a regular basis with the required academic background, support the education of their young. Given how invested the local community is at every level, the quality of care and attention the children experience is of a different nature.
As we enter these school campuses, the first thing we notice is the wide-eyed, bright, smiling faces of the children. There is an underlying joy that radiates throughout. In one school, when we struck up conversations with some students and asked them what was unique about this school, one of the responses was, “Here, we are respected by our teachers.”
Teachers support these children to discover their latent qualities of human values. It is just not a “job” with salary and benefits. It is part of the process of heightening self-awareness. It resonates with the above quote of Sri Sri, the inspiration behind all of these schools.
By: Meenakshi Srinivasan