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Taking Gandhi to Schools
October 7, 2018, 2:25 pm
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The 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the great soul and ‘Father of the Nation’, popularly known as ‘Bapu’ fell on 2 October 2018. It is a great day and no doubt deserves great celebrations. Indian schools, whether on Indian soil or foreign land, will celebrate Gandhi Jayanthi with great gusto.

Children will dress themselves as Bapu, walk with a stick in their hands with a few followers chanting slogans or bhajans for the well-being of Indian people, the nation and for the world.

Then comes 3 October and everyone will forget the Mahatma for another year. This is probably a good time for some much-needed introspection.

Are we doing enough for Mahatma, are schools even trying to teach some of his principles and thoughts on peace, love, harmony, truth, honesty, integrity, self-belief, respect for all, and of course non-violence. I think his principles and philosophy of life is more relevant these days as we can see the disintegration of society and our children are affected most.

The solution to this lies in the lessons taught by him through his life and condensed in his words, “Simple living and High Thinking.” His life story itself is a wonderful lesson for all of us as it has proven that it is possible to remain gentle in spirit, yet simultaneously command a huge amount of strength and respect.

In a world in which authority is valued over authentic leadership, I believe we have a lot to learn from the man who fought for our nation with his mind alone. His philosophy was not purely based on theory; instead he lived by rules of pragmatism.

He practiced what he preached every day of his life. If we really want to pay real tribute to that ‘Mahatma’ we should bring him back to school every day and not just once a year. His principles, his values should be part and parcel of our school’s daily activities, curricular or co-curricular.

Let us all, at least those who are in the education sector and deal with young minds every day, try to bring him live in our schools. It should be visible through our daily routines and the values and principles that we try to inculcate in our children.

Here are some Gandhian principles that are still relevant today, which we should be teaching our children in schools.

Self-belief: Your belief in yourself is a determining factor in your success. Believe in what you do and never change your mind even if no one stands by you. There are myriad options available and so many people to disillusion you, but never let that faith in yourself die. That is the only thing you need to achieve your dreams and pull you together when times are tough.

Integrity: The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. There may be many attractive options that lure you, but never do things that you will not be proud of or regret later. Integrity comes from a congruence between thoughts, feelings, words, and actions, when all that you are and do spring from your core values. Gandhiji was one of the greatest examples of integrity we have seen in modern times, and the many moving stories about his life demonstrate the power of teaching this character trait by example.

Here is one such story: A mother once brought her child to him, asking him to tell the young boy not to eat sugar, because it was not good for his diet or his developing teeth. Gandhi replied, “I cannot tell him that. But you may bring him back in a month.”

The mother was angry as Gandhi moved on, brushing her aside. She had traveled some distance, and had expected the mighty leader to support her parenting. She had little recourse, so she left for her home. One month later she returned, not knowing what to expect.

The great Gandhi took the small child’s hands into his own, knelt before him, and tenderly communicated, “Do not eat sugar, my child. It is not good for you.” Then he embraced him and returned the boy to his mother. The mother, grateful but perplexed, queried, “Why didn’t you say that a month ago?” “Well,” said Gandhi, “a month ago, I was still eating sugar.” What power in example!

Respect for all: I think kids today need to understand this value the most. In a country like Kuwait where people from so many countries live together and come from many diversified cultures, we definitely need our children to understand that everybody is equal and they all deserve respect. Money is not the only factor that gets you respect. Each individual commands respect and it is only fair to give it to them

Leadership: Gandhi was by far one of the strongest and most powerful leaders the country has seen. He was a leader with a single vision. He said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” That is the sign of a great leader. This leadership is needed in today’s corporate, social and political environment.

Simplicity and Humility: Gandhi won hearts and followers by his simplicity and mutual respect. Humility is the act of being modest, reverential, politely submissive. It is the opposite of aggression, arrogance, pride and vanity. And on the surface, it appears to empty its holder of all powers. In spite of being in a position of power he was humble and kind. He is the best example of simplicity and humility.

Non-violence: Of course, this goes without saying that is not only to be preached but practiced too.

What should be our action plan?

Let us observe different days throughout the year based on values taught by the Mahatma. We can observe Honesty Day, Truth Day, Peace Day, Help Day, Respect Day and so on while placing all these days in the school calendar of activities. Co-curricular activities can be designed in such a way that inculcates Gandhiji’s ideas and philosophy. Speech competitions and debates can be organized based on his popular sayings.

We can have fancy dress or mono-acting competitions for junior students based on his philosophy and his life. There are so many activities that can be organized round the year like art and craft exhibitions, creative writing competitions, all based on Gandhi ji’s philosophy. Gandhiji firmly believed in the religion of Humanity. He said the essence of all religions is one, only approaches are different.

We have to groom our children to be responsible citizen of the world where they understand the meaning of co-existence with all the diversities. Schools have tremendous responsibility of bringing Gandhi back to schools. If they succeed in doing so they will be fulfilling their responsibility towards creating a better world with peace and harmony which Gandhiji dreamed about. Schools can surely make all the difference. Let me conclude with the popular saying of Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Let us be that change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Dr. Anis Ahmad, Director, SIMS, Kuwait

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