Volume 6 - Issue 07
JULY - 2008
THE ZENITH OF HOLISTIC LEARNING
The Sublime Story of Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School,
‘THE SCHOOL IS HIS MAKING’
“It was one of the best days in the nine years of my service as the Principal of Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School. The year was 1991,” recalls Mr. Habbu, the first Principal of His School.
“It was a beautiful evening in the month of May, and I was standing in front of Trayee Brindavan (Swami’s residence in Bangalore ) with the XII grade Board (CBSE) examinations results in my hand. I could not wait to offer the performance of the students at His lotus Feet.
"For the first time, the school had achieved 100 % first class – every student of the XII grade had not only passed, but also secured first division. There was joy dancing on my face as Swami opened the door, and I immediately presented the score card to Him. Oh my God!
"You should have seen Swami that evening! My joy was nothing compared to how jubilant and radiant Swami was!….Swami took that paper from my hand and holding it aloft, moved from one end of the compound to the other, and excitedly declared to over three hundred college students, elders and a few parents present there: ‘See, My children from Prasanthi Nilayam have secured 100 % first class!’ He was bliss personified, inside and outside. It was truly a sight for the Gods.
“This was the culmination of hard work of many years and Swami’s Divine Grace. In fact, Swami had asked us to achieve this much earlier. But we missed it marginally for a couple of years. In 1986, because of an excellent effort by teachers and students, when we had 100 % pass results with 89 out of 96 students securing first class; I thought the School had done really well, Swami would be pleased. But His concern was about the 7 who didn’t make it. ‘Why did you allow four students in second class and three in third class?’ He asked. The next year, much before the final exams, He said, ‘Identify the students who are weak in academics and hold extra classes for them. Nobody should be left out.’ That was His Love!”
Leave No Child Behind: Baba
Mr. Sivaramakrishnaiah, the current principal continues, “In fact, He asked us to appoint a senior student as a mentor for every weak student under the guidance of a teacher, and this has worked wonderfully. Now we choose mentors from the same class.
"The boys help each other and their performance has gone up. For Swami, a few students securing 98% or 99% is not a cause for celebration, His concern is for the last boy. That is how He has built this institution.”
“The best part of our School is that we have rankers spending as much time helping those brothers who are weak as studying on their own,” says Shivam Chopra, a student of the XII grade.
“And if the second best student asks the first ranker a doubt, he helps him whole heartedly; not for a moment does he think ‘What if he gets an extra mark more than me’.”
Promoting Camaraderie - All for One and One for All
Narrating his own experience, Karthik, another student of the same class, says, “Last year, there was one classmate who used to get 60-70%. So I told him, ‘Brother, you should devote more time to studies.’
But he said, ‘It is not that I do not give time, I just do not understand a few things.’ Then I said, ‘Feel free to ask me anytime you have a doubt. Never hesitate.’
"And so, in the next few weeks, I remember, he came to me many times. And when the next unit test was conducted, this boy got full marks in a question, in which I lost half a mark! But I was happy.
"It was a joy to see him excel…in fact, we are more overjoyed when our class average goes up rather than our own ranks.” And then with a sweet smile on his face, Karthik continues, “The entire class gets chocolates; we celebrate together!”
Mastermind behind the Masterpiece
This is the spirit that pervades in this sacred seat of learning, and you ask Mr. Habbu how did such an institution blossom and he categorically states, “This is all His making – a hundred percent!”
It was Swami who started the Sri Sathya Sai Junior College in 1979 which functioned in the premises of Eswaramma High School for a couple of years. Soon, Bhagavan had a new building constructed just beside this school, and in 1981, this edifice was ready for inauguration. Mr. Anjaiah, the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, was to open this building, and on that particular morning, the Lord was so eager to see His new school that when the Chief guest did not arrive in time, Swami bent down and went below the ribbon, inspected the rooms and left it to be opened formally by the Chief Minister later.
Selecting His Instruments of Choice
“Since then He has been guiding us, holding our hands like a mother would do for her child,” says the Principal Mr. Shivaramakrishnaiah. In fact, the story of how the Principal came into His fold is as fascinating as the story of the school itself. We will have that interesting tale for you in the Swami and Me section of next issue. The story is no different in charm, though varied in content, if you look into the journey of every teacher who is part of this noble institution.
They are all ‘handpicked’ by the Lord to work as His instruments in molding a novel and noble set of educated minds. But as the teachers say, “We do merely 1% of the job, Swami does 99%.” And that is because there is no activity in the school that is not directly or indirectly directed by Swami. In fact, in the initial days, His physical involvement was so much that Swami used to be even part of the interview panel when new teachers were interviewed for recruitment.
“I still remember that day, it was August 4, 1979,” recalls Mr. Rammohan Rao, who teaches English. “I was waiting to be called to take a sample class as part of the selection procedure. I wanted a take a little vibhuti and drink water before my turn came, but I could not find water, and therefore did not take the vibhuti as well. But imagine my surprise when I suddenly saw Swami there!
He came straight to me, materialized vibhuti, put it in my palm and said to a person standing near by, ‘Get water for him!’ And after that when I took a lesson in the class, the Lord was sitting there for the full 15 minutes. The best part was reserved for the evening. Swami saw me in the darshan ground, came and stopped right in front of me, and said, ‘Do you know what happened? You are selected!’”
Insightful Lessons from the Divine, Delivered Instantaneously
Apart from interacting with teachers and students almost everyday in the Mandir, Swami made any number of visits to the school to enthuse and inspire the students. In the early years of the school, the boys organised a Science exhibition. Swami was fascinated with the models and interacted leisurely with each student. At the same time, drove into them precious lessons. There was a model named “Burglar’s alarm”.
The moment one put his hand in front of that instrument, the alarm went off. The boys requested Swami to place His hand too. The sweet Lord kindly did, but no siren went off! The boys, in a panic, tested their instrument; it was fine. They pleaded with Him again, and He obliged for the second time! But the scene was no different. The boys were now confused and crestfallen. And then, with a mischievous smile on His face, the Lord revealed, “I am not this kind of a thief, I am Chittachora (stealer of hearts)!”
Grateful Alumni Return to Serve
Every time the boys had Swami in the school or the hostel, it was a fascinating experience. In the subsequent years, the students staged a Photo Exhibition followed by a Human Values Exhibition in 1988. The latter continued as an annual offering of students for more than 6 years. The joy that Swami conferred upon the students during these occasions was something out of the ordinary.
Going down memory lane, Mr. S. Sathya, who was a student then and is now a teacher at the school, says, “In one of the stalls at the exhibition, we had a game of darts. When Bhagavan came there, He goaded everyone around to try their luck. Many elders and teachers gave it a shot, some very successful in actually hitting the wall on which the dart-board was hung! Finally, it was Bhagavan’s turn. Believe me, He was the only one to hit the bulls eye in the very first attempt!..
“To say that my stay at the school as a student was eventfusl is not only to state the obvious but also is an understatement. To join as a teacher here is not only a blessing undisguised but also a vent for gratitude. Here, I have learnt much more than I have been taught. Now, I only pray to Bhagavan so that I may teach much more than what I have learnt…and continue to learn as I teach!”
Unparalleled Love of Sai for His Students
That is how the Lord has created gems out of seemingly ordinary stones. “Swami says ‘students are My property’, and the way He takes care of them is mysterious and moving,” says the current Principal. “He knows every boy much more than any of us in the school or in the hostel. On one occasion when I was mentioning to Swami about a particular boy, even before I could say anything, He said, ‘Oh, that boy is from Bombay, right? I know him. He lives near Andheri. His father is a doctor.’ I was dumbstuck; I had never seen Swami talking to him!’”
“Once I had gone to Swami’s residence to give a letter about a sick boy,” narrates Dr. Shailesh Srivastava. “Even before I could send the letter, Swami suddenly called me in and started talking about this sick boy! I had not opened my mouth at all. The next moment, He created capsules, but was searching for paper(!). Finally, He found a small piece near the window. He packed the capsules neatly, and placing them in my hands said, ‘Tell the boy not to worry. Swami’s love is always there.’”
Instances like this are galore. Ask any student and a string of stories will roll out. “The strength of this school is this direct guidance and personal love of Swami. It is undoubtedly His grace and nothing else that has made the school what it is today,” says P. Satya Narayam, an alumnus currently working in Kuwait as a Credit Analyst in the Commercial Bank of Kuwait.
Inexhaustible Love for His Students
Years have rolled by, many batches of students have graduated from the school, and many institutions have sprouted in Prasanthi Nilayam, but Swami’s love and concern for His school has not waned a bit. “He has provided us whatever we need – from pins to tables, fans to furniture - at times even before asking,” says the Principal. “In 1994, a cyclostyle machine (a copier used prior to photocopiers) became necessary and when I presented this request to Him, Swami took me to a store in the Poorna Chandra Auditorium. Among various things lying there, was a box.
"Swami said, ‘You take this box, this will serve the purpose’. Later, when we opened the packet, we found that it was a computer printer! At that time, we had no computer in the school. So, next year (1995) I asked for computers and Swami sent two computers along with table, chairs, et al. When I sought His permission to create a separate Air Conditioned (AC) room for these computers, the kind Lord sent His own AC that He had used in the Mandir. That was the extent of Swami’s concern.”
Early Exposure to Computer Studies
“But the most wonderful part is that it was in the year 1996 the Central Board of Secondary Education or CBSE introduced a curriculum strand on Computer Science with C++,” says Mr. Venkateswar Prusty, who teaches the subject. “When the Principal informed Swami of this development, Swami sent a Pentium to the school – at that time (in 1996) nobody in Puttaparthi had seen a Pentium machine, not even the University students. Today, the computer lab is an immaculate and well-furnished state-of-the-art facility with 15 machines – one allotted for each boy studying this subject.”
"But the most heartening aspect for these boys is that every year when they take their projects to the Mandir for His blessings, Swami invariably spends ample time with each boy looking through his work carefully. “What happened last year (2007) is even more amazing,” shares Mr. Prusty. “The bhajans concluded that evening, Swami took arathi and got into the car – well almost! Suddenly, He asked for His chair to be brought out, and to everybody’s surprise came and settled on the stage, in front of the boys.
"That day all the Computer Science boys were in the front, ready with their projects. He called each one of them, spent a couple of minutes browsing through their offering, and finally called me and blessed me profusely. It was such a memorable day!
“By His grace, all these boys have done exceedingly well in the Board exams, year after year. In fact, the intensive project work that they undertake completely independently while at His school has always been a great highlight on their curriculum vitae.”
Academic Excellence Draws Attention of Policy Makers
Not only this, the academic record of the school in the last decade has been so impressive that it has repeatedly attracted the attention of premier high school educational bodies of the Government of India. In 2003, the Ministry of Education, Government of India, awarded the Best Teacher Award to the Principal of the School in a grand function in New Delhi. This was repeated again in 2005, with the award this time going to Mr. Veda Narayan, the Sanskrit Teacher.
For the last five years, the School has been achieving 95% distinction (most of the students securing above 75%) apart from 100% first class in grade XII. Among them, one of every 4 has garnered over 90% marks. Five students secured a perfect 100% in Sanskrit in the current year (2008), and in the previous year, one student hit the bull’s eye in Accounting, scoring full marks there. In the year before that, it was in Bio-Sciences. Therefore, every year when the CBSE results are announced, the school is in a celebration mood, not because of the excellent performance of the students, but the joy that lights up Bhagavan’s face when He sees His children’s commendable effort and gleefully announces it to the whole audience gathered for His darshan.
Sterling Academic Performace of the School students in the nationwide CBSE examinations for grade X and XII
Academic Achievement Only a Part of the Big Picture
“These achievements are laudable, but this is not what the school stands for,” alerts Dr. Shailesh Srivastava, the Physics teacher. “One should note that the students in this school achieve such excellent academic results with only two hours of compulsory study time every night. This is true even for those in the X and XII grade too. I once heard an external examiner saying, ‘I wonder how these boys produce such good results with only two hours of study everyday! Maybe, in those two hours, they really study and absorb a lot.’”
Disciplined Life Promotes Intense Concentration
Shivam, a student of XII grade, answers this beautifully. “We do more of intensive study than extensive study,” he says with a smile and explains, “Our schedule is planned in such a way that we have time for everything. It is something like a switch going off and on. When we are on the ground, we play vigorously, but when it comes to study hours, we concentrate completely. If we do not do that, we know we will not find that much time again. In the beginning, due to mental inertia, we may not be able to shift our focus from one activity to another instantaneously, but with time, the system just gets into you. Your concentration levels just go up.”
“When I was studying in Bangalore, during my X grade I used to take 6 hours a day to complete my homework,” says Abhay, now in XII. “But in Swami’s school, I am able to do more in half the time. In fact, this is something wonderful that the system has given me.”
Absence of Distractions Conducive to Mental Focus
“Another factor which helps us a lot is that in the hostel we have absolutely no distractions,” says Shastri, another student in the XII grade. “Moreover, during darshan sessions whenever Swami sits outside, we sit erect and look at Swami with one-pointed attention for 30-45 minutes and sometimes even longer. This increases our concentration span and sharpens our mind.”
Mind Control Confers Infinite Learning Potentiality
“A man with a controlled mind can achieve wonders in this world. This institution set up by Swami stands as a live testimony to this fact,” asserts Dr. Srivastava. “A student can achieve 100 % if he studies only two hours per day, provided he has a disciplined mind.
"This is very important because secular learning is only ‘education to earn a living’, the other most significant part is ‘education for life’ which is essentially ‘character building’, and it is towards this end that the maximum time and effort of the students has to be directed.
"It is for this reason that the daily routine of the boys from 5 am till 10 pm is chock-a-block with ennobling activities, one after another.”
“Multi-tasking has become very easy for me in my corporate life,” says Achintya, an alumnus of the school working currently in Genpact Ltd, Signapore.
“There is so much discipline in my life and I can adapt and adjust to uncomfortable situations with greater ease than any of my peers. My stay in Swami’s hostel has instilled in me a lot of self-confidence.”
Integrated Personality Development
“The world over, education is focused only on developing the mind,” says Mr. B. K. Misra, the English teacher. “But man is a not just a body of intellect, he has emotions and feelings, and more importantly, awareness, which is based on the soul.
Swami’s school endeavours to develop this whole personality of an individual. This is the most beautiful aspect – while there is development of the body and the mind, there is also enrichment of the heart and the soul, of emotions and compassion. Therefore, what you see as a product is an integrated personality that humanity needs now more than ever.”
Citing a small instance, Mr. Misra says, “One day I was sitting in the Mandir verandah cross-legged on the ground, and writing something. I didn’t have a writing pad or board, therefore, the paper was on my knee. Even though it was difficult, I continued to write with my head down.
"One boy who was sitting a few yards away from me (in the third block) noticed this, quietly came over, placed a board on my knee, and walked back deftly. When I looked up, he was already seated; so I really didn’t know who it was. Nobody had told him; I hadn’t asked for it!
"The most striking aspect is that he didn’t even want to be recognized for it! It is this sense of awareness, to feel for the other and respond spontaneously and whole-heatedly, which is special in the students of this school. And this, I believe, is truly His making. His Love does wonders, and every brick and stone, pupil and teacher in this school can vouch for it.”
- Bishu Prusty
Vol 6 Issue 07 - JULY 2008
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