Volume 7 - Issue 08
August 2009
Other Articles

CRADLING A CHARACTER-RICH GENERATION…

Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Educare, Chromepet, Chennai

Current School Education in India – Far Cry from Her Enlightened Past

The anomalies of India’s social structure are clearly evident in the uneven access to school education for millions of families. According to the report 'Global Education Digest 2007', released by UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), "Households pay for more than one-quarter, 28 per cent, of the costs to send their children to primary and secondary school, [as opposed to only 14 per cent towards university education]. These fees pose a very real barrier for the children of poor families."

Mapping the latest education statistics from primary to tertiary levels, the report focuses on the financing of education and provides a series of indicators to compare spending patterns across countries and levels of education. Explaining the Indian situation, it stresses, "…systems that are overly reliant on private contributions, especially at the primary level of education, raise the risk of excluding students from poorer families" thereby making the fundamental right to basic education for the poor Indians a distant dream.

 
   
One of the principal reasons why Sai System of Education is
unique and is the need of the hour

The UNESCO report clearly points out that the distribution of funds was "extremely uneven" among the school-age populations. "Equity issues are clearly at play given this uneven distribution of resources" it adds.

Once the bedrock of timeless wisdom and inimitable teacher to the world, modern India is witnessing a mushrooming of a bevy of “international” schools across large and mid-sized metros, providing education based on the Western models, either American or British. Without exception, these private schools cater to the elitist of Indians and come with a hefty price tag.  Based on a survey of 4 leading private schools in the south Indian city of Chennai for instance, the annual cost of sending a child to a private school from Grade 1 through Grade 12 adds up to about Rs. 80,000 to Rs. 2,00,000 (US $1800 – 4200). What is worse is the value system and culture promoted by these schools is a far cry from the harmonious and balanced way of life exemplified and recommended by enlightened sons of Mother India.

It is this context that the Sri Sathya Sai System of Integral Education, gifted by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba to the entire world, becomes extremely significant. And the best example of this philosophy of education is the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School located in Prasanthi Nilayam. The “End of Education is Character” is the central focus of this educational system which nurtures the students’ body, mind and soul, and recognizes the spiritual component of the human experience, existence and aspiration. This holistic approach to integral education trades purely in the currency of selfless love, and has remained untainted by any monetary burden to the families of the students. Based on universal human values, Sai education is also universally accessible and involves no barriers of race, wealth, religion or social status.

 
   
The Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School in Prasanthi Nilayam - Pioneering an educational philosophy which is alluringly modern in its outlook but sacredly ancient in its heart

Over the decades, this unique system, through Sai Schools worldwide, has churned thousands of graduates, committed to the practice of values in their personal, professional and social life. One such outstanding Sai school flourishes near Chennai, quietly providing the highest quality holistic education, at absolutely no charge.

The Noble School at Nemilichery – Its Sublimity and Beauty

In Nemilichery, a suburb of the south Indian metro of Chennai, the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Educare is a Sai school with a rare distinction. It has been awarded an A+ accreditation from the Mumbai based national regulatory and supervisory agency, the Institute of Sathya Sai Education.

     
         
The SSS Institute of Educare receives A+ accreditation on September 7, 2008
 
The eager school kids lined up to welcome Baba when He visited Chromepet in 1984

A product of the direct grace of Bhagavan Baba, the Sai School at Nemilichery takes its social responsibility seriously by bringing the gift of balanced education to grateful families without any economic burden to them.

And it has been doing this silently for the past 31 years! This is just one of the reasons why this institution is special; more will unravel to you as you proceed with this story.

A short ride from Chromepet Railway Station is a densely populated community on the outskirts of Chennai.

Past the bridge and along dusty roads, one comes across lush green fields. Soon the signature Sai architecture comes within view - the pink lotus crown atop a light blue building.

As unique as its vision is the compound standing a world apart from the rest.

 
Am I at Prasanthi Nilayam?

     
         
With light and bright yellow, orange and blue, this school vibes like Prasanthi Nilayam
 
Exemplars for humanity - Sri Rama, Sri Lakshamana and Mother Sita in "Ram Sai" hall

“Am I at Prasanthi Nilayam?” This is the typical thought that would strike any visitor to this breathtakingly scenic campus. The ambience and architecture lend a divine serenity to the atmosphere.

The majestic prayer hall, the Ram Sai Hall, has been designed after the Poorna Chandra auditorium at Prashanti Nilayam. The hall is furnished with idols of Lord Vishnu's Dasavatharas (ten incarnations) and Sri Krishna's Gitopadesh on the interior. The outer walls are decorated with carvings of religious symbols of all religions.

     
         
"Unity of Divinity" is instilled in young minds strongly; this is "Allah" in the Prayer Hall
 
The compassionate Lord Jesus too adorns the wall of the Ram Sai Hall

As you proceed further towards the main building, you see a beautiful temple for Sri Vidya Ganesh. The temple was inspired from the Ganesh temple situated in the campus of the Sri Sathya Sai University. Adjacent to it is an idol of Lord Hanuman standing on a raised platform in a majestic posture. The children's playground, aptly called ‘Brindavanam’, is graced by a sweet statue of Lord Sai Krishna.

     
         
The exalted epitome of selfless service, Hanuman, has an elevated place in the school
 
The statue of sweet Krishna fittingly is a part
of the children's playground

The school, with all these sacred icons and a beautiful garden, constitutes a serene learning atmosphere, a product of three decades of a collective effort by those wedded to the Sai Education ideals.

The School’s Conception, Expansion and Current Exemplary Status

The Birth of the Sri Sathya Sai Bala Gurukulam

The school came into being as the Sri Sathya Sai Bala Gurukulam on the auspicious day of Vijayadasami in the year 1978. Initially it was managed by the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Samithi, Chromepet (Chennai) and run from a rented tiled house with just 40 students.

     
         
This is how the school started - the Sri Sathya Sai Bala Gurukulam
 
By His grace and the passionate dedication of many volunteers, the school slowly blossomed..

Women members of the Sai Samithi (the local Sai centre) volunteered to work as teachers. The following year (1979), saw the strength of the student body increase to 90 students. The school was then shifted to the Samithi Bhajan center, a rented building with a light roof.

However, within five years the strength of the Gurukulam reduced to a mere 17 students! An office bearers' meeting was organized to discuss the closure of the non-performing school. However, Bhagavan had other plans!

   
     
 
The impressive edifice which feels and resembles a place of worship than a conventional school 

At that time, a school associate visited Puttaparthi and was blessed with a personal interview by Bhagavan.

During the audience, she expressed her concern that the small school at Chromepet was not functioning properly. Swami told her, 'You run the school as it is. I will take care of it.'

This assurance from Bhagavan renewed the enthusiasm of the office bearers of the Samithi, and they took an active interest in the affairs of the school. In a year, the strength of the school rose to a 100!

For more than ten years, the school offered education up to Grade 5 in the rented Samithi center without any government recognition. Then, the Samithi members decided to purchase half an acre of land at Nemilichery, a village adopted by the Chromepet Samithi. They went to Puttaparthi to seek Bhagavan's blessings. Baba materialized vibhuthi, the sacred ash, as a blessing for the project.

At about the same time, a lady from Madurai donated an amount that was given as advance for the land, and in a year the sale agreement was signed. Well wishers of the project contributed, but the school was still short of Rs. 30,000. All Samithi members came together and prayed fervently to Bhagavan. And the answer came in the form of a voluntary contribution!

From Sri Sathya Sai Matriculation School to Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Educare

The school later acquired even more land. By then it was evident to everyone involved that the divine hand was behind the mysterious but synchronized series of events. A higher power was directing the project that was to fulfill a higher purpose in the divine mission.

Since the Sri Sathya Sai Trust, Tamil Nadu is a registered body, all financial transactions were done through the trust and the land was registered in the trust's name. Two thatched sheds of dimensions 20' x 80' were erected and the school was shifted to Nemilichery from the Samithi centre and was named the Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Mandir.

 
     
The Divine directs the school's destiny
 

The following year, Bhagavan’s will manifested in a rather unexpected manner. The area was hit by a heavy cyclone which blew away both the thatched roofs of the school. Suddenly, there was no room to run the school. But what seemed like a curse then, later turned into a blessing in disguise.

This seemingly untoward incident led to two interesting developments. Firstly, at this moment of grave need, a Good Samaritan stepped forward with a proposal. He said that he was moving into his just allocated railway quarters, and requested the committee to conduct the school in the house that would fall vacant due to his move to his official residence. The school ran in those premises for three years.

Next, all the Samithi members went to Puttaparthi to seek Bhagavan's blessings for constructing their own building for the school.

Bhagavan blessed all by sprinkling akshata, the holy rice, on them. When He was invited for the Bhoomi Puja (ground breaking ceremony), Bhagavan said, 'Osthanu, Osthanu' (I will come, I will come)."

Having bagged the divine assurance, the team spirit was soaring. Upon return, the Ganesh temple, the Shirdi Sai shrine, a three-storied school building, and a big prayer hall were constructed. Initially, government recognition was granted in the name of Sri Sathya Sai Matriculation School by the Sri Sathya Sai Trust, Tamil Nadu.

After four years, the school committee switched over to the national academic curriculum, known as the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) syllabus to give its students the advantage of being on par with the best in India. When it did this, it also changed its name to Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Educare as Bhagavan Baba always emphasizes on ‘Educare’ than education.

The Holistic Hostel and School Routine Arise and Stay Awake to Your Life’s Goal

A school thus born out of the sweet will of the universal teacher Bhagavan Baba, follows a befitting schedule where the day begins with salutations to the Lord of the Universe.

   
     
 
Mr. A. N. Janardhana Kurup,
the warden of the hostel

In response to the obvious question as to why the school is residential when it is located in a city and can run the program successfully for day scholars, the warden of the school hostel, Mr. A. N. Janardhana Kurup explains, "In the residential system, an institution has sufficient time to mould students and work upon each aspect of their personalities, individual traits and social behaviors through various programs integrated within the hostel life. It helps mould children as a whole. That is why we offer residential education from classes 6-10. However, the school also has day scholars."

To further augment the benefits of the hostel life, the hostel routine is based clearly on the foundation of discipline and devotion. Students rise early and spend their day through a rigorous schedule, learning time management early in life.

The School's Daily Routine
4.30 – 5.30 A.M. Wake up and get ready
5.30 – 6.00 A.M. Omkar, Suprabhatham, Nagarasankirthan
6.00 – 6.30 A.M. Yoga, Sun Salutation
6.30 – 7.00 A.M. Milk
7.00 – 8.00 A.M. Study Hours
8.00 – 8.30 A.M. Breakfast
8.30 – 12.20 P.M. School Hours
12.20 – 12.50 P.M. Lunch
12.50 – 3.45 P.M. School Hours
3.45 – 4.00 P.M.  Evening assembly
4.00 – 4.15 P.M.  Milk & Snacks
4.15 – 5.15 P.M. Games & Vocational Course
5.30 – 6.00 P.M. Bhajans or group singing of devotional songs
6.00 – 8.00 P.M. Study Hours
8.00 – 8.30 P.M. Dinner
8.30 – 9.00 P.M.  Night Prayer Session
9.00 P.M. Bedtime


The Elevating Assembly Session

Once the students head to school from the hostel, they start off with an assembly session of a different kind. They file into the hall in silence and sit in neat rows. Soon the school day begins with a powerful chanting of the primordial sound “Aum” thrice. As the sacred vibrations reverberate in the air around, the perfect silence that follows it is intensely felt for the next few minutes. Slokas and Veda chanting form the next part of the schedule.

     
         
The shrine of the school Prayer Hall
- Beautiful and Powerful
 
Every day starts in this Hall where the children first still their minds

The assembly programs which include daily reading of the thought for the day, news headlines, quizzes and talks about inspired individuals, scientific facts, etc., are hosted by various grades on a rotational basis. This allows the students the opportunity to take up leadership roles and responsibilities.

     
         
Devotional singing, silent sitting, short talks, etc. comprise the morning prayer session
 
At a very early age, the children learn the values of patience and purity

The assembly sessions also have group singing relevant to the occasion, announcements, talks by the Principal or Correspondent, chanting of the Gayathri Mantra and prayer for universal peace.

 
     
"Towards the height of Human Excellence"
- the school's motto 
 

 

At the end of the session a collective call to the Lord is offered: "Dear Lord, we pray that Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Educare be bestowed with spacious accommodation, well-founded infrastructure facilities, dedicated staff and students to grow into an excellent and full-fledged University."

 

As the students disperse in discipline and return to their respective classrooms, the school’s motto (“Towards the height of human excellence”), seen clearly at the entrance, is reflected throughout the morning assembly and in the school’s overall ambience.

The Central Focus of the School – ‘Educare through Experiential Learning’

 

“We provide educare along with education”- Ms. Sai Meera, the Principal

   
     
 
Ms. Sai Meera, the Principal of the school who is interestingly an alumna of the school

Leading this institution is the Principal, Ms. Sai Meera, who holds many distinctions. She has received her diploma in Sathya Sai Education from the Institute of Sathya Sai Education, Mumbai.

More importantly, she was the first student of this school, who has worked her way through the ranks of the system, having served the school as a teacher and then Vice Principal.

Exuding the confidence of a school committed to character education, she says, "The school has 300 students and 17 teachers, a 1:20 teacher-student ratio. The total student strength of each class is not more than 30. This facilitates teachers to pay individual attention on every individual student in the class.

The school offers co-education till the fifth standard; from the sixth standard the classes are populated by boys alone."

video video
     
 

kids at play

 
 
Watch these cute little ones as they learn
their lessons together, intuitively
 

She adds, "Adhering to the Central Board of Secondary Education, New Delhi, the school believes in offering real education that involves the student, and does not merely thrust information. Real education flows from the heart and is termed as 'Educare'.

There is a lot of difference between 'education' and 'educare'! Educare is the basis and foundation for all types of education. Educare is the adhara (support) and education is the adheya (supported). All the texts we read teach only education to us. But, this is totally inadequate. We must pursue educare along with education.”

Instilling Integral Values-Based Education

While a stand-alone Moral Science class once a week is not uncommon in many schools in this country, what sets the Sai model apart is that here value-based education is the essence of all learning, be it secular or spiritual.

 
     
Mr. Kumarasamy, the dedicated
Correspondent of the school 
 

As the school’s Correspondent Mr. Kumarasamy says, “Value-based integral education is the core. In other words, values are integrated in each and every aspect of learning. This is the difference.

Value education (VE) classes are conducted to mould character of children and infuse values. Children of all classes take active interest in VE competitions. In fact, the dedicated faculty themselves feel that today's education is incomplete and needs to be wholesome.

As Bhagavan says, ‘Education is for life and not for living’. It is in this connection, that as a part of their everyday schedule, silent sitting and (twice a day) Jyothi or light meditation are practiced by students and teachers. Doing this, not only helps them improve their power of concentration, it also brings about total transformation.’

To further boost the student’s self-awareness, the primary division children maintain a spiritual diary, monitored by parents and teachers, while the students in higher grades maintain a
self-analysis record.

     
         
The teachers ensure that the kids are facilitated with adequate tools to learn themselves
 
When the learning happens together and by practical experiments, the lessons last for long

SSE Edge Built Into the System

Sathya Sai Education, also known as Bal Vikas classes, are also included as a part of the school's regular curriculum. The nine years Bal Vikas residential syllabus is followed. At the end of the ninth year all students take Group III examination, upon which they are awarded a diploma in Sathya Sai Education.

Experiential Teaching Practices Make Learning Fun

     
         
The kids enjoy the hands-on methodology of teaching which is interesting
 
New teaching methodologies are adopted as and when needed to enrich the impartation

Another very interesting aspect of this school is that it is committed to making learning a hands-on experience, full of fun and creativity. Role-playing, prayers, quotations, silent sitting, poems, PowerPoint presentations, songs accompanied by music instruments, quizzes and models relevant to the topic are often used as effective techniques in engaging student interest. Even slow and kinesthetic learners find opportunities to exhibit their talents and play a part in the presentation. In essence, learning here is a joyful experience, with the school improving and innovating various learning styles continually.

Explaining this further, the Principal says, "It is learning through experience than just memorization of facts and figures. When students learn by doing everything on their own, it not only bestows on them practical experience but also provides them opportunities for creative work. Once learning becomes fun, the experience remains with them for a long time."

Cutting Edge Technology for Hands-On Learning

The school’s novel approach to learning has prompted positive collaborations from a community partner, enriching its learning tools and techniques further.

As a part of experiential learning for children, HCL, a global leading hardware and IT solutions provider launched Digischool, their e-learning solution for school children here on Bhagavan Baba’s birthday in 2008. Mr. T. R. Vasudevan, the Senior Vice President of HCL Infrastructure inaugurated the application here before releasing it in the market! He wanted every student of this school to augment his or her total learning experience.

Laudable Laboratories and Library 

video video
     
 

science lab

 
 
The impressive facilities of this school - at par with any elite school of the country
 

Aiding in this endeavour of practical learning is the subject of Computer Science, which is a hot favourite among the students here. Most excel in the subject and show greater interest in learning more than what is recommended in their syllabus.

     
         
They discover on their own the nuances of various subjects
 
An array of learning tools edifies the process of imparting quality education

With its well-equipped Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Math, and Computer Science laboratories, the school has kept itself abreast of the current syllabus that is being followed nationwide.

     
         
The well-equipped biology/zoology lab which aids the teaching process tremendously
 
A glimpse of boys in action
in the chemistry laboratory

The management believes in offering quality education, and emphasizes it by the use of modern teaching aids such as PCs, OHPs, LCD projectors, and so on.

     
         
The computer lab is one of the most sought after spots for many students
 
A rich library which inspired books to read is one of the big plus points of this school

The school also has a well-equipped library which has more than 3,000 books on various subjects, apart from subscribing to various periodicals, magazines, and newspapers to provide up-to-date knowledge on current affairs. In addition, it promotes learning through visual aids such as educational CDs and video cassettes.

video video
     
 

library

 
 
Watch a glimpse of the boys enjoying their time in the school's large and comfortable library
 

In essence, the school through all these teachings techniques and facilities encourages students to come up with creative ideas at all stages of their academic pursuit. During presentations, they are encouraged to coordinate amongst themselves with minimal assistance from teachers. In fact, this creative license has raised the bar for the standard of presentations put together by the children, starting right at the start, in Grade 1 itself.

Sharing Its Success through the Professional Development of Educators 

One of the salient reasons for the school being able to offer such quality education is its band of dedicated teachers. Most of them are qualified in this mode of unique education having obtained a diploma from the Institute of Sathya Sai Education. Moreover, each one of them has also undergone a three-day Educare training course offered again by the Institute of Sathya Sai Education or ISSE, Mumbai.

In an effort to strengthen the practice of this invaluable philosophy of education in the state of Tamil Nadu, the school had recently organized a 21-day certificate course for 17 teachers from Sathya Sai schools across the state. The program was inaugurated by Mr. V. Srinivasan, the All India President of the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organization. The first presentation was given by Dr. B. G. Pitre, the Director of the Institute of Sathya Sai Education, Mumbai.

Post School Learning Schedule

Once the students return after school, light refreshment welcomes them back at the hostel. The next little while is playtime at the outdoor playground. This time is also used to teach many vocational courses as well as train them on various other talents like Karate, silambam (a south Indian martial art), keyboard, mridangam (an Indian percussion instrument), dance, bhajan singing and so on. The school band too practices in this evening hour.

     
         
Every evening is spent in either playing games or learning music, karate, and so on
 
The school has always encouraged traditional folk arts as well as various martial arts

In fact, the school has weekly competitions in all these creative talents between the four houses – Sathya, Dharma, Shanthi and Prema, which enables the blossoming of these extra-curricular skills phenomenally.

     
         
Competent teachers systematically teach a variety of talents; this one is vocal music
 
For many girl students, learning dance is an attractive proposition

video video
     
 

dance

 
 
Watch a dance class in progress - little girls learn their steps so sweetly
 

At 5.30 p.m. everyday, the hostel students assemble in the prayer hall for a half-an-hour session of bhajan and prayer. Following this is a two-hour study time till 8.00 in the night. Dinner follows after this and then the day closes with the night prayer. Lights are switched off by 9.00 p.m. to allow for a good night’s rest for their growing bodies and minds, after a packed day. 

Student Records Track Individual Progress

Progressive in its administrative practices, the school also goes to lengths in creating and maintaining case study registers for every child wherein overall personality traits are studied and recorded in detail. Effort is taken at all levels to help the child come out of difficulties.

The Fee Free Approach to Education

The notable aspect of this comprehensive, well-planned education is that it is offered at no cost to the students’ parents. In fact, this is true not only of Sai students at Nemilichery but also of thousands of such students studying in various Sai schools and colleges all around the globe who enjoy the generosity and loving hospitality of their divine benefactor, Bhagavan Baba.

The school’s correspondent Mr. Kumarasamy explains, “The Sri Sathya Institute of Educare follows the Sai system of education, which emphasizes free, residential, and value-based integral education…As our school’s Founder,

Bhagavan Baba says, ‘Education is not a commodity to be sold in the bazaar. Society has the responsibility to make education available to all individuals’.

Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Educare provides free education from LKG to class 10 with voluntary contribution from well-wishers of our school."

Bhagavan immediately said, “The rich man and the poor man have the same heart. There is nothing like rich heart and poor heart. A heart is a heart. It is heartless to say that rich have to pay and poor need not.” But this man did not keep quiet.

He asked again, 'How to run this hospital then?'

Bhagavan said, 'For good work, for selfless work, for work born out of love, all people will join hands.All will join. All will cooperate.'

 

In its initial years, the school collected a nominal fee from its students. "However, after hearing about an incident, my view on this changed. A Prime Minister from another country was on a visit to Puttaparthi and he asked Bhagavan, ‘How do You manage Your hospital, which is run absolutely free of cost? How is it possible?' Bhagavan said, 'If one is broad minded, compassionate and full of consideration, with that you can do anything in this world.’

"Once, someone told Bhagavan, 'Swami, You don't need to charge poor people. At least, You can accept money from rich people.' Bhagavan immediately said, “The rich man and the poor man have the same heart. There is nothing like rich heart and poor heart. A heart is a heart. It is heartless to say that rich have to pay and poor need not.” But this man did not keep quiet. He asked again, 'How to run this hospital then?' Bhagavan said, 'For good work, for selfless work, for work born out of love, all people will join hands. All will join. All will co-operate.'

"Subsequently, we decided to provide free education to all students in a phased manner. Initially, we provided free education for students from the 9th and 10th standard. Then, we included the 8th standard. Now with Bhagavan's blessings we are able to provide free education to all through voluntary contributions from supporters."

"Since we provide free education, we are strict about two aspects: the number of students we enroll and Swami's guidelines on raising funds through voluntary contributions.

“This is what Swami says, ‘Under no circumstances are we to solicit funds from private persons or firms or make public announcements. We may announce our plans and programs, and those interested may assist in cash or kind without demanding any publicity. I must tell you that for such good causes as this, you should not collect any money in devious ways.

   
     
 
Every pure intention, born out of a entirely selfless desire, is bound to succeed, says Baba

'Help should come from pious hearts, from well-earned money: from persons who know and appreciate the purpose for which they give. That is why I oppose all benefit shows, where you tempt people with a dance or a drama or a film and collect money for your pet plan. I am also against lotteries where one does not do anything; a prize collected out of other people's earning is used for the collection of funds.

‘Let each one give out of the fullness of your heart, on your own initiative, whatever you can give gladly, after studying well the present work and the future possibilities of the institution.

'Your duty is only to inform, do not try even to persuade: begging for the sake of work which is inherently good is an insult to human nature; the man who asks and the man who is asked are both demeaned."

This is the divine direction of Bhagavan Baba about the financial management of the school which the school’s administrators follow diligently. However, for the lodging, food, and other expenses of only the residential students, the school charges a very minimal amount.

The Edifying Aspects of Enduring Values Education

The Triangular Approach for Effective Impartation

If the school is successfully able to mould the students’ character, it is because of its triangular approach to establish pupil excellence, wherein the teacher and the parents monitor the child while the teachers train the parents. In this manner, a teacher-parent-student relationship is maintained which is critical for the students’ growth. Community partners including experienced people from various institutions and walks of life are also invited to guide students in their academic performance. The teachers offer advice and tips to students on the effective learning techniques, question paper pattern, and so on. Students are also counseled regularly to identify their personal problems and solutions are provided based on Bhagavan's teachings. Resourceful and knowledgeable parents are also welcomed whenever needed to guide in various areas including personality development, exam preparation, etc.

 
     
The parents and other community members share their quality time with the students 
 

As the Correspondent explains, "We believe that the school is not an isolated institution. It is a part of the society. As such, it has a responsibility towards the society that stretches beyond mere education and development of children. It should be a role model and should lead the society by its very own example. In this school, Bhagavan Himself is the role model. Every aspect of His life is an example of how to live in peaceful co-existence. This is especially true in our society, which has people from multiple faiths, living in peaceful co-existence.

“The parents and the community at large have a high regard and respect for teachers. Also, former students of this school are invited for important functions.

An alumni club for the ex-students was inaugurated on October 2, 2008, and periodic meetings are planned to help build the school society.

“All school parents now subscribe to the Tamil edition of the magazine Sanathana Sarathi through which they come to know about Bhagavan and His message."

True Education Includes Social Responsibility, Charity and Community Service

Service and Sacrifice of hundreds is what makes the school what it is today. To inculcate these two sterling virtues in each student, the school has a well-laid out policy. Through acts of charity and ‘ceiling on desires’ programmes, Bhagavan’s message of simple living and high thinking is instilled in them. In fact, the students of the middle and higher sections of the school are encouraged to participate in social service. ‘Grama Seva’ (serving the poor in rural areas) is conducted in the neighbouring villages every year on Bhagavan's birthday.

   
     
 
Every year the children undertake village service which nurtures their hearts in the right way

The strategy behind the Grama Seva program is two pronged. It helps create awareness on many issues such as cleanliness and discipline, and about Bhagavan and His message.

On the other hand, it creates a sense of discipline, servitude, and humility in the hearts and minds of the young students. All the students practice ‘Ceiling on Desires’ during Deepawali festival and save money for the Grama Seva. This also instills in them the true value of money and the many constructive uses to which it can be put.

During the Grama Seva program students carry a picture of Bhagavan on a caparisoned chariot in a procession across the locality. The procession ends at a government middle school in Nanmangalam, which is two kilometers away from the school.

Various sports events are conducted for the government school children and prizes are distributed in addition to offering food packets and sweets to all. Service is also offered to the aged members of an old age home at Nanmangalam.

Learning Good Citizenship through Lights, Colors, and Love

Good citizenship and patriotism for the motherland is encouraged through the grand celebration of all national festivals and important days of India’s secular and multi-faith calendar. Cultural programs, processions, competitions, house-wise display boards, veda chanting, bhajans, and homams related to the function are organized by the students under the guidance of their teachers.

     
         
The Chief Guest inaugurating a 'Value Festival'
 
Spiritual and moral skits are always enacted

Last but not the least; to identify with the Source of their inspiration, a spiritual visit is conducted every year for all students and staff to Puttaparthi to have Bhagavan Baba's darshan and blessings. Every year all students and staff write about their transformation and submit it at the Lotus Feet of Bhagavan Baba during the festival of Guru Poornima.

     
         
Children excitedly learn folk arts of the region
 
Awards at the end of the 'Value Festival'

Also, on many occasions when Baba visited the Chennai city, the school children had the blessed opportunity of presenting dramas and skits in His Divine physical presence.

   
 
   
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The tiny stars, after a cultural programme, with the Founder and the Force of their School, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba
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The Enriching Relationship between the School and the Sai University

The Unstinted Support by Alumni of Sai University

 
     
Sai University alumni train and guide the students to present cultural and other programs 
 

Since its inception in 1982, the Sri Sathya Sai University, formerly known as the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, has produced thousands of grateful graduates. Settled all over the world, they are striving to do their bit to repay their personal debts of gratitude to their divine Chancellor by living up to their social responsibility in their local communities.  

One such dedicated group forms a strong base in the Chromepet area. They help the students in various capacities, from teaching vedic hymns to even automating the school! The Correspondent Mr. Kumarasamy says, “Mr. T. Ramakrishna comes every weekend to teach Vedic hymns to our students. Mr. Hariharan, an alumnus of Bhagavan's Music College teaches Mrudangam. Mrs. Priya, an alumnus of Anantapur campus, teaches keyboard.

"Shyam prepares scripts and records for various cultural programs including the Annual Sports and Cultural meet. S. Shankar and S. Sriram recently offered computer training to all our teachers. Gunaranjan, Shyam and Sankar are currently automating our school activities.

     
         
An impressive sportsmeet is staged every year
 
Guided by Sai alumni, the boys excel amazingly

"K. Rangarajan, M. B. Srinivasa Rao, R. Srivatsan, S. Sriram, Gunaranajan and Harikesh with their office colleagues recently updated the school computer lab and also arranged a LCD projector two years ago. Last year they arranged purified Municipality Palar river water for the school hostel by constructing a sump and water tank. They also installed a motor. This year they plan to install a 30 KVA engine alternator to avoid frequent power failure and also construct a sick room for hostel students.

"The Sai alumni also help in the education effort. Raghavendra recently procured educational CDs for the school. Most of these former students contribute financially too and have the ultimate desire of developing a corpus fund for the school. Apart from all these, these ex-students also participate either directly or indirectly in many other initiatives. In November 2007, a program Samarpan 2007 was arranged purely by the former students of Bhagavan’s university."

From Chennai to Prashanti Nilayam
   
     
 
"I cried when I had to leave this school..." - Ms. N. Bhuvaneshwari

 

The tight link between the Sai school in Chromepet and the Sai University in Prashanthi Nilayam has resulted in a healthy osmosis between the two institutes. Today they share more than the sacred name of the world’s greatest teacher. Some of the alumni of Sri Sathya Sai University are also alumni of this school!

Ms. N. Bhuvaneshwari was an alumna of this school who later went to study at the Anantapur campus of Sri Sathya Sai University. And this is what she has to say of her days in this school:

A child feels very secure when she is in her mother’s womb. She is the happiest little one in the world for being provided with all that she needs at that stage in life.

But one fine day, when she realises she is going to miss all the care forever, she cries out loudly. That is how I felt when I left the Sri Sathya Sai Matriculation School of Mother Sai.

I was been nurtured in the womb with the values that is necessary for my growth. Besides, I was given scholarship till I completed my schooling.


I cried when I had to leave the secured place that has built a strong foundation of values in me. But Mother Sai consoled me by putting me again in a value based school. 

   
     
 
"This school has given me a strong foundation in my life" - Ms. Thulasi

It is impossible for a child to enter the womb again in its life time. But I was given a chance to be in a more secure place when I got admission in Sri Sathya Sai University, Anantapur campus. As the foundation was very strong, I loved it when I was in this campus; I graduated from the Sai University, confident and with joy. Now, holding Mother Sai's hand, I have entered professional life.

Ms. G. S. Thulasi was another student of this school who joined Bhagavan's University at Anantapur:

My school taught me values which I still abide by: patience, perseverance, respect to elders, the art of simple living and high thinking; I learnt about all this right from the age of five and these have formed the strong foundation for my life.

The values and discipline I learnt here have given me a unique background I fall back on even now in the corporate world.

Mr. Guru Prasad was yet another who achieved his life's desire – of being a part of Bhagavan's university:

I studied in Sri Sathya Sai Matriculation School from grade 6 till grade 10. I bow to the teachers of this school who helped me to come up not only in my worldly life but also in spiritual life. This has helped me to secure the grace of Bhagavan, the Sadguru, and become a student of His University. Even today, those teachers stand as my guiding light. As a Sai student, now I always pray that I may live up to His expectations.

Such inspired Alumni from this school are many, but here is just one more instance. Dhandapani S., currently a research scholar in the US, says:

I am proud to write a few lines as an alumnus of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Educare. What started as a small school named Sri Sathya Sai Bala Gurukulam in ’78 with three teachers and a couple of students has grown step by step to Sri Sathya Sai Matriculation School and now to Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Educare with very good infrastructure and lab facilities.

I was fortunate to study at Bhagavan’s lotus feet for couple of years for my Bachelors and Masters degree in Brindavan and Prashanthi Nilayam respectively. It was a lifetime opportunity to study and enjoy the love in action of Bhagavan Baba. The lessons I learnt there were innumerable. Some important things that I carry with me are: to love and respect parents, teachers and elders, and to ever speak obligingly, even though we may not always oblige. Both the institutions, S. S. S. Educare and S. S. S. University have provided me a very conducive environment for learning. I am currently a post doctoral research associate at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania. Whatever I am today is purely because of Swami.

Heartening Glimpses of Sai Educare

What Current Students Say

Bhagavan says that the end of education is character. This is the end of all the pursuits at Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Educare too. Their goal is to transform a student into a promising young citizen of tomorrow, filled with the ideals of Bhagavan. To get a glimpse of what difference this school is making on the young minds, here are a few impressions from current students.

T. Bhuvanesh Ram of the eighth standard has an interesting story:

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T.Bhuvenesh Ram

 
 
"I have transformed a great deal..." - Bhuvanesh Ram, a current student
 

“My father is a Sai devotee and he admitted me in this school as he wished me to become a good Sai student. I have been studying here the last 4 years and am a top rank holder. I learn various other skills such as karate and yoga, and while receiving this value based education I have transformed a great deal. I used to get up late and throw my belongings everywhere, but after coming here I keep my things in order and rise early.

I am gaining self-confidence and learning how to adjust to others as I live in the hostel. I participated in last year’s competitions and won the state level prize in the quiz, group singing and the skit. I feel very proud to be a Sai student; I would never have got such chances had I been living at home. I pray to Swami to make me a doctor which is my life’s goal. I wish to serve the poor and the sick. I will work hard to achieve my goal and help my parents with the grace of Sathya Sai Baba.”

Listening to Bhuvanesh, M. Akshay Kumar too came forward to share his story.

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M Akshay Kumar

 
 
"Our school provides free education and also a devotional environment" - Akshay Kumar, a current student
 

“I have been studying for the past four years here. After coming to this school, I have noticed many changes in myself; I have transformed a lot. Earlier, I did not respect my parents or elders. But now I respect them all and also help many of my friends. The practice of meditation and silent sitting helps me to concentrate more on my studies. Moreover, our school provides free education and also a devotional environment. I intend to spread the message of Sai and the value based education which I learned in this school, all over the globe, wherever I go.”

Samin Kandoth, the son of an aerodrome officer, says that he has studied in many schools, but this one is different. How? Watch what he has to say:

“I am in the 10th standard and have been studying here for the last two years. I have been to many schools but I found that while they imparted me education they did not mould my character. But here we learn spiritual values, and thus the students become symbols of humility and meekness. Our hidden talents are brought out through the extra-curricular activities. My friends in this school are sweet and selfless, and with the help of the bhajans and peaceful atmosphere I am calmer and my previous angry nature has been controlled. I am very grateful to this school as it has helped me to become a better person and cut down the distance between me and my Lord.”

Teachers Speak their Heart Out

However, it is not just students who get transformed here, but also teachers themselves! Bhagavan's infinite love and grace transforms everybody. This is what Ms. Lavanya Prabha says:

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Ms. Lavanya Prabha

 
 
"I have learnt that everything can be changed through love" - Ms. Lavanya Prabha, a teacher
 

“After coming here, all the prayers, meditation, omkaram had a very great effect on me. I found that my severe knee pain, of two years duration, just disappeared so that I can sit on the floor in the temple. I also lost all wish to engage in quarrels with my relatives and came to understand the importance of Love, how to spread love, that love must prevail and that any person can be changed through love. The kindness that people have shown me here has moved my heart and I have become a true Sai devotee, whereas before coming here I was not one.”

Here is another teacher, Ms. K. S. Latha with her reflections.

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Ms. KS Latha

 
 
"The school feels like a temple..."
- Ms. K. S. Latha, a teacher
 

“I joined here last year, and previous to that I was a housewife. One day Swami came in my dream and scolded me for wasting my knowledge, saying that after studying so much I should not sit at home. However I was reluctant, as I did not want to work. But my daughter had a dream where Swami said he was very disappointed with me, so I changed my mind, and joined this school where my son is currently studying, as an English teacher. This school is full of divinity and is like a temple. After coming here I have learned to be meticulous and conscientious in my work. My only prayer to Swami is that wherever I am, I should have the opportunity to work in such a divine atmosphere.”

The School’s Kasturi Mark
   
     
 
The hand-written note of Prof. Kasturi

 

The school has had many distinguished visitors over the years, but the one that is cherished a lot is the trip of Prof. N. Kasturi, the biographer of Bhagavan Baba in 1981.

The visitors’ book has Prof. Kasturi’s handwriting which says:

“I had the immense pleasure of listening to the bhajans and the stotrams of the children and telling them a story of Bhagavan’s early days which was listened to with rapt attention, and the children were ready with intelligent responses.

I very much appreciate the spirit of service of the gurus and others who run this institution. May Bhagavan lead them aright.”

Sai – The Spirit that Sustains, Strengthens
and Safeguards the School



Having seen the beauty of the campus filled with happy children and teachers, and even happier parents who rest assured comforted by the fact that their wards are in good hands, it is but natural for one to wonder if this miracle can be anything but divine will.

Not new to such thoughts, given the awe that every other visitor to the school experiences, the Correspondent smiles and explains, “What you see is the manifestation of His will. What the future holds in store is also His will. The Lord will look after all our needs. He has been running this school all along, I am but His tool. From the conclusion of the recent World Education conference held at Prashanti Nilayam (2007), I can say one thing for sure – the Sri Sathya Sai system of education is going to be the basis of future education. A lot of things are happening.”

 
     
It is Sai who shines through the smiles of the students and the selfless service of the staff
 


The school community is unanimous in acknowledging the presence of a divine energy pervading through their corridors, like an invisible force that actually runs the school. As the Correspondent says, "Every second we realize the presence of Swami in this school. It is He who runs this school. We are but simple instruments in His divine hands. We only pray to Him to bless us, guide us, and guard us to run the school following the Sai path to produce His students."

Each passing day reverberates with the melodious strain of the daily bhajan session in the prayer hall and ends with the peaceful chants of the night prayer. The sun goes down, but not without witnessing another beautiful miracle that the Lord silently performs. In a silent corner of a busy world, the Lord silently works to provide His children with a better tomorrow. The economic burden of this service to the students’ families is none: it simply leaves them with a feeling of relief just as priceless!

We are grateful to Mr. Ramakrishnan Ramani, Mr. Shyam Sai Sundar and the school’s Correspondent Mr. Kumarasamy for their invaluable assistance in providing information for this feature.

To know more about this school, please visit www.sssieducare.org

- Heart2Heart Team

 

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