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  Volume 4 - Issue 08 AUGUST 2006
 
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SPREADING THE LIGHT THROUGH HUMAN VALUES IN OMAN


When It All Began

Guru Poornima 2002 – the Sri Sathya Sai Bal Vikas children from Oman came to Prashanti Nilayam to humbly offer at the Divine Lotus Feet a dance drama ballet titled "Vision, Mission and the Task.” Mr. Chakravarty, Secretary of Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, while interacting with the team coordinators enquired as to how many of the children were local Omanis. When told that all the children were of Indian origin, he made a pertinent point that efforts should have been made to integrate at least some Omani children, while representing Oman in front of the Lord.

Thus were the seeds sown for the spread of human values amongst the Omani children.

A First Step

As a beginning, a storytelling competition was organized for children of non-devotees in Oman attending the classes on “Education in Human Values.” This was held on November 20, 2002. The idea for taking a similar concept into the local community then grew.

 
   
The Country of Oman in Middle East Asia

Serve And Inspire (SAI) Teams Up With 'The Times Of Oman'

As the Serve And Inspire (SAI) Group – the local nomenclature for the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization in Oman – had no ‘locus standi’ to organize an event of any nature, the Times of Oman, a local English daily of substantial circulation, was approached. After listening to the proposal, which envisaged a Human Values based Essay Writing & Poster Making competition for schoolchildren, the owner of the Times of Oman Group agreed to be a media sponsor for the event, paving the way for the SAI Group to engage the official agencies of the country.

Swami Opens the First Door

It was essential to have in hand all the lists of private English medium schools in Oman, including the Omani and International schools. When the Project Coordinator approached the Deputy Director of Private Schools at the Ministry of Education, Sultanate of Oman, Mr. Mohamed Amer Al Shidany, he was curious at first to know as to why a group of expatriates were eager to do something of this nature involving local school students. After his concerns were allayed regarding any ulterior motive behind the event, his outlook totally changed and the doors to the Ministry of Education were opened.

From the Director down to the officials in the Department of Private Schools, the Ministry of Education offered total cooperation, support never seen before with any expatriate group. The reason – the Ministry officials were of the opinion that such a Human Values based event was their responsibility and the SAI Group had taken the initiative to do it on their behalf.

The Planning Gets Underway

The event was divided into two major categories – Essay Writing and Poster Making. The children were divided into four age groups: Group A, 6 – 9 years; Group B, 9 – 12 years; Group C, 12 – 15 years; Group D, 15 – 18 years. The topics for the Competition according to the respective age groups were: “Love All, Serve All,” “Help Ever, Hurt Never,” “Service Begins at Home,” and “Work is Worship.”

 

The topics were released to the students 4 to 6 weeks in advance, with a write-up being provided about the topics and the five basic human values and sub values. Each school was allowed to send three children in each age group and in each category, a total of 24 applicants from each school. Entries were channeled through the Ministry of Education with a cover letter in Arabic. The entries were judged on content relevance, language, presentation (introduction, subject development and conclusion), neatness and efficacy of conveying the Human Values selected. A three member judging committee of two judges from the community and one from the organizing body independently evaluated each entry and their assessments were separately tabulated to compute the overall points and their ranking. The identities of the participants were not disclosed to the judges. Also, it was ensured that the judges did not receive papers from the schools they were involved with.

“The Day” Dawns

The first edition of “Spreading the Light Through Human Values” got underway on Thursday, February, 20, 2003. After a prayer at the Divine Lotus Feet, the volunteers were ready to set things into motion. There was a lot of effort and work behind the scenes that saw 579 children from 39 schools arriving at the Indian School Al Ghubra, the venue for the event. At 10:00 a.m., the proceedings were inaugurated by Mrs. Fatma Abdul Abbas Noorani, Director, Department of Private Schools, in the presence of senior officials of the Ministry of Education. The whole atmosphere was exuberant and vibrating with the good wishes of one and all.

 
Fatma Abbas Noorani, Director the Department of
Private Schools school going around the venue
 
Children of various schools seated in the school gymnasium participating in the poster making competition

The Awards Ceremony 2003

As is the cultural practice in the Arab world, the program was initiated with a recitation from the Holy Quran by an Omani schoolchild. This was followed by a rendition of Human Values songs by Omani girls from the Ahmed bin Majid Private School, Oman. The prize distribution to all the winners was handed over by Her Excellency Dr. Fawzia Nasser Al Farsi, Under Secretary in the Ministry of Education, along with other senior members of the Ministry of Education.

S.A.I. Moves Forward In 2004

The Serve And Inspire (SAI) Group conducted the eagerly awaited “Spreading The Light Through Human Values 2004” on April 22 at the Indian School Al Ghubra. This year, with the tremendous encouragement from the Ministry of Education, the event was thrown open to the Arabic medium schools as well, which were nominated by the Ministry of Education. 1105 students from 86 schools – Omani Arabic, Omani Bilingual, International Community Schools and for the first time, standing shoulder to shoulder with their compatriots, students from the Schools for Children with Special Needs – participated in 2004.

The topics for both Poster Making and Essay Writing for 2004 were "Good Manners for Group A, “Be Good, See Good, Do Good” for Group B, “Sharing and Caring” for Group C, and “Give and Forgive” for Group D.

Mr. Fawzia Nasser Al Farsi, Undersecretary, Ministry of Education, awarding a young
Omani winner.
Shri G.B. Choithram Jethwani with the Chief Guest H.E. Mustafa Abdul Latif, Under Secretary for Administrative and Financial Affairs, Ministry of Education
and other dignitaries

The Awards Ceremony 2004

What began as a humble beginning in 2003 by planting a seed was over thenext year nurtured by the Ministry of Education and tended by the SAI Group, and thus grew into a tender sapling in 2004. “We are sure that in the years to come this sapling will mature into a sturdy tree bearing the fruits of every person’s efforts, with its roots deeply embedded in Human Values,” say the members of the SAI group full of confidence and love.

The awards ceremony in 2004 was conducted on June 2nd in a grand manner. His Excellency Mustafa Abdul Latif, Undersecretary for Administrative & Financial Affairs, Ministry of Education, was the Chief Guest. Br. G B Choithram Jethwani, Regional Coordinator, Gulf & Middle Eastern Countries of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organizations, gave the keynote address.

 

His Excellency Mustafa Abdul Latif, Undersecretary for Administrative & Financial Affairs, Ministry of Education giving away the prizes.

 
Shri G.B. Choithram Jethwani, Regional Central Coordinator of the
SAI Group, escorting the Chief Guest, the Under Secretary,
Ministry of Education to the Exhibition Area.

Mrs. Aisha Ahmed Al Blushi, Director, Department of Private Schools, who spoke on behalf of the Ministry of Education, said that it was of immense satisfaction to have had 1105 participants from 86 schools and the outcome of the event was remarkable. She pointed out the vital need for Education in Human Values and praised the efforts of the SAI Group as truly inspirational. She complimented all the participants and said that their quality of work was of a very high standard.

Another Step Forward In 2005

The 14th of April 2005 witnessed the staging of this mega event for the third year in succession. Her Excellency Dr. Muna Salim Al Jardany, Undersecretary for Education and Curricula, Ministry of Education, inaugurated the event.

1059 Students from 94 schools such as Omani Arabic Schools, Omani Bilingual Schools, International Community Schools and Special Education Schools in Oman, registered for the competition. The topics for 2005 for both Poster Making and Essay Writing this time were “Kindness is Goodness” for Group A, “Nature is the Best Teacher” for Group B, “Watch Your Words” for Group C, and “Service to Community” for Group D.

 
After declaring the event open, Dr. Muna said that she was thrilled to see small children thinking about deep ideas, which intrigue even adults.
 
Her Excellency Dr Muna Salim Al Jardany, Under Secretary,
Ministry of Education, inaugurating the Event on April 14, 2005

When children have an idea and think about it for more than two weeks, they tend to absorb it in their personality and it reflects in their character. Competitions such as these help the children better than what they learn from textbooks as they are excited to go out and get involved in activities.

The Awards Ceremony 2005

“’To be good is noble, but to show others how to be good is nobler. You are now in the first stage of the long journey of life. There are many great tasks before you. You have many duties to discharge. The children of today will be the doctors, engineers, educators, traders, administrators, and farmers of tomorrow, developing and contributing to the growth of the nations where you live. The world has huge material resources, but your hand and hearts have to supply the will and skill to use those resources for the good of mankind.’

This was what our Beloved Swami spoke to his students on one occasion. “We hope that what we do today, what the children in Oman learn from this Tree of Human Values, will prepare them for that role tomorrow,” say the dedicated Sai devotees in Oman.

The Chief Gust His Excellency Mohammed Hamdan Al Toubi, Undersecretary for Educational Planning & Projects,
Ministry of Education presenting awards
 
The Chief Guest His Excellency Mohammed Hamdan Al Toubi, Undersecretary for Educational Planning & Projects, Ministry of Education presenting a memeto to Mr Essa Mohammed Al Zedjali, Chairmen & Editor-In-Chief, Times of Oman

The Awards Ceremony was held on May 18 in a grand manner. His Excellency Mohammed Hamdan Al Toubi, Undersecretary for Educational Planning and Projects, Ministry of Education, was the chief guest. A brochure with full details of the event as well as highlighting the activities of the SAI Group and containing a wealth of information on Sathya Sai Education in Human Values was released on the occasion by the Chief Guest.

 

In her address, Aisha Ahmed Suweidan Al Blushi, Acting Director, Department of Private Schools, Ministry of Education, Oman mentioned that under the umbrella of the Serve And Inspire (SAI) Group, many groups like the Ministry of Education, Times of Oman, and the Indian School Al-Ghubra, worked hand in hand to ensure the success of this event.

Teachers also put in hard work to inspire and train the students. The creative talents exhibited by all the participants created a difficult task for the judges, who meticulously marked the entries. She congratulated the winners and all the students participating and in the process learning a human value, thus reinforcing the saying, “Education is for life and not for living.”

The Director General, Ministry of Education, presenting a memento to Aisha Ahmed Suweidan Al Blushi, Director, Department of Private Education, Ministry of Education,
on behalf of the SAI Group.
   

2006: Omani Students Throng to the Human Values Competition Conducted by the SAI Group

The Serve And Inspire (SAI) Group conducted the fourth edition of “Spreading the Light Through Human Values,” on April 13 th 2006 in cooperation with the Ministry of Education. Her Excellency Dr. Muna Salim Al Jardany, Undersecretary for Education and Curricula, Ministry of Education, inaugurated the event.

Bhagavan emphasizes that the “End of Education is Character.” This competition in Oman has been the vehicle to take Swami’s message on human values to the community at large with special emphasis on the student community.

In 2006 the event attracted a record registration of 2020 entries from 103 schools. Due to a long unscheduled weekend holidays, the actual turn out was 1496, which is still almost a 75% increase over the previous year.

The value-based topics that were given for both Poster Making and Essay Writing this time were “Help the Needy” for Group A, “Unity is Strength” for Group B, “Charity Begins at Home” for Group C, and “Water is Life” for Group D.

The value-based topics that were given for both Poster Making and Essay Writing this time were “Help the Needy” for Group A, “Unity is Strength” for Group B, “Charity Begins at Home” for Group C, and “Water is Life” for Group D.

 
 
A special child enthusiastically
arriving at the venue.

There was a special presentation by the SAI Group to the dignitaries, highlighting the various human values and service programs of the SSSSO in Oman such as a Workshop for teachers in inculcating human values, Seminar on Value Parenting, Value based winter camp for school children, public seminars on human values, blood donation campaigns for two decades, health awareness camps, etc. The presentation also touched upon some of the fascinating projects done by the SSSSO in other parts of the world.

After declaring the event open, Her Excellency Dr. Muna bint Salim Al Jardany, said that events such as this provide a real life experience to the students as they come here and find children from other schools all engaged in interpreting values in the essays and posters. By thinking about these topics and preparing for the event with the help of parents, families and teachers, the values find a place in their inner selves, inner consciousness, which is very important. Dr. Muna expressed the hope that the competitions would grow even bigger and more students would participate next year by sponsoring the competitions in other areas of Oman as well.

Her Excellency Dr. Muna Salim Al Jardany and Mr. Essa Zadjali, Founder and Chief Editor, Times of Oman, at the Inauguration ceremony on April 13, 2006.
Her Excellency Dr. Muna Salim Al Jardany, Undersecretary, Ministry of Education, observing an Essay Writing participant.

Essa Mohammed Al Zadjali, Founder and Chief Editor, Times of Oman, expressed his joy at seeing so many children from all parts of Oman. He wished the SAI Group would expand their efforts and take the program to the different regions so that even more children can participate. Speaking on the role of The Times of Oman, which has been doing yeoman service to the student community by the program along with the SAI Group, Essa Al Zadjali pointed out the social responsibility the press has in seeing that such programs extend to all parts of the country and motivate the children to participate in large numbers so they can derive maximum benefit.

 
A view of one of the Essay Writing halls.
 

Her Excellency Dr. Muna Salim Al Jardany encouraging a Poster Making participant

Dr. Madiha Al Shaibany, Deputy Director General, Ministry of Education, having heard of the program in the past few years, witnessed it first hand this year and was full of praise for the organization of an event of such magnitude. She observed that the inclusion of human values in the educational program is a must and activities such as these enhance the curriculum and enlarges the student’s participation. She spoke of the unique diversity that the event offers as it brings together the student community under one roof irrespective of religion, culture and nationality thereby complementing the goal of the UN and UNESCO courses.

Dr. Sana Sabeel Al Balushi, Director, Technical Office, Ministry of Education, who has been coming to the competitions right from the start of the event in 2003, enjoyed seeing the children from different backgrounds working together for the larger purpose of living together in peace and hoped this will be transferred to the entire society and the country at large. Children are the core of the community and the country and as educators, Dr. Sana is conscious of the responsibility it enjoins in the need to work together in imparting human values from the beginning to ensure the world will be a safe place for all of us to live in.

Michelle Ni Thoghdha, Special Projects and Curriculum Development Officer at the Department of Private Schools, Ministry of Education, referred to the need for a sustained campaign in seeing that human values are applied in everyday life.

A view of one of the Poster Making Halls.
   

The students should go back to their classes and families and discuss these topics again and again and ruminate on them constantly. She further suggested that teachers should follow up in the classroom by encouraging debates and speeches on these topics and articles for the school magazines. Students are like sponges and absorb all they see and hear and therefore it is important as educators to lead by example.

Child Participation In SAI Organised
Essay & Poster Competition over the years

 
Schools Participation In SAI Organised
Essay & Poster Competitions over the years

The watertight judgment process had a team of 40 judges, professionals in the area of art and literature who evaluated the entries independent of each other and without knowing the identity of the participants. Each entry was assessed by three judges (two from the community reputed in the field of art and literature and one from the organizers).

The Awards Ceremony 2006

As the students walked from the dais proudly holding the beautiful plaques they had won in the Times of Oman Open Essay Writing and Poster Making Competition organized by the SAI Group in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, it was the fulfillment of a great dream.

For the organizers, the mission to spread human values had reached another high. For the children, it was an exciting exploration of new ideas and values, accomplished in an entertaining way.

Dignitaries on stage during the Awards Ceremony
on May 22nd 2006

The Award Presentation Ceremony of “Spreading the Light Through Human Values” held on May 17, 2006 , at the Indian School Al Ghubrah, got off to a colorful start with the arrival of the chief guest, His Excellency Munir Abdulnabi Yousuf Makki, member of the Council of Higher Education. Essa Mohammed Al Zedjali, Chairman of Times of Oman and Al Shabiba Group, was the guest of honor. Many officials from the Ministry of Education also participated.

The program commenced with the recitation from the Holy Quran by Jawad Mujtaba Al Lawati, a student of Al Huda Private School.

 

The students of the Azzan bin Qais Private School presented a vibrant dance reflecting the traditional Omani culture.

“Musings” by Muadh Ghalib Al Rashdi, a grade five student of Ahmed bin Majid Private School was quite a stunner considering the age of the boy. He narrated how he had prepared for the competition by listening to his parents, grandfather and siblings. He pointed out that this process of exchanging thoughts and ideas on human values not only helped him towards his preparation but helped all his family members to appreciate the importance of working together in harmony and being a good person. He concluded by revealing his special plan to keep spreading human values which is important for both kids as well as adults and which would help make the world a better place.

A brochure with full details of the event as well as highlighting the activities of the SAI Group and containing a wealth of information on Sathya Sai Education in Human Values (SSEHV) was released on the occasion by the chief guest.

Muad Ghalib, a Gr 5 student
sharing his thoughts.

 

Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Dr. Madiha Ahmed Nasser Al Shibani, Deputy Director General, Ministry of Education, applauded the wonderful opportunity that has been created which has facilitated the coming together of students from Omani government, bi-lingual, special education and international schools.

She pointed out that this unique opportunity has resulted in a very positive exchange of ideas and views. She emphasized that education cannot be confined merely to academic achievement nor should it become confused with the gleaning of information from books. Real education must develop and promote compassion and concern for others.

The event was widely covered in the local and regional newspapers such as Times of Oman, Al Shabiba, Oman Daily Observer, Oman Tribune and Khaleej Times as well as Radio Oman FM. In its Thursday magazine, the Times of Oman carried a special cover story on human values spotlighting the worldwide human values programs of the SAI Group and their service activities.

 
His Excellency Munir Abdulnabi Yousuf Makki, Member of the Council of Higher Education, giving an award to a winning entrant.
 
A special child receiving an award from Dr. Madiha Ahmed
Nasser Al Shibani, Deputy Director General, Ministry of Education

Feedback from a Cross-Section of Dignitaries, Teachers and Parents

Ashok Suvarna, Executive Director, National Publishing and Advertising: “Even though there are many activities in this part of the world, there are very few opportunities for children to take part in such value based events. One visible gain seen over the years is that the parents and the schools have reaffirmed their commitment to this event. The presentation made by the SAI Group today was innovative and commendable.”

Ahmed Rayees, President, School Management Committee, Indian School Ghubra: “Most of the school curriculum lays emphasis on academics and misses out on human values. When the SAI Group comes into picture, they bring in the human values. The passion of the SAI Group volunteers is really inspiring. The Indian School Al Ghubra and the SAI Group walk the same path as far as human values are concerned and we at ISG believe that the value based education has to be instilled at a young age.”

An exhibition of winning essays and posters.

Ramesh Mathur, Educational Advisor to Indian Schools in Oman:

“I am quite amazed by the numbers. The incentive and the atmosphere generated by the organizers is fascinating. The parents are very satisfied and it is obvious from the fact that there is a huge turnout, despite the long holidays. The impartiality of the SAI Group is appreciated as their honesty and transparency is visible.”

Said Abdelaziz Abdullah El Sisi, English Teacher, Anwar El Huda Private School:

“This competition has good benefits for the students as it helps them to be good and marked with good human values. This in turn helps the society and future generations.”

Fahad Nasser Al Balushi, English Teacher, Khambash bin Mohd Basic Education School:

“I feel so happy to be associated and witnessing such an important event.”

Abdul Qayyum, English Teacher, Pakistan School, Muscat:

“Such competitions are extremely important and the more we arrange them the better! By arranging such competitions, we as teachers play a catalytic role while focusing primarily on the production and inculcation of meaningful and healthy characteristics among the young learners.”

Shaiara Zulfiqar, Teacher, Bangladesh School, Jalan:

“Although we teach about values at home and school, it is really necessary that children get to express their ideas about human values. Through this competition they have a chance to do so. They can also exchange ideas and enhance their grasp about the basic values.”

Deepa Rajamuni, Teacher, Srilankan School:

“The students who take part in the event understand that every element in the world is incorporated with human values.”

Rose Lina G Palo, Teacher:

“This competition helps a lot because children are able to think positively what they could write or draw related to the given topic which promotes human values.”


We thank Mr. G B Choithram and many other Sai devotees of Oman for sharing with us this inspiring account of Sai activity in the field of education in their country.

- Heart2Heart Team

Dear Reader, how did you like this story? Would you like such stories of Sai activities from other countries? Do you have any story to tell us from your country? Please write to us at [email protected]. Please mention your name and country when you write to us.




 
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Vol 4 Issue 08 - AUGUST 2006
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