Sai Baba Sri Sathya Sai Baba

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  Sathya Sai System of Education in Africa

BROTHER VICTOR KANU, welcome to the studios of Radio Sai Global Harmony. You are of course a very familiar figure to all of us here at Prasanthi Nilayam but many people might not have seen you and even if they have seen you they might not know much about you. So, may be I can request you to say a few words by way of introduction.

Thank you very much for inviting me to this recording. My present name is Victor-Krishna Kanu. Krishna was added after God had, in a dream, called me “Victor-Krishna.” I am 75 years old and was educated through primary and secondary schools and teacher training systems of Sierra Leone. I subsequently was admitted at Oxford University where I studied philosophy, politics and economics. I later became my country’s High Commissioner (Ambassador) to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland with further accreditations to Norway and Sweden. That was a political appointment which was later to be blown away by the political typhoons that characterised African politics in the 1970s in particular. Almost immediately after this experience, I came in contact with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba in a miraculous way in late 1975.

You said that you came in contact with Bhagavan Baba in a miraculous way. Would you mind telling us exactly how it happened?

The life of a High Commissioner in London was a life of sophistication, of living and moving with and around high society – dining at Buckingham Palace and the House of Lords, etc. Indulgence in quality and excessive alcohol drinking, smoking the best cigarettes and cigars and dancing to the tunes of some of the best bands in London was the order of the day. Surprisingly, this expensive lifestyle did not vanish with the cessation of my High Commissionership. Old habits die hard. And so one day, in late 1975, I visited the pub. For a while I was fully aware of myself and the happenings in the pub. Later, I lost my awareness only to find myself in bed, at home, in my full winter dress – boots and all that. I then realised that I was deadly drunk the previous night. It was in that drunken stupor that I dreamt two angels had come to take me. We floated (I between them) in and through the deep blue sky to an unknown destination where I found my ancestors and thousands of people engaged in spiritual activities. Five years later, I came to know the name and recognised the destination as Prasanthi Nilayam when I made my first visit to Sathya Sai Baba’s Ashram (Prasanthi Nilayam) in July 1980. Immediately after this dream, my lifestyle changed dramatically much to the displeasure of my cohorts. The bad things I used to do, I did them no more. I could not explain the reason.

Would it be right to say that that was a turning point and you started becoming spiritual after that?

That is correct because there was a time in my life when I was riding so high both in my country and in London that I stopped to care or even talk about God. The Bible and church-going which I practised in my youth were forsaken. I was deluded into believing that only the world and its tantalising pleasures mattered, until Baba sent His angels to fish me out of the mud and bring me to Prasanthi Nilayam and be cleansed. Yes, indeed, I became a spiritual seeker once again – reading the Bible, going to church and becoming President of the Spiritualists Association of Great Britain (SAGB) and as well as a member of Sri Sathya Sai Organisation in the United Kingdom.

This going to church interests me. You say, you were attracted to Baba but you went to church! You did not see any contradiction in that?

Not at all. As a matter of fact, the more I read about Baba’s teachings, studied and observed His lifestyle at close quarters, the more my faith in Jesus Christ (faith that was once lost) was strengthened. I saw no conflict of interests. I only saw and continue to see Baba and Jesus as manifestations of the Divine. Both are the same.

That is very interesting because we have often heard people belonging to other faiths say, Swami telling them be a good Christian, be a good Muslim, be a good Jew, so on and so forth. He does not want people to change their religion and religious affiliations.

That is so. Baba is the only one in the whole world who has told spiritual seekers belonging to various spiritual/religious traditions to remain where they are, become good practitioners of their faith, love and respect other faiths because all are simply different pathways to the same God. What a wonderful teaching! Baba is truly a unifier of humanity; torch-bearer of love and peace to one and all.

That is very interesting. Now you were in London and you went back to Africa. But you did not go to your own country. Instead you went to Zambia and founded a school there. This is a very remarkable change in your life, your mission and your work. Would you like to tell us something about that? How it happened in particular?

As the saying goes, “Half a loaf of bread is better than no loaf at all.” Better to join the then Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) than be a beggar in the streets of London. In any event, both Genoveva and I were in the field of education before the glamour and promises of the world sucked us into the volcanic eruptions of African politics. Now with the revival of our interests in spirituality and education combined, we were happy to attend the First Overseas Conference for Bal Vikas Teachers in 1983 at Prasanthi Nilayam, where we were exposed for the first time to the Education in Human Values (EHV) Programme.

Puttaparthi must have been very different at that time?

The difference is only in the physical appearance of the area. The Divine Presence of Swami remains the same, so are the feelings of satisfaction and spiritual upliftment when one is there.

How did you happen to choose Zambia?

Well, actually it was Swami Himself. We had visited Zambia very briefly to conduct an EHV workshop. That was all. We knew no one there except three or four devotees. But when we came to Baba in 1987, He said to us, “Go to Zambia and spread My message of love through education. Build a school and help the people.” And, do you know why He chose Zambia for us? It was for a very good reason because Zambia happens to be, in my judgement, a very stable country. The people are very mature spiritually.

It must have been very difficult for you to start a school in a country you were not familiar with. And you must have been short of resources – physical, financial, and manpower resources. Tell us something about how you braved it all.

I very well still remember what happened in the interview room when Baba told us to go and set up this school. My wife was brave, I was not. She turned towards Baba and said, “Baba, what about funding?” Swami said, “Sell your house. If funds are not enough, borrow from banks.” Well, we were delighted when He told us to sell our house. Being brought up as Christians, we remembered the story in the Bible when a rich man went to Jesus and said, “Oh Lord, what can I do to come near God?” Jesus said, “Sell all that you have and give to the poor and follow me.” The man ran away when he heard these words. We were overjoyed.

This was the Father speaking to you.

Yes, this was the Father. We were so thrilled that Sathya Sai Baba whom we believe to be God Incarnate and the Father who sent Jesus had directed us to go to Zambia. It was not that He could not have given us funds, but that was a test. We knew that straightaway and we did exactly as He wanted us to do. We also remembered the stories of Hanuman, and other great disciples how they went to distant lands because the Lord was with them. So, that was enough for us. We knew Baba would be with us throughout. When Baba said, “Go to Zambia,” He did not say, there would be no difficulties. Difficulties are part of life.

It is my experience that when you do God’s work, you face more difficulties.

Yes, more difficulties, more tests. We enjoyed every bit of them, we knew that Lord Baba was testing us.

Your school has been invariably described as a miracle school. Now tell us something about why it is called a miracle school.

The school is located in a socially and economically disadvantaged area. Many boys had failed the national primary Grade 7 examination (a precondition for entrance into secondary schools). They failed because they were truants, poor attenders and difficult to teach. They were rejects. These were the same boys the Sathya Sai Secondary School in Ndola admitted. After two years and upon taking the National Grade 9 examination, not only were they among those who obtained the highest marks in the country, they all passed (100%). This success rate has been repeated at Grade 12 later for the past 10 years. They are at various institutions of higher learning in the country. This is the “Miracle” – the “Sai Miracle”.

That was in which year? I suppose, it was all part of the Divine plan.

That was in 1994. This was marvellous; the nation was stunned. How come a school which was located in a village among poor children do so well! This had never happened in the educational history of Zambia. It was all part of the Divine plan. It could not have happened without Swami’s intervention.

I presume there is no fee. Do you get any subsidy from the government?

No fee at all. We only ask a little for commitment purposes, but no tuition fee. There is no subsidy from the government. Swami is the provider of everything. So, the results were astonishing. The character of the children improved and they became good boys in a short period of time.

Did these students make any impact at home on their families?

Yes. There was a lot of impact on their families. I can give you two instances. A boy persistently told his father to take him to Sathya Sai School very early in the morning, because he did not want to be late. After dropping him at school, the father would report for work and was the first to do so. Within six months, the father got promotion because of his punctuality and regularity at work. Also, a Managing Director who was the last to go to work began dropping his child very early in the morning at Sathya Sai School (at the insistence of the child), and he also became the first person to open his office; his late coming was reduced and so was that of his employees. There are many testimonies of this nature from parents as well as from children. The boys who never used to study, began to tell others at home to study and not to make noise.

I think, Ndola is not a big town. How much is the population?

It is relatively big enough. Population is about 250,000 people. We had a choice between building the school in the heart of the city or in the poorer area. So, I sent Genoveva to Baba. I said, “Please ask Him where we should put the school.” He said, “Go to the poor area, train them.”

And apart from classroom instructions, you also have social services and things like that?

Yes. We are very much involved in community work – helping the old and orphans.

That is very good because you must pay back to your society. I want you to tell us something about what you are doing for proper utilisation of water resources in Africa. I have heard that you spoke about this last year in Sai Kulwant Hall and this was something totally new and breathtaking. I am sure everyone will be interested in hearing you.

Well, this is a United Nation’s (UN-HABITAT) Project - Water Education for African Cities Programme. There are many reasons why there is need for water education. Firstly, the population of Africa a century ago was 150 million. Now it is 875 million. According to projections, there would be one and a half billion people in the next 20 to 25 years, using the same water resources, the same rivers, the same lakes. Also, extravagant use of water, illegal connections, pollution, vandalism of water infrastructures, etc., are common practices. Pollution is rampant and at a very high level. In addition, there are conflicts between countries sharing the same rivers; for example, Egypt and Ethiopia. There are water riots and, as you know, there have been water wars in history. There can be water wars also in Africa. History is replete with such wars. In fact, water would become a major issue for peace and stability in the continent.

How did you and the U.N. come together on this? That will be very interesting to hear.

Well, the U.N. and national governments have tried many methods (mainly technological and regulatory) for the supply and uses of water. But in spite of these measures, the desired result has not been realised and it is unlikely this will happen. So, the U.N. found that by bringing in human values into the water education component will be of great assistance in water management/education.

How did they make this discovery?

They made this discovery when they heard about the African Institute of Sathya Sai Education in Ndola. It is the first institute of its kind in Africa that specialises in human values education.

That is the offshoot of your earlier school?

That is right. The UN-HABITAT invited an Expert Group of educationists, curriculum developers, water utilities experts and environmentalists from Africa to a meeting in Johannesburg in April 2001. There were many people who presented papers at the meeting organised by the UN- HABITAT. I also presented one, “Water Education – A Human Values Approach.” The participants liked it so much that they unanimously adopted it as a possible solution, something that would complement the existing methods. This could only have been possible by Swami’s grace. After that I was asked to present a similar paper to a parallel special session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York on 6th June 2001. This paper was also well received and it was put in the U.N. records. Then I was asked to chair a sub-regional meeting of African countries in Ndola and another in West Africa including some French speaking African countries. After these I was given a consultancy for integrating human values in Water Education in the curriculum of schools in Africa starting with six countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, Senegal and Ivory Coast. TAISSE (The African Institute of Sathya Sai Education) examined the syllabuses of all these countries with a view to preparing a Pedagogic Guide, Lesson Plans and supplementary materials as a prelude to the integration of human values in Water Education. TAISSE carried out the work successfully.

Even for an average citizen it would be a good thing.

Yes, in fact it goes beyond the school, the formal sector. We are also interested in the non-formal sector because they are water users. We try to re-vitalise the values in traditional African culture and then harmonise them with the needs and requirements of modern water users.

Is this received well by the public and the government?

Yes. This is very well received and that is why the United Nations (HABITAT) is so much interested in the Human Values Approach. People really want to go back to their roots. This makes the work easier since they can relate this programme to their traditional values. “Human Values are in every culture”, says Baba.

So, what is going to happen next in this wonderful programme that has just got started?

Well, first we have to examine the syllabi as we have said earlier, extract all water related topics from pre-school, primary and secondary in all disciplines and then submit our findings, suggestions to the United Nations which will then be submitted to the respective Curriculum Development Centres in the African countries. This is the first phase of the programme. Phase 2 is being planned.

And when it is submitted, will it be made mandatory in all schools?

Yes, mandatory by the government itself because the government will see the wisdom of adopting such an approach. The beauty of it is that bringing in human values into the school curriculum really does not involve any extra time. It does not overburden the curriculum and is very easy to understand and implement.

I am not surprised, you just have to remind the people of their culture.

That is all. It does not require elaborate materials at all. People usually worry about extra work. “What is water education? How much is it going to burden the already overburdened syllabus? And how much is it going to cost?” We tell them that there is no extra burden and no extra cost – only extra benefit. This is the truth.

Courtesy: Radio Sai Global Harmony

Sai Ram

Source: sssbpt.org website


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