Hailed as ‘God’ in the Indian philosophy, the role of a ‘teacher’ is a pivotal one and has been recognised as one of the most crucial societal roles all over the world. There are doctors, engineers, architects, and other professionals, but after parents, it is the teacher who has the power to help the pupil unfold and manifest the skills and qualities inherent in them, and encourage the student to rise to the fullest height. Empowering teachers, making them aware of their responsibility is something that Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has always focused on when it came to working in the education sector. Continuing on the same lines, a National Conference for Teachers was organised in Muddenahalli where more than 1,000 teachers from all over the country, and also from overseas, participated. The main theme of the Conference was ‘Values – Based Education Through Indian Culture & Ethos.’
The inauguration programme was held at Sri Sathya Sai Premamrutham Hall on May 25 at 9.30 a.m. The programme started with the arrival of Swami with the Minister of Education, Govt. of Puducherry, Sri R Kamala Kannan. Swami visited various stalls set up at the end of the Hall showcasing various service activities being undertaken by teams and groups in the areas of education, health, social change. After blessing, guiding and encouraging the volunteers and office-bearers, Swami glided past the students and devotees and was escorted to the stage by the students’ Vedam group. The Principle Secretary, Primary and Secondary Education, Govt of Karnataka, Dr Shalini Rajneesh also joined Swami on stage along with trustees and office-bearers of the Trust.
At the beginning of the programme, students of CBSE, SSS Vidya Kendra invoked blessings by chanting Medha Suktam.
Prof A Ananthraman delivered the welcome address to all the delegates by setting the tone and expectation of the Conference. He pinpointed the responsibility of teachers to inculcate values in the children and how teachers need to work on themselves before working on their students.
A video was shown which encapsulated the various service projects undertaken and emphasised on character building of children as the crucial aspect of Swami’s institutions. The video introduced the news of the upcoming University in Gulbarga which will provide values-based quality education totally free to the students. Two very moving accounts of girl students from rural areas of Karnataka were showcased in the video as to how the ability to have education itself is bringing about monumental changes in their lives.
Thereafter, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the Govt of Karnataka and the Sri Sathya Sai Annapoorna Trust whereby the Trust gets the blanket approval to serve breakfast in all the Government schools of the State was presented to Bhagawan. It was announced that the Trust will help in the government-run Ksheera-Bhagya Scheme where 50,000 students will be given nutritious food and the upcoming University campus would serve as the center of this activity.
The Minister of Education, Agriculture, Electricity, and Community Development, Govt. of Puducherry, Mr R Kamala Kannan. He started by describing the importantance of value education and how Swami is working on that. He quoted examples of various eminent people who are now remembered because of their deeds instead of the caste of the family in which there were born. He stressed on the meaning of the words ‘Teacher,’ ‘Acharya’ and ‘Guru’ and also the ways through which a ‘teacher’ can transform himself/herself into an Acharya.
The next speaker of the morning was Dr Shalini Rajneesh, Principle Secretary of Primary and Secondary Education, Govt. of Karnataka. She gave details of a survey conducted to know the effects of the Government-run Ksheera-Bhagya Scheme where 94% children said that they came to school because of the milk that they get under that scheme. She mentioned that with the help of the Annapoorna Breakfast programme, enrollment would increase even further in Government schools. Coming to the theme of the Conference, she presented arguments why values-based education is needed and also the value of teachers as the owners and guardians of the wealth of a country, in the form of students.
Sri B N Narasimha Murty was the next speaker who emphasised on the goal of education, which brings professional efficiency, individual character and social responsibility. He quoted from a letter written by a survivor of the infamous Nazi Concentration Camps, who wrote to the teachers of the world asking them to make their students more human instead of professionals in any particular area.
Then, Swami blessed the teacher delegates with His Divine Discourse where He shed light on the real meaning of ‘Vidya,’ which means ‘To Know That’—the Truth. He declared that the knowledge of the Self is the highest education; love is the basis of all the values, children should be taught the principle of this universal love. He went on to say that teachers should develop a sense of sacrifice and teach the same to the children.
After this, the inaugural session came to a close and Swami departed back to Anandam.
The first Guest Speaker of the Conference, Dr S Balasubramaniam then spoke for almost an hour on the role of a teacher and how to practically teach children what they need to learn. Replete with chaste and refined English language, his talk was interspersed with little stories, quotes and references which made it very interesting. Being a physician, researcher and also a professor at the Cornell University, Dr Balasubramaniam gave a passionate talk about how teachers should understand the enormous responsibility that is given to them, and how values should be inculcated in the children, who mirror the behaviour of their teachers. He gave them practical tips about achieving personal harmony so that the very existence of a teacher can become a learning for students. He mentioned that if teachers work on his advice for eight weeks, they will see a visible change in their overall personality which will have these characteristics—compassion, faith and hope, positivity, sense of humour, spirit of service, fearlessness, self-inquiry, and mindfulness.
Adoring the pleasant atmosphere and a welcoming hospitality of their first-ever stay in Muddenahalli, the delegates assembled at Sri Sathya Sai Premamrutam Hall for the evening programme of the first day of the National Teachers’ Conference 2018. They had enjoyed an informative inaugural session and also talks by experts from various walks of life. It was time for some cultural rejuvenation, and they were up for a sweet surprise!
Swami entered the Hall from the stage-side and very keenly listened to the chants of the Vedam boys, advising them and guiding them. He walked past the yearning devotees, giving ear to their prayers, counselling them on various personal matters and accepting their letters. After a full-round of the Hall, Swami sat off-stage and signalled for the programme to commence.
The students of Grade 9 and 10 from the Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva High School, Muddenahalli, chanted the Bhagya Suktam to begin the programme.
A summary of the day’s events was presented by Sister H Hiranya, an alumna of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Anantapur Campus, and a teacher for more than 20 years now.
Next was the special presentation of Brass Band—a unique group of students from Muddenahalli Campus, ‘Sai’s Angels,’ and their teacher Mr Dimitris Lambrianos.
The show opened with a piece called ‘Bolero,’ which is considered as one of the finest music pieces ever created. The piece had a lot of beats and it actually lent a definite rhythm to the evening—the expectations of the delegates were nicely set now.
The next piece was a rendering of a Bhajan—Allah Ho Tum, Ishvar Bhi Tum.
In between the pieces, students playing various instruments were introduced to the audience with their names and grades in which they were studying. No wonder, the delegates were amazed to see the ability of such young students to play many unheard Western musical instruments with ease and precision, almost impossible at that age.
This was followed by the best Jazz single ever written—Take 5. However, it was played with a twist, as the grand piano had four hands playing instead of two.
In between the pieces, video-clips where shown as to how students work on picking up their preferred instruments as they join the Band, and how their teacher is teaching them; how much practice they put in; how being in the Band is helping them in their overall growth.
Also, Brother Amrut, Brother Munish TH, and Brother P Joshi spoke about their experience of being in the Band—how it helped them in studies, and also moulding their character, along with their expression of love and dedication to Swami.
A unique piece was played by Ishaan Rao a student of the 9th grade from Delhi, , the son of Sitar Maestro Pandit Shubendra Rao and his wife Smt Saskia De Haas, who is a brilliant Cello player. He played Beethovan’s Moonlight Sonata—Movement 3. It was mesmerising to see a child play such a classically complex piece like a child’s play.
Other pieces that were played by the Band included ‘Rudetzky March,’ a soundtrack from the movie ‘Godfather’, the soundtrack from a TV-serial ‘Hawaii 5-O,’ ‘Final Countdown,’ and the Bhajan ‘Love is My Form.’
The presentation went on for over an hour and the reaction of the audience was that of awe and wonder as how such young children worked hard to master instruments, played tunes that are alien to their culture, and still maintained excellent academic records.
Swami blessed the students by going on the stage and taking photographs and offering them a word of encouragement and appreciation.
Mangala Arati was offered to Swami and thus the evening programme came to an end.