Between Us

Pandit Birju Maharaj performs at the inaugural concert of

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B. K. Karanjia

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Udayachal: A Tribute

ejoice, wrote Robert Browning, there’s a new tribunal now, higher than God’s — the educated man’s.

Certainly we in India have reason to rejoice that the tribune of our people, our highly respected PM, has in his role as MP — unlike most other MPs — given the highest priority to education in the disbursement of his allotted funds. Front-paging this story, The Indian Express reports that Rs. 1.84 crores of his allocation of Rs. 2 crores have been spent on 33 primary schools in and around Guwahati, spread over a vast area from Muslim-dominated Garigaon and Hedayethur to Bengali-populated Maligaon and tribal-inhabited Odalbakra and Narengi, providing them with new buildings, adequate teaching equipment, safe drinking water supply and clean toilets. The bulk of his spending, even before he became Prime Minister, was on educational infrastructure, from schools to science labs to facilities at madrasas.

It is also a matter of pride for CHANGE to record in this context that Godrej was among the first corporates to think of providing education to its workers’ children. On routine visits to his factory at Lalbaug, founder-consolidator Pirojsha Godrej was disturbed by the plight of children who, having nothing better to do, were just whiling away their time on the streets. He discussed this with his son Naval, who broached the idea of starting a school for them. Naval and his wife Soonuben, aided by noted educationists like Mrs. Cooverji Vakil, worked like Trojans on this project, which began humbly as a Bal Mandir in a grain store in the Godrej welfare centre at Vikhroli. This has over the years grown into the Udayachal School, a magnificent edifice in black stone, set in a splendour of green, amidst the blaze of a thousand flowers and an abundance of trees in long shady avenues. Recently, the School celebrated its 50th anniversary (CHANGE, July-August 2005).

More importantly, Udayachal, with its revolutionary methods of "teaching by observing", has become a model school in the metropolis, a trailblazer and harbinger of a new dawn (as its name implies) in the field of education. Among the many distinguished people who visited this school, there was a quiet, dignified, scholarly-looking gentleman who, on 16 December, 1997, walked through the school’s wide verandahs, entered the spacious, bright classrooms, spoke with the students and their teachers and scrutinised some of their creative work. Then, after an exhausting hour and a half, he sat down to pen his observations in the Visitors Book: "I was very pleased to visit this School and to see for myself the creativity and sense of innovation possessed by the children. I was very impressed with the methodology of teaching for which the teachers deserve congratulations. This visit re-enforces me in my conviction that education is probably the most important means of transforming our economy, polity and society."

You’ve guessed right. This tribute was penned by Dr. Manmohan Singh, future Prime Minister of India.

B.K. Karanjia