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Guided by values

Environmentalist and educationist Satish Kumar speaks about the values and aspirations that have guided him through life.


SATISH KUMAR, a guiding spirit of many an ecological movement around the world, is the pioneer of the concept of `small' schools in Hartland, U.K.

Founder of the Schumacher College, Dartington, U.K., Satish was recently in the city on the last leg of his yearly trip to India.

It was his interest in Ayurveda that brought Satish to Kerala.

Today, Ayurveda has become acceptable and accessible to the modern generation. It is better to preserve health and prevent illness rather than go in for Allopathic `cures', which instead of treating the illness masks the symptoms, he says. He expresses the hope that people in Kerala would find the right balance in Ayurveda. Satish points out the dangers in the commercialisation of the age-old science of Ayurveda.

Satish is impressed with Kerala's high rate of literacy. "The challenge is on how this achievement can be turned into `true' education," he says. `True' education, according to Satish, is not to impose concepts and ideas on children, but to help children grow up as responsible individuals. In order to accomplish this, one needs to respect the child and his/her innate qualities. Education can become more effective provided there are lesser number of students in each class. He talks about the school he has established in Hartland. Creative and innovative learning forms an integral part of the school's curriculum. The Hartland Small School combines academic and practical training to educate the students in `thought, word and deed'.

The school attempts to discover the intrinsic merits and latent qualities of the children and help them serve society better. Children should be taught practical skills such as cooking, gardening, designing, wood work, and photography, says Satish.

Every year, in December, Satish offers a course in `Gandhi and Globalisation: Towards a Culture of Peace and Non-violence' at BijaVidyapeeth (School of the Seed for Earth Citizenship and Ecological Living in collaboration with Schumacher College, U.K.), Doon Valley, co-founded by Vandana Shiva, leading socio-ecological activist. In 1973, he became the editor of the international journal Resurgence U.K. ( the ethico-moral flagship of the modern environmental movement worldwide). The Schumacher College in Dartington, which he set up in 1991, is affiliated to the University of Plymouth, U.K.

"Schumacher College is the culmination of my life's work. Here, it is possible to bring together the spiritual foundation of the monk's life, the social concerns of the Bhoodan movement, the ideals of peace, which I pursued and the ecological concerns of Resurgence. This is the convergence of the values and aspirations by which I have been guided throughout my life," says Satish, who had renounced the world and joined a group of Jain monks when he was hardly nine.

Later, he became a campaigner for the land reform movement under Vinobha Bhave's leadership.

Over 40 years ago, he participated in a marathon peace march along with E. P. Menon. The peace march, from Delhi to Washington via Moscow, Paris and London, was against nuclear proliferation. But, then, that is Satish Kumar for you.

SHIRLEY STEWART SURESH

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