In 2016, an Education for Life (EFL) team was invited to visit a school 110 km (almost 70 miles) from Rishikesh, in the north of India. The EFL team found inspiration in the school’s uplifting and inspirational beginnings.
Rajendra Bhat was a native of this little village in Rishikesh. He left his home to get a higher education. Bhat returned, bringing his skills and expertise back to the village to provide a world-class education for the children there and in the surrounding villages. He sold a part of his land and built a small school.
Bhat began the school with 11 children and one teacher. Now, the Angels Havan School has 56 children and six teachers (preschool – 8th grade). Bhat was joined by his wife Vibha Bhat who heads the school. Mrs. Bhat is a retired educator with 27 years of experience in education. The school serves low-income and marginalized farmer families. Some of the children live with the Bhat family as they cannot afford school transportation costs. The school is run completely on donations from family and friends.
The mission of the Angels Haven School is to nurture and foster the holistic development of children through yoga, sports, meditation, the arts, and academics. The school follows the inspiration of Gandhi’s words:
By education, I mean all round drawing of the best in child and man in body, mind and spirit. -Mohandas Gandhi
The EFL seeds planted in 2016 sprouted with another invitation for teacher training of a longer duration. I accepted the invitation to go and stay with the team for a few months for the EFL training program. The pandemic began and online training commenced in Hindi and English. It has now been six months into the instruction online and the progressive development of the teachers is a joy to share.
The teachers of the school have not only applied EFL universal scientific yogic principles with the students but also with themselves. They devised various activities according to the Stages of Maturity and the Tools of Maturity with much success. They’re exploring and experimenting with the Principle of Maturity that Swami Kriyananda defined as “the ability to relate appropriately to other realities than one’s own.”
The teaching faculty are practicing quiet time, reflective journaling, and team building collaborative activities. They’ve gained confidence and courage to try out a number of creative ideas. This innovation and creative energy bring increasing harmony to interpersonal relationships and are evident in their teaching methodologies.
The children are showing tremendous interest and engagement. They’ve made both academic and social gains with their arts and crafts, music, brain yoga, quiet time, nature, and cooperative games. The students themselves designed many of their classroom activities that encourage peer learning and mutual respect. Parents note and express appreciation for their children’s cooperation at home and with their siblings overall. The children have also actively begun a number of farming and environmental activities.
Founders of the school have initiated a Community Library Project for their village. This is intended to aid and support strong reading habits and the joy of learning and storytelling for children and adults.
Guru Bhai Shweta Joshi recently sponsored a webinar on animation for the children and faculty. The participants benefited greatly from this workshop with world-class experts. Many videos were subsequently generated about the school.
The Angels Haven School is also participating in an educators’ project — 50 Schools of Excellence within the global network Initiatives of Change.
It is such a heartening experience to see faculty, students, and parents growing and developing together in their understanding of EFL principles. Mr. Bhat’s dreams are coming true, as this remote rural village school is increasingly able to provide its students with a world-class education. We acknowledge and celebrate our collective human potential, especially during this time of the pandemic.
Friends, this story validates the effectiveness and success of the EFL program. EFL principles show us how to manage the three energy traits that everyone shares: tamas (heavy energy), rajas (ego active energy ), and sattva (the light energy). EFL helps children and adults alike to make conscious, discerning choices that serve the best and highest purposes of life and living.