The Beautiful Tree and Fistfull of Rice


Many intellectuals keep saying that the education system that we have today is almost same as the one built by British to manufacture clerks to support the administrative activities. But most of the people today, at least those to whom I speak to seem to agree that there was no “schooling system” before the British blessed us with their. At the most some concede that there was some sort of gurukul System but since it was a main feature of Hinduism even agreeing to its existence would be communal and hence taboo.

“The system of village schools is extremely prevalent; that the desire to give education to their male children must be deeply seated in the minds of parents even of the humblest classes; and that these are the institutions, closely interwoven as thy were with the habits of the people and the customs of the country.”

This is the report from 1835. Known as “State of Education in Bengal”. Most notable features of the report was that the 30-35% enrollment was from what we call today the “backward classes”. The very same classes which are given reservation in almost everything under the pretext that they did not have equal opportunities earlier.

This and other findings by British indicated that India already had its own schooling system which was predominantly “privately funded” and it also catered to the needs of poor. Amazingly the enrollment in these schools was almost equal to the enrollment in England itself.

However this sort of schooling system did not serve the aims of British rulers. Hence they worked hard to destroy it. For them there was clear incentive in keep poor uneducated. Unfortunately, even after Independence our country was cursed with leaders who were more happy calling themselves Englishmen. The results are clear.

But then when I look at my school;  “Shree Damodar Vidyalaya”, which is now almost 85 years old,  I can perfectly relate to the British report of 1835. My school is now government aided. All its teachers receive salary from the government but before independence it was a private school.

The model that was followed to fund this school was very common in Goa. It was called “mushti-fund” translated to English it would be “fistful of contribution”. Several schools in Goa, still even today continue with the same name.h

In case of our school the idea of private school had come from a Seer, His Holiness Shri Indirakant-tirth swamiji. He requested (or so goes the story) the people of our village to keep aside a fistful of rice everyday from their own meal. The school of run by only one teacher who would at the end of the week or so would go to each house and collect this rice. That was his allowance. He was supposed to manage everything else with this amount of rice.

Many places followed the tradition to call the teacher himself to have lunch with the parents of the kids he taught. Thus he would develop a rapport with the family of his students as well. Even the concepts of picnic [Vana-Bhojan], social service [Shram-daan]  were very closely integrated with this type of schooling system.

When my school celebrated it’s 75th anniversary, the decedent of the founding Seer, His Holiness Shri Vidyadhiraj Tirth Swamiji had visited our school as a chief guest. Along with him almost the entire village had turned up for the function. Several teacher who had taught in that school many decades back also were present. One student who was part of the first batch of the school in 1925 Dr. V. B. Prabhudesai too had visited the school. He had obtained his Phd. in History.

One most notable feature of my school was that the emotional investment of the people in the village. Many of them use to turn up even though their kids were not part of the school. I think now I understand why. I think desire for education is very deeply rooted in the minds of our people. What we need is to give them and opportunity. In this, if a private school system can give much, we must give them an opportunity, instead of getting into the cliché of “Private schooling is for Rich”.

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