“Education Is The Most Apt Tool For Creating A Just Social Order” —Dr Jagdish Gandhi
Thin, lean and awfully energetic, 78-year-old Dr Jagdish Gandhi, Founder Manager of the City Montessori Schools, Lucknow, is an educator with a difference. Believing that every child is potentially the “light of the world” he is engaged in creating what he terms as a “more humane society” by developing a new mindset through education. Working a minimum of 16 hours a day, Gandhi is engaged in a relentless pursuit of a new world order that is just, peaceful and is engineered and dictated primarily by children. So passionate is his commitment to the cause of children that in the last 51 years he has not taken a single day off, has slept little, and works through weekends and holidays.
To understand this goading passion, one needs to go back to the childhood years of Gandhi. Born in a lower middle class family, he was a hermit by temperament. There is an interesting story behind his acquired sir name ‘Gandhi’—and this is how it goes. Highly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi since his early childhood, the little Jagdish Prasad Agarwal, who idolised the Mahatma, had been promised by his uncle and spiritual guru Prabhu Dayal that he would one day take him to meet his idol. Jagdish dreamt of that day.
However, destiny had some other plans for him. On January 30, 1948, Gandhiji was assassinated. Jagdish was Just 11 years old, and that day a heart-broken Jagdish took a vow that he, like his idol, would work only for the interest of humanity. That day he re-christened himself as ‘Gandhi’ and took the first step in the direction of creating a new mindset through education and ensuring that peace prevails in the world through this new order. Sixty-five years later, this passion and goal have not wavered.
Sitting in his 16×12 sq feet room that serves as his office, bedroom and lounge, Dr Gandhi talks with Uday India for over two hours about his passion and vision. The walls of the room are adorned with quotations from all holy books, pictures of international chief justices conferences that he has been hosting since 2001 and a family portrait of his wife, two daughters and son. Believing like the Mahatma in simple living and high thinking the room is devoid of any luxury. It has its historical significance because it was from this little rented space that he began his journey on “Mission education” over six and a half decades ago. Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us how did you start the school?
I set up City Montessori School (CMS) with ‘Jai Jagat’ (victory to the world) as its motto along with my wife Dr Bharati Gandhi with a borrowed capital of Rs 300 in this rented room on Station Road in Lucknow, where you are sitting. The first batch had just five students.
What is the state today?
We have 45,000 children today in the single city—Lucknow. This is a world record. The Guinness Book of World Record has certified that CMS is the largest in terms of pupils on August 9, 2010, when we had 39,437 pupils in the 2010-2011 academic session.
Tell us about the nascent days of CMS.
Those were difficult and challenging days. I lived in a temple and used to earn my food through tuitions of children hailing from the poorest of poor. What never changed was my goal. I did not want to follow the beaten track but create my own path.
Why did you choose education for change?
Education alone is the weapon that can bring about a total transformation in the world. It is the most apt tool for creating a just social order. It is through education alone that a new and lasting political and economic order can be created. It is how we shape our children that will lead to how they shape the world
What do you term balanced education?
A combination of material education, human education and divine education according to me is balanced and meaningful education.
How do you compare and compete with other schools—private and convent?
Where is the comparison or competition at all? Ours is a totally different approach towards education. Our schools are not teachings shops but revered places where human beings are shaped for the betterment of society. We believe that a modern school must train and equip its students to take on the role of social responsibility and act as good citizen, not just become toppers and rankers in their field of education.
Can you please illustrate your point further?
Well, we follow the formula of balanced education. This we achieve through well-trained staff and through various programmes and workshops. We teach our children respect for all religions, respect for law and their responsibility towards others members in society. We feel if a child is taught all this, he will become an angel and not an animal, who is a liability to society. CMS organises 32 international educational events in a single calendar year, which include maths Olympiad, sports Olympiad, commonwealth youth conference, international film festival, history festival, international school-to-school exchange, etc.
How many hours do you work?
I work minimum of 16 hours. I wake up at dawn, no matter what time I sleep. I see the final drafts of all matter. I even go personally to receive all my guests for various programmes. My secretariat here works 24X7.
What is your secret of continuous energy? In short, how do you unwind, distress?
I suppose when you are doing things with a passion, there is bound to be energy in your move. For me doing the work I am so involved in is never a strain, so there is no question of distressing. But if you really want to know, I suppose, I distress by doing more work.
What is your vision?
My vision is world unity and peace. This, I feel, can come through children only. We should inculcate in them a feeling of respect for other religions and races. It makes me wonder why people from different religions cannot pray together—if not every day, at least once in a week. “Milkar ibadat karney sey unity badhegi (Unity will increase if they pray together).
What is your greatest passion?
My great passion is: Unite the world through children. This I believe can be done through proper debates and discussions by global legal luminaries on Article 51 of the Indian Constitution, which ‘fosters respect for international law. Through the International Conference of Justices, we like to create an atmosphere where children are given their due by having their say on the global issues. Till now we have held 13 such conferences, wherein 103 countries chief justices have participated. The last one took place on December 8, 2012.
What difficulties have come your way? What has so far been the biggest disappointment of your life?
I never let disappointments and failures put me down for long. Ups and downs are after all a way of life. But yes the fact that I missed the chance of meeting Mahatma can be termed the biggest disappointment of my life.
It is being said that you are working towards a Nobel Prize?
(Chuckles) Not at all. This work that I am doing is my Nobel Prize.
How would you describe Jagdish Gandhi?
(chuckles) Jagdish Gandhi is an ordinary man.
With extraordinary powers?
Not powers, just a vision that is empowered by a mission. I am, in terms of years, an old man but I am fired by a zeal and my 45,000 students, who support me in this mission. We make an appeal on behalf of the world’s two million children and generations yet to be born to save the world from conflict and war. This, I am convinced, can only be achieved by a world parliament of children.
By Kulsum Mustafa from Lucknow