This ashram changes bad boys into good citizens
It is a gurukul run by the Swaminarayan sect. Students from all sects and religions are given admission here.
The admission comes with a strange rider attached, rather too hard to believe. The student has to be too weak in studies or too notorious for parents to handle him at home.
The students at gurukul located in Hariyala in Kheda district are trained to become refined and intelligent people to be part of society. At present, in the Swaminarayan gurukul, about 360 study from fifth standard to 10th standard.
It is an arduous task and they give their heart and soul to achieve success.
Interestingly, those following Swaminarayan tradition do not interact with women and this correspondent had to speak to teachers through a male photographer standing behind him.
A teacher admits that it is indeed very difficult, especially to teach students who are weak in studies. “To teach basics at 10 or 11 is,’’ the teacher says. Most of them do not want to study and if the teacher beats them to inculcate discipline, they become introverts.
But the swamis, who run the gurukul, have a solution to this problem and say that the students can be handled and managed through a strict regime which they are expected to follow.
Speaking about the regime for these students, Swami Aatam said: “It is difficult to handle such a variety of students. On one hand there are students who have problems in grasping and weak and on the other there are students who always think but in a destructive manner.’’ He says bringing both of them on the same page and then making them sit in the same classroom is a challenging task even for the teachers at school.
Elaborating about their regime, Swami Aatam says: “From sunrise to sunset we keep them occupied and monitor them and they do not get the time to think about anything else. They remain focussed only on their work and studies.” The regime begins at 5.30 am on all the 365 days. “They have to do an hour of yoga, go to the prayer hall for narration of religious books and breakfast before going to school. Normally, classes are held up to 1.30 pm and it is followed by lunch break.
Those weak in studies return to school for special classes,” says Swami Aatam. After returning from the school, they sleep for an hour. Those not attending special classes take part in recreational activities. Some go to fields managed by the gurukul. Students study up to 7.30 pm and have dinner and go to bed.
Swami Aatam made an interesting observation during the conversation. He notes that generally notorious students are children of either politicians or police. After this regime, parents can find the difference in them when they go home for first vacation after six months.
The children too realise that it is a difficult regime to follow but they know that it helps to become good citizens and make a mark in society.
“It is a difficult regime especially if you come from home where there is no discipline to be followed,’’ says a student from Ahmedabad. Most students do not want to follow the regime but they have to as they not left with no choice.
Another student who has been in the gurukul for the last five years admits that there is a drastic change in him and he now concentrates more on his academics. “I will be appearing for the board examinations next year and I am sure I will perform well and get into some professional course,’’ he adds.
This student was given admission as he was not able to remember whatever he learnt. But his teachers too admit that there was marked difference in him and he was able to score above 65 per cent in his examinations.
The school does not achieve100 per cent result but teachers are happy that every year the pass percentage was above 80. “This year the result was 87 per cent, five per cent more than the last year,’’ says Swami Aatam. The performance of the students has been steadily improving and that has been encouraging signal for the gurukul.
The success of the gurukul has triggered interest in other parts of the country. Proposals have come to open such centres in some places and trusts are ready to offer land and infrastructure.
He says since Gujarati is a medium of instruction at this gurukul it will be difficult for the students from other states to study here. While building a new hope and future for these students, the gurukul members feel a satisfied lot as they are indeed making a difference to many families.