– A Chain of Akal Academies –
Harjot Shah Singh
Dr Kharak Singh, the Convenor of the International Sikh Confederation, personally invited Baba Iqbal Singh ji, President, Kalgidhar Trust Baru Sahib, during his Mohali visit, to participate in this seminar. The Trust has founded about two-dozen Higher Secondary Schools in villages of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Western UP. These have been recognised by the Central Board of Secondary Education, New Delhi. In view of the excellent success of these schools, the President was suggested to read a paper on Rural Education. As he was to go abroad, I was asked to read this paper on his behalf.
One of the objectives of founding the Trust in 1963 by Sant Teja Singh, MA, LLB, AM (Harvard) was to provide education to the village students. He told the Trustees that India resides in villages; unless the villagers are educated, the country cannot move forward. Further, he told them that for making youth to be good human beings, spiritual education must also be given along with academic education. This, in other words, is the endorsement of the second objective, education and social affairs, of this seminar.
At present, twenty Academies are providing education upto the 10th or higher classes in the rural areas, each covering 50-100 villages. A total of about 17,000 students (that number is increasing every year) are benefiting from the good academic and religious education provided by about 1500 teachers and other supporting staff. About 60-80% students obtain first division in the Board examinations, and many students get placement under ‘distinction’ in different subjects.
The founder of the Trust, Sant Teja Singh, in 1956 purchased a village named Baru, Rajgarh, Himachal Pradesh, to start spiritual-based school education. After developing the facilities in the village, first Akal Academy was inaugurated in July 1986. Now many Akal Academies are passing out +2 graduates, and some of the students have obtained admissions in prestigious professional colleges in India. A few graduates were successful in getting admissions to foreign universities based on their high scores in the SAT examination of the USA.
As intended by the founder and the Trustees, the Academies are also bringing social change in the village life. These achievements of two Academies in village Cheema and village Mandher have already been mentioned in the Abstracts of Sikh Studies, July-September 2005, Vol VII, Issue 3, under the title Successful Fight Against Drug Addiction – Cheema Shows the Way.
A couple of more incidents, which are very interesting, will explain the role being played by the students. An elementary student refused to sleep with his father, “Dad! No, you smell awful. Choose between me and your bottle.” A girl student persuaded her father to quit drinking thus: “Daddy, if I commit a mistake, blame goes to you, being my father. If a Sikh drinks / cuts his hair, people blame his Guru. Why should you bring blame to our Guru who sacrificed all his four sons for our honorable future?”
Two years ago, when some students of Akal Academy, Cheema, returned from an Inter-school competition, Dr Gurbakhsh Singh USA, a trustee, happened to be there at the gate of the school. Coming out of their bus, they voluntarily announced, “Baba jee, we have won many awards in the competition.” While talking to them about the competition, a senior student told him that after the function, one of the judges shared with the VIP guest, “Not only that they perform good in studies and co-curricular activities, they are well behaved children. They urge and pressurise their parents and relatives to give up drinking.”
The rural education can bring a real change in the country. The hard earned money of the farmers enters the pockets of the alcohol dealers, police, lawyers and judges because they drink, fight and litigate. Therefore, Trust is willing to associate with the projects to be started by the International Sikh Confederation in their drive for uplifting the state through spreading education in the rural areas.
Remarks of Shri Pavnesh Kumar, Controller of Examinations, CBSE, New Delhi, who visited Baru Sahib, may be reproduced here “Having been here for almost twelve hours, I get the impression, as if I have been on a pilgrimage”, he said. Addressing the students he continued, “What we need first in society are the noble citizens. If you do not know how to deal with human beings, your existence in this world is of no use.” For the teachers he emphasized, “The Ganges can only flow from Gangotri, I believe that morals and virtues can only flow from good teachers.” He also added, “Everyone of us has some sainthood in us. The only point is how to bring it out, and this is the task the Akal Academy is doing.”
Many residents of the rural areas want schools to be started in their villages on the pattern of the Akal Academy. They are willing to extend the necessary co-operation regarding the provision of land and other support. The Trust intends to open as many schools as are within their physical constraints.
All this has been achieved with the public cooperation and their contributions, without any financial support from the government. Welfare of the Panth and Punjab state is not difficult.
Education needs to be given the highest priority in any programme to uplift the rural masses. Baba Iqbal Singh assured that the Kalgidhar Trust Baru Sahib and its Akal Academies would give full cooperation in this task.