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Memorial meeting for shri. vajubhai parel on 24 9-2013
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Memorial meeting for shri. vajubhai parel on 24 9-2013


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  • Vajubhai I knew……. Smt. Lataben Karim

    First June 1955 was the day I joined Chandulal Nanavati School, Vile-parle, freshly getting my stamp of a teacher from Bombay University. The year of training at S.T. College was quite hectic but I did very well and felt I was on top of the world, well equipped to be a teacher.

    There were other new teachers too, as the school was newly established; we came to know that a new male principal was appointed. We were quite skeptical as ours was a girls’ school. But his wife too was appointed as a teacher and then began my journey from being a teacher to an educationist.

    Under the guidance of Shri Vajubhai I learnt to teach the least. The emphasis was more to create an environment for students to learn by themselves, to inquire, investigate, analyse and come to their own conclusions. It was learning to learn, a pleasurable experience for teachers and students as they were actively involved.

    Vajubhai created an environment of freedom, were we ‘enjoyed’ coming to school, to participate and work ceaselessly with all our might, to innovate and to allow students to create, criticize and find solutions. He inspired us to experiment and not stick to the text-book. Thus, we framed a curriculum for social studies which was totally new concept at that time. History, Geography, Civics and environment were integrated in our approach of study of Man’s progress from cavemen to present day. Languages, Science, Maths were also integrated with a holistic approach. Skits and Songs were written, models was created out of waste material and participated in a play. Even after more than half a century these experiences are vividly itched in my mind.

    Another memorable experience for me was our trip to Matheran. We went half-way down the valley on the ghats to meet the native people, visited their homes, came to know the difficulties they had to face living there in monsoon, we mingled with them, sang songs and learned with them. That was the first hand experience for students; did we need to teach them Geography? We all ‘vibed’ with one another in a pleasant surrounding and developed positive attitude towards life and learning.

    Vajhubhai believed that values cannot be taught but absorbed. Therefore we had open library, examinations without supervisors, conducting classes without bells and to do all work together from cleaning toilets to preparing nutritious snacks for students. Once there was theft in one class. A girl had lost her monthly fee amount. The class teacher wanted to search the bags of all the girls but Vajubhai didn’t agree. He addressed the class. He said, “Whoever has taken the money will leave it on my table. There will be no punishment but repentance. I will fast till the money is recovered”. A day passed, another day passed. All of us were very worried but on the third, the envelope of money with a note of apology. He never revealed the name, on the contrary he told not to suspect anyone.

    Vajubhai was very approachable. Girls and teachers felt secured in his Presence. We would have arguments with him about curriculum and its implementations, but once a decision is taken, all of us would work together for its success. True learning took place under him. It was an eye opener for me. It was a total transformation. I became more- open minded, flexible, humble and compassionate.

    I must mention here that just as his impact on my professional growth, Vajubhai and Leelaben have contributed in my personal life. Mine was an intercommunal marriage in 1960. They gave us all the support, arranged a reception for us in Birla Krida Kendra, inviting friends and well wishers for dinner. I must mention that Leelaben was around me when my son was born. My bond with them is very very dear to me.

    Vajubhai will complete hundred years in August, 2013. A real tribute to him would be to carry on the work, his vision of education and learning, let children learn in an environment of freedom where there is joy of learning. This is an ongoing journey as there are always new ideas, new techniques and whatever we do there will always be room for improvement.
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  • Down the memory Lane

    Dr. Kamalben Arvind Patankar, Ex-President, (Indian Council of Basic Education)
    Ex-Principal, Gandhi Shikshan Bhavan’s Smt. Surajba College of Education, Mumbai

    Long back, about thirty eight years ago, one morning I woke up trying to repicturise an unfinished dream. That morning I dreamt that I have started working in Mumbai, in a far off college. After staying in England for more than eight years, we returned to India. We were happy to stay in TIFR quarters, Aryabatta, Dr. Homi Bhabha’s Wonderful Creation for Indian Scientists. Amita and Swati were nicely settled in a school like cathedral, and I was trying to search something for myself. Every time we came back, the south Mumbai schools, used to grab me and I used to happily work in schools. This time I wanted something on a permanent basis. The dream must be due to my anxiety. The same day I saw an advertisement in the newspaper about a vacancy for a lecturer in a college called Gandhi Shikshan Bhavan. I could not believe my eyes. Was that a co-incidence? Or was that a premonition? I applied and was called for an interview.

    I distinctly remember a khadi clad couple interviewed me. Afterwards I came to know that they are the founder members of the Institution, Shri Vajubhai and his wife Leelaben Patel (Fondly called Masi) Interview went well. The only question bothering me was the distance. Gandhi Shikshan Bhavan and TIFR are the two extreme ends of Bombay Island. To release my tension, I tempted to ask, “Can I come by sea-route?” the panel members laughed, but Shri Vajubhai said, “You may choose any mode of transport, but we would like you to be here.”

    And the journey started from 10th June, 1975. It was a herculean task jumping in TIFR bus, catching train at Churchgate to Santacruz, get into a bus 331 to Juhu Church and walk for 15 minutes to reach the college. Come to think of it, how did I manage it at the age of forty seven fighting on all fronts? The answer the magic of Gandhi Shikshan Bhavan Masi’s “Namaste Beta.” At the entrance developed a sense of belonging to this beautiful Ashramlike home!

    Vajubhai’s well planed Blue Print for work, the challenging way of handling tasks in education, the friendly cooperation of all colleagues, the homely atmosphere, the innovative ideas, the bubbling faces of student teachers all completely took me over.

    Shri Vajubhai was a strict disciplinarian as far as his ideas were implemented. The prayer time ushered us to melodious, religious mindset, forget all the worries and the discussions thereafter exposed us to different cultural, literary, religious and social climates in our own country; and made us optimistic about the solutions to their problems.

    The self-help, the socially useful productive work sessions, the social work centers, above all the innovative ideas of handling the B.Ed. syllabus, everything made us “Live” not teach education. Shri Vajubhai idea of superimposing Gandhian ideology on B.Ed. syllabus of Mumbai University was fascinating.

    The lectures from eminent Gandhians, educationists, Social reformers to name of few Smt. Mrinalini Desai, Acharluji, Dr. Anil Sadgopal, Battacharji the Vice-Chaircellor of Vishwa Bharati enriched our cognitive personality. Cannot forget the exposition of the Vice chancellor of Vishwa Bharati. It was raining outside and the words of the speaker were falling on us as joyful droplets of poetry creating an atmosphere of Shanti Niketan.

    The innovative ideas in methods of teaching were inspired by Vajubhai. The experiments in Juhu Municipal Schools the success in transforming Juhu Ruia Park area from a neglected Shanti place to a clean beach with ladies self employed by stitching blouses, petticoats (taught by B.Ed. students) the well water saved from contamination when people used to wash clothes near the well; children enthused to sing national songs and got help in their studies, small children came to us with no running noses, well combed hair and clean dresses. All made our educational life at G.S.B enjoyable.

    The innovative lessons taken under unit planning integrated the educational, social, religious, administrative dimensions were interesting, lively and worth mentioning. I am tempted to cite just lesson plan I unit letter writing points discussed in class.

    Unit B class children directed in there groups one interviewing car owners, second pedestrians, third visitors to the temple and vegetable venders. The data was collect by children using simple statistics
    Unit C analysis and discussion on the data collected
    Unit D Letters to be written by children B.M.C. requesting to start a bus service from Juhu Church to Chandan Cinema.
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  • Salutes to a great, innovative teacher

    Smt. Usha Murugan, Former Principal, Gandhi Shikshan Bhavan’s
    Smt. Surajba College of Education, Mumbai

    Always the environment in which we live and grow builds our personality. It is as truer for our professional personality as it is for our social personality. A teacher’s professional knowledge and pedagogy depends upon the professional exposure she gets from the institutions she is connected with.

    As a student is identified from the institution she or he comes from a professional is also identified from her place of work. I identify myself proudly as a teacher educator from Gandhi Shikshan Bhavan.

    I joined Gandhi Shikshan Bhavan in 1975. I was a simple, young teacher having a few years of experience from good schools in Mumbai and Delhi; enthusiastic and motivated. I was a lecturer in Gandhi Shikshan Bhavan for 24 years and Principal for 13 years. The milieu of Gandhi Shikshan Bhavan had impressed, influenced, molded, groomed, cherished and inspired me mainly throughout my 1st decade of life in Gandhi Shikshan Bhavan. It is true not only for me but also to all other teachers who joined with me in 1975.

    The main factor for such an impact was the individual name Shri. Vajubhai Patel who was the Director of Gandhi Shikshan Bhavan. I remember the first time I met him. He was taking my interview with a team of other experts. I as a novice presented him my M.Ed. research theses on ‘The role of mass media, especially news papers in secondary school students learning process. There were no TVs and interests common those days. He just looked at it, smiled and asked me kindly, “We want you to use all these techniques here while teaching. Will you?”
    That is all! I was so impressed and looked at him with high regards.

    This was the beginning! Everyday was a new learning experience in Gandhi Shikshan Bhavan Shri. Vajubhaiji would provide new and rare educational opportunities to the students and teachers alike. I would like to mention a few of the remarkable and noteworthy programmes started by him in our Gandhi Shikshan Bhavan.

    The unique, secular Gandhian prayers involves each and everyone in the assemble followed by good song written by great poets of India, Kabir, Meerabai, Tukaram, Tulsidas, Rabindranath Tagore, etc. gives a purposeful beginning note to the activities of the institution. I have yet to see someone who is not impressed and influenced by our prayer session.

    This is followed by paper reading by teachers and students. A well prepared book review, book introduction or a paper on a relevant theme is read and discussed. It is not only very informative but also helps as a personality learning session for the students, developing confidence, interactive and communication skills. Shri. Vajubhai Patel himself would lead the discussion and give insightful thoughts. He would encourage all of us to participate. He would appreciate good papers heartily with a smile, I remember, he had liked most of my papers, Subramanya Bharati- A great Tamil poet, ‘Learning to be’, The two worlds of childhood, Gandhi and Tagore etc.

    In 1975, a team of 5 teachers joined Gandhi Shikshan Bhavan. To introduce the new teachers to Gandhian philosophy Vajubhaiji had planned and organized various programmes. Visits to well known Gandhian institutions was also one of them. We visited Gandhi Vidyapeeth, Vedchi, Gujarat and learnt a lot from there. He had taken us for a visit to Sevagram, Wardha. A big national conference on ‘Nai Taleem’ was being held there. We had the rare opportunity of hearing, meeting and interacting with well known academicians and Gandhians there. It was a great learning experience for one and all!

    Another important unique thing he introduced in Gandhi Shikshan Bhavan before 1975 it self was ‘Faculty enrichment programmes’

    Once in each term a faculty enrichment meeting would be held; wherein each teacher presented a new book on education and discussed various aspects of the same. This activity saw to it that each faculty member chooses a latest good book, reads and studies it thoroughly, writes and presents a review in the meeting. It was really a challenge for all of us. Vajubhaiji, at the helm, was listening carefully and commenting on it, asking questions and supplementing it. I had learnt a lot from such sessions. I believe that such programmes should be held in each institution for encouraging the teachers to be life long learners.
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    If one looks in the dictionary for the meaning of the word “legacy” the meaning given will be money or property bequeathed to another by will or something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor or from the past. But there are legacies which cannot be counted in terms of money or wealth; rather it is the value, the morals, the commitment and the system through which a dream has been envisaged. When Vajubhai saw a dream of starting an educational institution he wanted his legacy to become immortal. He saw a dream to open an educational institution which would function along the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi. He wanted his dream to be immortal. For this he and his wife, whom we all lovingly call Masijee, a freedom fighter, sacrificed everything including their personal lives.
    His dream was christened as GANDHI SHIKSHAN BHAVAN, an apt name for an apt dream, amongst the quiet corner in Juhu, Mumbai, away from the hustle and bustle of the city; he started shaping his legacy inch by inch, brick by brick. Inch by inch for the mission and brick by brick for the vision for the mission had to be grounded. Thus came a building which had in each of its brick the will to remain immortal and serve a cause which was practising the ideals of father of nation, Mahatma Gandhi. When the whole world was looking ahead and aspiring to change according to the western influence, this one man was thinking the other way round. He refused to get blown away by the so called modern breeze and chose to remain grounded with the ideals and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.
    The dream of Vajhubhai started taking its shape from the good old days of the freedom struggle but it could be transformed in reality only when he retired from his regular service, as a teacher that he could devote time for his dream to come true.
    At Gandhi Shikshan Bhavan, he started a different kind of education which had its core in the Nai Talim, proposed by Mahatma Gandhi. He started craft based education where the basic concept of languages, social sciences and mathematics were taught through activities. You would find students in the garden learning about nature, observe then making squares, rectangles, circles in the garden and learning the basic geometrical shapes, could find them counting flowers, leaves, etc. He made attempts to connect education to life in all aspect. He would invite great educationist, social reformers, leaders for interaction, to name a few Acharya Bhise, Sulabha Panindikar, Subbarao etc. When he thought of changing society he very well knew that he can only do it with the help of the teachers, so he opened a teacher’s training institute. He wanted the transition to be permanent and that can only happen with the vehicle of education. If education could bring about change in the future generation and then only change of society is possible.
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