Jaggi Vasudev, commonly known as Sadhguru, is an Indian yogi, mystic, philanthropist and author of over 100 titles in 8 different languages. He founded The Isha Foundation, a non-profit organisation, which is headquartered in Coimbatore. For the last three decades, Isha has been propagating the science of yoga throughout the world with the objective of bringing about holistic development that will allow individuals to realize their true potential.
As a part of its social outreach programs, Isha Vidhya rural schools have been started in villages (under the umbrella of Isha Education, established in 2005) to provide high quality school education to underprivileged rural children who cannot otherwise access or afford it. The basis for starting the school was that, “when someone is hungry, you cannot teach them spirituality.”
Through their schools, the organisation wants to fight this hunger, by teaching children “how to fish.” And their children turn out to be fine fishermen! All thanks to their Montessori-style of teaching which makes education “inspirational” rather than “informational” coupled with teachings being only in English. A child who graduates from her is truly given a “passport” that will help him/her get people out of his/her “social and economic pit.”
To under their methodology better, in Jaggi Vasudev’s own words, “The basic purpose of life and the basic purpose of education is to enhance one’s boundaries of perception. I don’t want the children after 10 years of schooling here to just survive. They must blossom and flower wherever they go.”
There are currently 8 schools across Tamil Nadu and 1 in Andhra Pradesh, catering to 5,200 children. The first school came up in 2006, 30 kilometers outside of Coimbatore at the base of the Velliangiri foothills in the tribal village of Thanikandi. At that time, the barest of amenities was considered a luxury here. A tamarind tree that stood at the center of the village was social center, central court and post office. For the village children, the tamarind tree was considered “downtown”. Every activity happened around the tree, but the activity glaringly absent was education. The only school in the vicinity was established by the government and located in a rudimentary shed, more often used as a shelter from the elements than a center for learning. To reach the school, the teacher had to trek 3km over rugged terrain often frequented by elephants and other wild animals. As a result, she rarely made it to school, and the prospect of education faded into the backdrop. Instead, the children spent their time in the forests, engaged in income-generating activities to supplement their families’ meager earnings.
When Isha Foundation adopted the village, its top priority was establishing a school for basic education. Providing the children with proper clothing, footwear and food earned the confidence of the children’s parents. Creating employment opportunities for the adults ensured that basic needs were met, freeing the children to focus on education. A passionate teacher was identified and basic classrooms were set up. The same process was carried forth in other nearby tribal villages, and today these children are preparing for their board exams!