The Way Forward to Excellence…

All India President of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations Sri V. Srinivasan delivered the valedictory address of the two day Convention of Sri Sathya Sai Schools held in Prasanthi Nilayam on 18th and 19th February 2012. Following is the full text of the valedictory address.

With deep gratitude and humility, I offer my loving pranams at the Lotus Feet of our Beloved Bhagawan.

Dear Fellow Devotees, Distinguished Faculty Members and Colleagues, Principals and Management Officers of the Sai Schools.

Sai Ram to all of you!

Over the last two days, we have had intensive discussions on various subjects connected with the Theme of this Convention. It is appropriate that this Convention is being held at the abode of our Beloved Bhagawan, since He was a perfectionist in all matters and Excellence was His characteristic. He always inspired all to strive for Excellence in everything that we did. He said that it was part of our real nature to strive for excellence and it was a sin to be content with anything less in our actions and thoughts.

I would first of all like to share with you what we have propagated in the Sai Organisation after Bhagawan’s Mahasamadhi. It is our belief now that all the years that each one of us has spent with the physical form of Bhagawan is really a period of preparation for the Divine Mission which start now. We also recall Bhagavan’s assurances to us that He is present wherever His work is done and His name is taken. So it is our duty to intensify His work that He has blessed us to do and to take His name in greater and greater measure.

The work connected with Sai Schools is His work and it is Divine work. It is now beholden on us to intensify our efforts in this holy work and we should do this taking His name constantly.

I would also like to share with you my discussion with our brothers from Odisha day before yesterday. I was asking about the Sai Schools in that state. It emerged that conditions in several schools is less than ideal. It came out in the discussion that education in Government schools is free, mid day meals are provided, in some cases even cycles are being given, and the teachers are paid very high salaries. Yet the waiting list for our school is long, the results in the examinations of our schools is better, our teachers who are well qualified are working with devotion and dedication for a pittance of a salary. The parents of the children prefer to admit their children into Sai Schools rather than into Government Schools. This deeply affected me as to the faith and confidence that people have in Bhagawan and all that He does. What a great responsibility it places on all of us as instruments of Bhagawan to ensure that the confidence of these simple people is not misplaced due to our shortcomings.

The worthy speakers have clarified what is meant by Excellence, both in Academic and Human terms and have also stated that mere Academic Excellence without being sheathed in an envelope of Human Values is no Excellence at all but a perfidy. We must always keep these directions in our mind and also impress them on the minds of our students. Bhagawan had always highlighted the importance of being good rather than only great.

I have reflected on the points mentioned in the speeches at this Convention and have also received some more ideas by the Grace of Bhagavan. I will enumerate my thoughts below:

All connected with the Sai Schools should be conscious that they are not alone but are part of the vast Sai family. This is the greatest fortune in the world. This gives us access to many resources and strengths. At the same time, this also places a responsibility to appreciate that all our actions will not only reflect on us but also on the Sai family. So we must act with great awareness and maturity.

The Right to Education Legislation has created great consternation amongst many schools. Not so with the Sai Schools: we welcome the opportunity to serve the disadvantaged sections of society and will observe the letter and spirit of the law.

We had talked earlier about the need to have greater contact with and involvement of the alumni of the Sai Schools. Unfortunately, this has not received adequate attention. We must now take up this matter with zeal. Each school should build up a data base of its alumni. In fact, we should build up a National Data Base of the alumni of all Sai Schools. The Secretary of the National Council of Sai Schools should personally oversee this task. A report should be submitted at the next meeting of the National Council on the progress of this work.

I suggest that there must be greater recognition of the Sai Schools in all Organisational functions. There must also be more involvement of the students and staff in the Organisational activities. In addition to the service activities that the students do within the schools, they should participate in the service activities through the Organisation. It is the responsibility of the Office bearers of the Organisation to structure suitable activities to enable the students to participate. It must become mandatory that all service and spiritual activities of the students external to the schools should be only through the Organisation.

We should certainly examine the need for uniformity of certain infrastructure in all Sai Schools, at least in the rural areas. We can set up a small task force to take up this work. Toilets and water supply should be the first priority.

The Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust has agreed to finance the infrastructure in Schools, especially in rural areas, with a limit of Rs twenty five lakhs per school. While it is preferable to have some contribution from the local Sai State Trusts and Organisation, this will also be waived in deserving cases. What is important is that the local institutions take up the responsibility of the running expenditure, including the payment of reasonable remuneration to the teaching staff. Instructions have already been given to the State Presidents and Trust Convenors to submit proposals in this regard. The local Sai Organisation must motivate local people to support the schools, treating it as a District Project. What is the use of doing Grama Seva if we are neglecting the local school!

I had already highlighted the importance of the Newsletter for Sai Schools. I had also written to all the State Presidents on this matter. I request all the Principals and Management representatives present here to respond quickly to sister Punita Nehru who is spearheading this project. There must be at least two issues of the Newsletter every year.

We had prepared a listing of all the Sai Schools. It is now time for us to prepare a full Compendium of these schools. I request the Secretary of the National Council to take up this work.

I was in a Sai School in the mofussil area of Tamil Nadu about ten days ago. This is an English medium CBSE school. However, the students lacked the confidence to express themselves in English and preferred to do so in Tamil. English is a priority for all Sai Schools now. From a central level, we have to examine how we can assist the schools in this task. Setting up of language labs is one way. I request the Academicians on the National Council and others to give their suggestions and support in this regard. A working document incorporating these suggestions should be prepared.

We now have successful Vocational Training Schools set up by the Organisation in rural areas. Wee should certainly examine setting up more of these schools in conjunction with existing Sai schools in the rural areas. There is a great need for trained manpower throughout India. Such Vocational Training would create employment opportunities for the rural youth. The Central Trust would consider proposals for funding the setting up of such schools.

Sister Shobha Doshi spoke eloquently about the importance of counseling. How do we create trained counselors? This is an area where the Sai Bal Vikas and the National Council can work together, as the need is there in both institutions. We now have 4 Regional Centers of the Institute of Sai Education. These are well equipped. We must make greater use of these institutions. The Sai Schools should access these centers even for very short programmes. The students will be very happy and inspired to visit such Institutions.

The time has come to create a dedicated website for the Sai Schools with a webmaster and a dedicated committee. The Secretary may please examine this.

All Sai Schools must have a school Bal Vikas programme conducted only by the local Samithi. The teachers may of course be trained as Gurus but external Gurus should also be used. The Organisational Units may take this as a directive from the All India President for immediate implementation.

We have had much discussion regarding the merit of the Certificate Courses as well as about the personal difficulties of teachers to attend these courses away from home for 21 days. We should examine whether there are ways to make these courses more “family friendly”. Skype could be a tool to bring the families into the courses so that they can also see what is going on, as well as enable the participants to be in touch visually with their families.

We may consider whether each school should have a flag with its own name. All these flags can be brought to Prasanthi Nilayam during the next pilgrimage.

I am happy to announce that the next Convention will be held in February 2014 at Indore. The exact dates will be shortly finalized.

The journey towards Excellence is like the journey to Sai. It never ends! Every forward step is itself a milestone. The travelers and the pilgrims may change but the journey goes on. What is sure is that Sai is always with us, holding our hands, soothing our tired limbs, guiding us forward. The journey itself is the joy of the destination.

Jai Sai Ram!

II Samasta Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II