The guru-shishya (teacher-student) relationship has been a significant part of a child’s formative years since times immemorial. Especially in a country like ours, it has become an integral part of our tradition and cultural heritage wherein teachers have been placed at an even higher pedestal than the almighty. In the words of Saint Kabir, “Guru Govind dou khade, kake lagoon paay, Balihari Guru aapno, Govind diyo batay,” which roughly translates to: If my teacher and god, both stand in front of me, I would pay my respects to my teacher first because it is he who taught us about the glory and greatness of the almighty.
Traditionally, Indian education was largely based on the gurukul system of education in which the students were required to leave the comfort of their homes to stay in an ashram with their gurus, till the time they complete their education. Another important aspect of this system was the concept of guru-dakshina or repaying the teacher/ spiritual guide after completion of education or after a period of study. We all know about Eklavya (Mahabharata), who went to the extent of cutting off his own thumb in guru-dakshina for Dronacharya, even though he learnt only by observation and not by formally taking lessons from him.
However, the student-teacher relationship has evolved over the years and today has been merely reduced to classroom teaching and taking down notes in educational institutions. Somewhere, we all have forgotten the larger bond that they shared and the kind of impact a teacher can have on the life of their students. The role of a teacher becomes even more important today as the future of philanthropy may rest on our ability to nurture the upcoming generations of philanthropists by teaching our children how to give and serve.
Apart from teaching the regular specified subjects at school, the inspirational power of a teacher can transcend the classroom to touch upon the broad spectrum of giving back to society and doing good for the humankind.
Today, it is even more important to introduce a student to compassion and service- minded activities at an early stage so that they develop a keen interest in service to the less fortunate in their formative years. Teachers can play a crucial role in achieving this as apart from home, a child spends most of his time around his teachers and what he learns from them becomes a major part of his values and belief system.
Ensuring future generations of philanthropists: Some recommendations
Philanthropy doesn’t only imply contributing to the lives of the underserved by monetary means. It extends way beyond donating money and includes humane acts such as spending time with those in need by educating them, teaching them life-skills, mentoring and helping them cope with their problems, acting as a philosopher and guide among others.
Such values of share and care can be taught by the teachers in schools at an early age to students, to ensure that these values are carried forward in the coming generations.
From an early age, the value of doing good for society can be taught to kids in school by simple activities like planting a tree, sowing seeds and taking care of them till they sprout. When the seeds germinate and turn into plants, the kids can donate them to others (for them to take care of the plant) or plant them in public places or gardens. The idea behind such activities is to teach them that the fruits of their selfless deeds (planting a tree) will be enjoyed by others or those in need, even when they themselves are not around.
Students in middle school and above can contribute in a very simple way through ‘Each One Teach One’. They should be encouraged to take up any subject that they’re good at and teach one child who doesn’t have the means to get a formal education — be it their house-help’s children or those in the neighbourhood.
Once these students complete their formal education and become professionals in the field of their choice, they can further contribute to educating a child by either sponsoring their education or continuing to teach more students in need, mentoring them and helping them to navigate the journey of everyday life and its challenges. This forms the very foundation of our Vidyadhan scholarship program which has the philosophy of ‘Each One Teach One Reach One’ at its core.
These are some small steps that can be taken to ensure that we plant the seeds of philanthropy in the upcoming generations at an early age so that they grow up to secure the future of philanthropy in service of mankind.