Sathya Sai School of Canada Interview with Radio Sai
On the happy occasion of its inauguration, Radio Sai recently invited four SSIO Canada members who have been heavily involved with the Sathya Sai School of Canada for a long-distance interview. As the interview progressed, the history, effort, design, and current activities of the school came into light. The participants included:
- School Board Chair: Mr. Dayal Mirchandani
- Construction Project Manager: Dev Gokul
- School Trustee: Dr. Arun Yousuf
- School Principal: Dr. Revathi Chennabathni
The interview started with Mr. Mirchandani, who started off by expressing,
the good life is spent in the service of all, brotherhood of man, and fatherhood of god. Each individual is born inherently with the five divine values of Sathya (truth), Shanthi (peace), Prema (love), Dharma (right conduct), and Ahimsa (nonviolence). After a 17-year journey, the school was inaugurated into its permanent home on June 24, 2017. This school began its journey with a command from Sathya Sai Baba,
school is my project, make it happen – start slowly and grow. This school project was one of 75 projects being started around the world on the occasion of Sathya Sai Baba’s 75th birthday – being the first Sathya Sai School in North America, with the second being in Mexico. This was not a commercial endeavour, but intended to be a transformative heart-to-heart channel for education, through combining love and secular education, in bringing out the goodness within us. Continuing on this theme, building character and virtue are the foundations of the school, with the motto based on Sathya Sai Baba’s quotes,
the end of education is character. This non-denominational school teaches a combined curriculum from Sai Spiritual Education and Ontario Ministry of Education. Starting in September 2, 2000, with 59 kindergarten students, another grade was added in 2001 with a total of 80 students. This trend continued over the years until the addition of Grade 8 with a total of 200 students in 2015.
Mr. Gokul continued with stating that the search for the school’s permanent home took over 14 years, with the site starting as a 60-year old warehouse to the now state-of-the art learning space. The facility, located on a site of 2.5 acres, has an area of 30,000 square-feet, and includes: 11 classrooms of 775 square-feet and 15 feet high ceilings with acoustic panels to reduce noise, science lab, computer lab, library, music room, nap room, staff lounge, 2 conference rooms, multipurpose gym/auditorium, 10 washrooms, shower, rooms for 1-to-1 meetings, individual prayer rooms, an elevator, LED lighting, central network, mechanical/environmental automation, and security – all for the benefit of the students. Each room receives natural ambient sunlight in this environmentally friendly facility. There is a portrait of Sathya Sai Baba with plaques for the five values in the mezzanine. There was much rain on the original intended day for erecting the school sign and the activity had to be postponed. At the next attempt to place the sign, Brother Vedanarayanan from Puttaparthi came to visit in the guise of Sathya Sai Baba’s messenger, got into the sky lift and blessed the sign as it was being placed. The exterior sports gorgeous landscaping including 5 trees representing the 5 values – fostered by the students, with more trees being planted. Additionally, there are 53 parking spaces and 2 play areas with sand-pit – one for the 2 kindergarten grades, and another for students from Grade 1 to 8. An LED signboard facing the main road displays announcements and messages on an ongoing basis. This construction all began through plans designed by architect Mr. Surinder Bhaga.
Dr. Yousuf continued with talking about the school as a centre of human excellence before academic excellence, and stating this school may have been constructed with brick and mortar, but the students and teachers have bled life into it. The school is not funded by the government and relies on donations provided by members and well-wishers across Canada. At present in 2017, the school caters to 240 students.
Dr. Chennabathni continued with talking about the students, their activities, and accomplishments. Students come from many cultural backgrounds. For the last 11 years, Grade 3 and Grade 6 students have excelled in their EQA (education, quality, and accountability) exams. In 2011, the Fraser Institute awarded the school for its curriculum and excellence in student performance. The curriculum and activities have been designed to help students concentrate through the day. Much has been made possible through the efforts of volunteer teachers, parents, and volunteers working in tandem and staying behind after regular hours, with a proactive approach in balancing academics and character development taking into account the emotional, social, and spiritual upliftment of the child. The students have also participated in many competitions, such as public speaking, writing, singing, and poetry, with many successful outcomes. Students also engage in volunteer activities; one such activity is ‘children helping children’ where students engage in supporting children in disaster zones through fund-raising and food drives. These activities allow students to learn about caring for others and enable self-improvement. Graduates end up being placed in higher schools with IB, AP, TOPS, and arts curriculum, carrying Sathya Sai Baba’s message with them.
It is nothing short of a miracle to see that all of this started with a few words from Sathya Sai Baba on November 19, 1999, with a small project team, to the result we have today. At the opening ceremony, prominent Sai representatives including Dr. Jumsai and Dr. Singh were present. Another miracle comes in the form of the ever-growing garland that decorates Sathya Sai Baba’s portrait in the school, as an indication to keep on going.
In closing, we invite you to visit the Sathya Sai School of Canada website at www.sathyasaischool.ca for more information.