Sunehari Yaadein by Mrs. Veena Hora
“The best years of my life were spent in Navayug School. When I joined I was allowed complete freedom to contribute in the best manner possible. Being a Home Science teacher I began my work by establishing the Home Science Department of the school with some unique features. One of those being that boys also had to study home science along with the girls. It was quite challenging in the year 1973 when the male mindset was quite fixed as to what subjects the girls and the boys should study. However the feedback that I keep receiving till date is enough to show that this experiment was a great success. I am happy to share my views about Navayug School and would love to know what others’ view are.
The respect, love and affection that I have receive from my students till date, brings tears of joy to my eyes... I would like to share my feelings in these beautiful words of a shaayar –
“ख़ुशी की इन्तेहाँ पे जो आता है
बहुत रोये हम उस आंसू की खातिर”
I want all my students to know that meeting and interacting with them always brings joy and happiness, so please remain connected. My blessings and love to all Navayugians."
- Veena Hora
The first phase of my writing refers to the initial years of Navayug School when Mr. J.N. Dar was the principal.
NAVAYUG A UNIQUE SCHOOL
A unique school was started in the year 1973 in New Delhi. A Day Boarding school for gifted children, belonging to the lower socio- economic strata of the society. It was the brainchild of Mrs. Uma Prasad, wife of the then LG of Delhi Mr. Baleshwar Prasad.
Children, after qualifying the IQ tests at NCERT Delhi were admitted to class sixth in the age group 10 to 12 years. Shri Jeevan Nath Dar was requested to be the principal and run the school with complete freedom.
The school started functioning on the 16th of February 1973 with 90 students and four teachers. I was one of them. A Hindi medium institution with great emphasis on spoken English.
Highly qualified teachers with past teaching experience were selected by a committee comprising of Mr. J. N. Dar, Mrs. Uma Prasad, Mr. M. N. Kapoor, the principal modern school, Barakhamba Road, New Delhi, and Mr. Deen Dayal, the principal, DPS School Mathura Road, New Delhi. Teachers’ salary was higher than paid to any other teacher in India at that time. But, till the day the school actually started functioning, we had no idea about the uniqueness of the school.
FIRST DAY… A Memorable day…. At the Red Bricks building, Netaji Nagar, New Delhi. (The school shifted to Sarojini Nagar later where it is presently located)
The Morning Assembly was attended by the teachers, students and their parents. After the assembly Mr. Dar announced that all of us would be going to the dining hall, carrying our own chairs there. Mr. Dar led the way lugging his own chair. We took it as our first of the many lessons that we were to learn from him later. A lesson in true humility indeed! The teachers, who were expecting some peon to carry a chair for them, took the cue and followed suit.
Among all the valuable lessons learnt from Shri Dar, the most invaluable was that although children might not always listen to our advice but they never fail to imitate us. So we must always project the right image before them as every moment they spent in our company , we were making a deep impression on their soft claylike mind through our actions and speech. How different this experience was from our previous institutions! In retrospect, I feel we were as much a student as those we were called upon to teach. It was indeed a great learning experience for me and I started enjoying it.
Some interesting and unique features of the school...
Meals at School- Students were served breakfast, lunch and tiffin in the school so there was a full-fledged kitchen. Menu planning and supervision was done by the home science teacher. Students learnt to prepare menu, keeping not only the food value in mind but also the cost. Eating together was a learning experience as special emphasis was laid on learning how to serve food, use forks and knives, table etiquettes, interaction at the dining table and washing of utensils.
Washing of utensils- After eating everyone had to wash their utensils. As there weren't so many taps, a unique way was found to deal with the problem.
First a large bin and then five big Patilas/ containers were placed in this order....First one had plain water, soap solution in the second, third had plain water, fourth contained a solution of KMNO4, the last one containing plain water.
Within a period of few minutes all the utensils were washed, dried and stacked
Home Science was compulsory for girls as well as boys. Students learnt about Foods and Nutrition, Textiles, First Aid, Needle Work, and Housekeeping. Any guest visiting the school was served snacks and beverages prepared by students in Home Science lab.
Mrs. Vidya Ben Shah, a member of the governing body of the school just loved the stuff prepared by the students. She asked the Home Science dept. to prepare biscuits to be served to children who received bravery award on republic day.
During annual functions Home Science Department used to put up exhibits prepared by the students. These were very popular with teachers, students, parents, and guests as they all learnt something from these exhibits.
Integrated learning - The concept of integrated learning was very successfully promoted by the principal, Mr. J. N. Dar.
Just to illustrate.........'.Students, after preparing peanut barfi in the Home Science dept. take it to the principal to taste, wait for him to appreciate their effort, he does appreciate but then asks them for the recipe, the food value and the cost. On being satisfied with their answers he sends them to geography dept. to learn about the soil and climatic conditions required to grow peanuts and sugarcane. Once they have done that, they are sent to the economics dept. to find out whether India exports or imports peanuts and jaggery. In this manner a piece of peanut barfi got you so much information and wisdom. Can there be a finer example of backward and forward integration of learning?
School Assembly- Morning assemblies used to be very special. It was a pleasure listening to Mr. Dar share his experience with students and teachers. In his inimitable style he would educate all regarding various aspects of life. He would talk about lessons that were not there in any book.
I remember this one very clearly. One day he said “This shirt that I am wearing has been discarded by my son as it is a little torn. I have mended it and I am wearing it because it is CLEAN, though it may not be in fashion. I am only concerned that it has to be CLEAN.”Can there be any better way to drive home the point that CLOTHES DO NOT MAKE A MAN and that CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS?
Public Speaking- Students were encouraged to come to the Dais and speak in English. He did not bother whether the grammar was correct or not. Each and every student was encouraged to speak. This gave them self-confidence. In case we had guests in the assembly, students would not only welcome and introduce them but also later thank them. It was students all the way. Teachers and principal tried as far as possible to remain in the background, supporting and guiding them. It helped build their self confidence, inculcating in them a sense of self-reliance. I think it was the beginning of a lifelong love affair that will continue till death do them part.
Group Singing- Every day in the assembly the whole school would join in singing a few songs – patriotic and folk mostly, but others too. Mr. Dar's favorite were: khud jiyo auron ko bhi jeene do" and” isko bhi apnata chal usko bhi apnata chal." Community singing resulted in great bonding.
Long Bell-whenever there was a long bell, it meant all work/ teaching had to be stopped immediately and all should assemble outside in the playground. Some important announcement or instruction was given to all.
One day after lunch there was long bell the whole school assembled outside and there was Mr. Dar holding a plate full of leftover food. He said that he went to the dining hall after the student shad left after having lunch. He expressed his shock and dismay that children had left some of their food uneaten or thrown it around. He had collected that food and was holding it. He said “In India we cannot afford to waste even this much food, so I am going to have it.” Even before anyone had a time to react, he started eating the leftover food that he was holding. That was the last time a grain of food was wasted. What a wonderful way to send the message home.
First Aid Post- A first aid post was set up under the stairs. Two students used to be on duty by rotation. Any casualty was taken care of by these students.
Sports- Students were always encouraged to play some game/sport. A great sports lover himself, Mr. Dar would join the students. He often repeated the phrase "the battle of Waterloo, was won on the playground of Eton and Harrow". If there was a football match the whole of student community participated in it. Some were busy painting it in colours, some painted it in words, some busy giving commentary, and others busy cheering. Next day in the assembly some students would present a complete picture of this match and talk about the nuances of the game and how to improve.
Navayug Family- We were all members of a big Navayug family and always referred to ourselves as Navayug Parivar. Mr. Dar stayed with his family in his make shift home in the school premises. All members of his family were available 24x7 for school students and employees. Mr. Dar's wife Kamlaji, whom we all lovingly called Mataji was actively involved in the welfare of the school.
The door of Mr. Dar's office was always open. A student or a teacher could just walk into his room and share his or her thoughts.
A very positive environment- Everyone was happy to be in the school as all, be it a student or a teacher or some other employee, enjoyed and loved whatever they were doing. There was total freedom of work. No one was discouraged FOR FEAR OF FAILURE as failure was taken as an opportunity to learn. Each one worked hard. It not only helped in the development of a student’s potential but also encouraged the teachers to study, attend seminars and workshops for their personal growth. We had the freedom to innovate.
In 1975 I was selected to represent the country at the International Red Cross Youth Conference held in Seoul, Korea. From there I visited Japan, Bangkok and Manila to study the activities of youth Red Cross.
When I came back I initiated a few community service projects in the school. I used to take students to Cheshire Home, Lok Kalyan Samiti.We adopted two villages and started a nursery school and a sewing centre there. Mrs. Savita Sahni and I sponsored education of two students from that village.
Mr. Dar was a great learner and a teacher who was always eager to pass on anything he learnt as a student to his students as a teacher. He was a hard task master but always very encouraging.
School timings- Being a Day Boarding school, the timings were 8 am to 5pm in summers and 9 am to 6 pm in winters. But during the initial days of the school there was no fixed time for the employees to leave as some activity was always taking place. On Sundays and holidays also, some students would come to school as Mr. Dar was always there for them. Most of the time teachers were also asked to join in.
As I turned to leave his office I heard him say "Mrs. Hora" I turned back” yes sir?" He said “Go home immediately but remember when your son is all right I am not going to spare you." He did not want me to waste any time writing a leave application. I left immediately thanking him.
Whenever I was called on a Sunday or a holiday could I ever say no?
………… to be continued
First lesson ....do your work yourself, do not depend on others.
Second lesson ....all are equal.
Third lesson....lead by example.
A lesson in humanity
Once when I reached school, Mr. Dar noticed something and said “Mrs. Hora. The smile is missing on your face today, what is the matter?” I replied “Sir, my son is not too well as he has high fever." He said “What are you doing in the school? You should be home with him." I said" oh, thank you sir!"
Mr. Dar, an ideal educationist and leader did not believe in hypocrisy. He motivated others to follow, leading by example. He did not preach anything that he would not follow himself.