No Humanity in ‘Human’
The powerful nations of the world declare in unison that they want to eradicate poverty. The august UN pronounces that through a collective will it is possible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However as we make progress through the 21st Century is there any real momentum in righting the wrongs of humanity?
Let us consider some simple facts. Did you know that:
• 3 billion people (almost half the world) live on less than $2.50 a day.
• If we spent only one per cent of what the world spends on weapons, we could give every child an education.
• One in every two children lives in poverty. That is 1 billion children.
• About 25 000 children die EVERY DAY due to lack of shelter, safe water, medicine or food. That is like losing the total population of towns such as: Melton Mowbray, Congleton, Rushden, Farnworth and Didcot. Imagine, everyday one such town disappearing for good.
When did we lose our humanity? Was it when nation rich decided that it was economic to ensure that most of the world remained in abject poverty? Was it when those with weapons of mass destruction decided that they were above natural law and could act like Gods? Was it when the people of the rich and powerful nations decided that it was none of their business?
For the western media it was more important for them to show a photo of a ‘dirty’ residential unit in Delhi for the Commonwealth Games then it was for them to reconcile that some 50% of the people in the world would give their all to have even a roof over their head.
Whilst we feed ourselves to proportions hitherto unknown (and I am as guilty as the next person), did you know that some 1.8 million children die each year as a result of diarrhoea?
The leader of Christians, the so called sole representative power on Earth of God can visit our shores in silks and splendour. And whilst we witness this grotesque show of wealth and power, the children of God die needlessly.
The World Domestic Product estimate for 2010 is in excess of 62 Trillion US Dollars (USD 62 000 000 000 000). The world spends over 1.5 Trillion US Dollars on military spend each year. To end poverty it would cost the world only 10% of that military spend!
So who is to be blamed for this sorry state of affairs?
The simple answer, we all are. All too often we have allowed our own inadequacies to give way to excuses by saying, ‘what can I do?’ Some 70% of the world believes in a God like entity. Yet, we do not ask the question, ‘which God has given us the commandment that we can exploit the poor, steal their resources, waste food, control water and medicine and ultimately, become the sole arbiters of who lives and who dies?’
Why is it that we do not have the faith leaders of the world take on the political leaders of the world and demand change? The Christians will give you a plate of food and educate your children if you convert. The Muslims are still stuck in the 15th Century and fighting battles of yesteryears whilst the future is destroyed in front of their eyes. The Hindus, who should know better than anyone else, would rather stick their heads in their ‘sampradayic’ self serving interests than rise to the challenge of uniting and doing their dharmic duty. Chanting ‘Lokha Samasta Sukino Bhavantu’ is easy – the role of dharmic individuals is to make sure it becomes a reality. It seems the God of the 21st Century is money and might. If you have that, who needs God!
We can blame the dictators, but who put them there in the first place?
We can blame the poor by asking, ‘why are they still producing if they cannot even look after themselves?’
We can blame imperial masters who looted nations, carved them up arbitrarily and then left the mess for self serving interest groups and tribes to fight out and exploit.
We can blame the United Nations which can happily spend billions every year, yet are toothless to affect change of any merit.
We can blame the rich nations; surely they must have a conscience and can see the error of their corrupt practices?
We can blame, yes we can blame everyone until we understand the meaning of what Bapu said to us, ‘be the change you wish to see in the world.’ Can you imagine the transformation that could occur if people and nations adopted this simple philosophy?
Did you know that in 1820 the gap between the richest and poorest countries was about 3 to 1? Since then this gap has increased to: in 1923 it was 11 to 1, in 1950 it was 35 to 1, in 1973 it was 44 to 1 and in 1992 it was 72 to 1. The richer the world gets, the greater the disparity between the haves and the have-nots.
The power and the resources to affect global change rest with humanity. It requires that we put humanity back into being human. In my view, when we eradicate poverty will be the day we usher in the age of peace.
Data/Information source: Anup Shah of Global Issues
A Right Hanging
As details of a coalition between the two unlikely lads came through, people started asking the most obvious questions relating to how two parties so diametrically opposed could find sufficient common ground and maintain a stable government.
The deal revolves around a pact to keep the new government in power for a fixed term of 5 years. To ensure this, one of the first acts of the new government will be to increase the percentage required to vote a government down from the present 50% + One MP, to a minimum 55% of MPs. Whilst this might have seemed like a great idea in the 4 days of tense negotiations, one wonders if in the cold light of day the new Prime Minister might want to reconsider. After all, does he actually want to go down in history as the first prime minister to change centuries of democratic wisdom?
With these new rules, the government could carry on governing even if it failed a vote of confidence since the new 55% target would not have been met. Potentially leading to a classic case of ending up with limbo governance. I knew this was going to be a ‘hung parliament’, but I did not know it would be as a result of ’hanging’ one of the very basic tenets of British Parliamentary covenants.
Guilt by Association
David Cameron and his team have negotiated a great deal by offering very little in substance and still getting the ‘tie in’ from the Lib Dems to the 55%. The Lib Dems will suffer serious haemorrhage in their voter bank. Regardless of the outcome of how effective this coalition is or might be; the Lib Dems have lost their mandate as the third force in British Politics. In the next election they will be lucky to secure more than 15% of the vote, and even with the AV system in place, it will secure fewer than 35 seats. Nick Clegg as their leader will be known as the man who in order to be in a governing cabinet, destroyed the very future of his party for decades to come. This hung parliament it seems has already hung one of its partners.
Dangers for Cameron
The coalition presents some very serious dangers for both David Cameron and the Tory Party at large. There is a sense that whether they succeed or fail in governance, the newlyweds will fall down together regardless. This may seem like a contradiction however when you consider the two possible scenario’s it becomes clearer. If the partnership is successful then by definition there will be no need for the Lib Dems. The voters will have a straight choice between the two main parties and the Lib Dems could potentially be out for another 50 years or more. If the partnership is unsuccessful then there will be a blame game between the ‘two likely lads.’ In their zeal to blame each other they will lose the confidence of the public and the only party remaining for disgruntled voters will be Labour, or god forbid, the extremists.
David Cameron and Nick Clegg are both walking the same tight rope at the same time but from opposite sides. Anyone who has seen such high wire acts will know that unless you are an expert, it generally ends in tears.
Challenge for the Tories
The natural instincts of the Tories might need to be tempered. I suspect it might be wiser to make friends with the electorate at the first opportunity. The next election will be determined by several main voter banks. The C1 (lower middle class) and C2 (skilled working class) groups in society as well as the BAME community. Whilst the Tories have made some progress on the diversity front, let us be honest – they are short of meeting even the modest of expectations. Within a finite amount of time, any party that begins to build its relationship with the ethnic minorities in a positive and proactive manner might well garner those few additional percentage points that will be crucial in the next election. It literally could mean being in, or out of power. This process needs to start now and not as a last minute knee jerk reaction closer to an impending election.
Double Edge Sword
George Osborne announced the setting up of the OBR (Office for Budgetary Responsibility) which does appear to have been granted some serious independent powers. How independent it truly is will no doubt be judged by history, however, it does give him a critical friend that would guide his policies. The move is clever and gives the dual advantage of blaming Labour for the state of public finances as well as mitigating his role in spending cuts that you and I will have to endure. If this works, it will give Tories a buffer to any wrath that they may come their way from the public. If it fails, there is a danger that these independent financial gurus (remember they made the mess in the first place) could take a position that is at variance with that held by the chancellor. All in all, a very interesting development, worthy of our attention.
Labour: The Good and the Bad
In my view Labour got the best outcome for their very future. By losing with 255 seats they might have actually won in the medium to long term. They have a great opportunity to select a good leader and re-focus on the core issues that affects the whole of Great Britain. There is however a serious fundamental flaw in their very makeup. One that forces them to commit ‘hari-kari’ at every opportunity. I of course make reference to the loony left which increasingly is getting a lot of financial and other support from far-left unions. If Labour allows itself to move away from the hard fought centre ground of British politics, we can safely assume the self destruct button they pressed in 1979 would have been activated yet again.
Britain’s First Hindu School
Krishna Avanti, a name that will go down in British history as the first Hindu school established through state and private funds to promote high quality education within a framework of Hindu values and ethos.
Background to Education in England:
There are some 17, 064 Primary Schools, 3,225 Secondary Schools, 1,058 Special Schools, 2356 Independent Schools and 133 Academies. In total there are around 24, 737 schools of all types in England. Of these, faith schools represent 6,384 Primary Schools and 589 Secondary schools. Breaking this down further there are 4,716 that are Church of England, 2,108 Roman Catholic, 37 Jewish, seven Muslim, two Sikh, one Greek Orthodox and one Seventh Day Adventist. No Hindu schools.
It was the Labour Party when elected in 1997 that brought in the law which for the first time allowed people of other faiths to also aspire to have their own faith schools. Until then all state faith schools were Christian or Jewish.
The Road to Krishna
The brain child is that of the I-Foundation, an organisation set up to establish sustainable projects that further the advancement of Vedic culture and philosophy. In pursuit of their aims, the foundation contributed around £2 million so that if accepted by the Governments’ education department, they could then harness a subsidy of more than £10 million to help build the school. It has also secured the support of its faith partner, ISKCON (UK) which will underpin the Vedic and Hindu values of the school.
Ground breaking ceremony
The road to Krishna led the foundation to Harrow. Harrow has the highest Hindu concentration of any borough in the United Kingdom and home to over 40,000 Hindus. This represents 19.6% of the Harrow population compared to 47.3% Christian, 6.3% Jewish and 7.2% Muslim. This makes Hindus the second largest religious group in Harrow, and the largest ethnic group. Yet, there was no faith based schooling provision for the Hindu community in the locality.
Commenting on this the leading Hindu Peer, Lord Dholakia, said, “It is simply not sustainable for Hindu parents to be excluded from often outstanding faith-based educational opportunities already available to Anglicans, Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs. The I-Foundation’s plans offer the opportunity to put right this inadvertent wrong.”
Giving support was Cllr David Ashton, Leader of Harrow Council who said, “We have been pleased to support the establishment of the country’s first state funded Hindu primary school in Harrow, both at the planning stage and then by offering temporary classrooms for its pupils while this outstanding site was built.”
What about the name?
Did you know that during his presence on this planet, Lord Krishna also went to school? Yes of course, and it was in a place called Avanti. Hence with the name ‘Krishna-Avanti’.
What did it take to build it?
The whole project was completed within 15 months; it was on time and even more interesting, on budget also. The building will get 70% of its heating from ground source heat pumps – that is right, it will recycle heat from the ground so that it is used in the school.
The Temple is build from Makrana marble carved in Makrana itself. It has wonderful teak doors and the altar is from Ujjain. The outside temple walls have carvings of Dasavatar and Krishna lila with the inside walls covered with carvings of stories from the Srimad Bhagavatam.
Facilities at the school
The School offers children an eco-friendly state-of-the-art building and facilities to encourage learning and play. The sedum roof classrooms are equipped on the inside with the best of modern technology, including interactive white boards and laptop access.
The classrooms are also designed to optimise light, acoustic and ventilation levels so that children have an ideal learning environment all year round. It also houses a designated ITC suite for distinct ITC lessons and a special Creative Space lab, ideal for cooking and science lessons. All these core teaching areas have been designed with the concept of seamless flow between classroom and outdoor teaching provision.
Music and drama form an important aspect of the School’s curriculum with a designated music and drama room. This small hall adjoins both the main hall (gym) and the marble temple where collective worship will take place on daily basis.
Sports facilities at the school are vast and cutting edge. There is a large all weather pitch ideal for football or rugby any time of the year, a grass pitch for hockey and tennis, an indoor gym for gymnastics, basketball and other indoor sports, and several different adventure play areas catered to the different key stage groups. For older classes, there is also a separate girls changing area.
The landscaping provides for various different learning facilities. Some of these facilities include a pond, wildlife gardens and an outdoor amphitheatre.
The catering facilities include a kitchen capable of providing fresh, hot, healthy vegetarian meals for children of Krishna-Avanti, and other nearby schools if required.
What do people say about the school?
Nitesh Gor, the Chair of Governors said, “In only our second year, we had five applicants for every two places. We combine the ethical values and moral discipline which accompany faith education with a willingness to engage with the world beyond and prepare our children to play a full part in British society.”
Elena Beltran-Clarke (parent) said, “Krishna-Avanti School offers to our child the rare opportunity to grow and develop at all levels: socially, emotionally, academically and especially spiritually.”
The Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP (Chairman, Home Affairs Committee and Chairman, Ethnic Minority Task Force) said, “The Labour government made a historic decision when it came to power in 1997 to open up the faith schools sector to people of all faiths. By doing so, it allowed for equality and equity regardless of one’s faith. Krishna Avanti represents the realisation of the aspirations of the Hindu community which has contributed so magnificently to the United Kingdom. It’s a proud day for both the Hindu community and also for the nation to see such superb facilities being made available within the ethos of Hindu values.”
The Conservative Party leader, David Cameron said, “I’m in favour of choice and discretion. I think that actually drives up quality and standards in our education system.
Faith schools often bring a culture and an ethos to a school that can help them improve. I’m a supporter politically and personally.”
So all three political parties in the UK have now come to a shared belief that allowing other faith communities to have their own schools is not only unavoidable, but positively a requirement for the betterment of educational provision in the country.
And what do I think?
As an ex-inspector of schools in the UK, and a Hindu advising a number of national organisations – I of course do have an insider view on the events that are unfolding. Whilst there existed several thousand Christian and Jewish faith schools in the UK, it was unacceptable to continue with the practice of not allowing other faiths the same right under the law. Therefore giving this right was the first step towards realising equality in practice.
Having a right is one thing, exercising that right for the betterment of society is of course a totally different challenge. Faith communities have a challenge on their hands to not only establish some of the best schools in the country, but to also ensure that any particular faith ideology does not highjack the core educational aims of a school. The Hindu community is of course blessed in that the core elements of Santhan Dharma are so universal that the emergent core values and ethos will no doubt attract people of all faiths.
The Hindu (Indian) community have shown that when it comes to educational excellence, we are second to none and in the vast majority of cases, our children will normally top most classes. However, education for the acquisition of paper certificates and bragging rights of how many degrees one has got is not in itself sufficient for a full and meaningful life. The formation of one’s character based on solid values is fundamental to how we as a society develop over the coming decades. The world has lost its moral and ethical compass – maybe the children of tomorrow having gone through an educational experience at one of the faith schools might be better placed to guide the planet to a better future.
For the time being, Krishna Avanti stands on the green fields of England. Proud of its tradition, cultural heritage and faith. Ready to meet the needs of the children and to contribute to the richness of our diverse society and towards helping to build good relations with all communities.