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Article from the Times of Zambia
by Dennison Chisuka
Sathya Sai school: A decade of quality education

From The Times of Zambia, 2005

THE positive influence of Sathya Sai is unprecedented in the annals of education in Zambia. Sai Baba’s education ideals as embodied in his human values-based approach in education are an eye opener to educationists in Zambia.

The impact and success story of Sathya Sai Baba’s innovative ideas in education are being told in what follows:

John Muma, 15, comes from a poor family in Kawama township in Ndola. The boy who is an orphan was orphaned when his parents died in short succession in 1992. Suddenly his life became a nightmare, worst still his burning desire to become a lawyer was threatened when it became clear that no one could pay his school fees.

His life became miserable and could only be likened to Oliver Twists, the character in Charles Dickens; classic of the same life.

Just when the boy was about to give up his education, his prayers were answered when Sathya Sai boys school was opened in 1992 in Pamodzi, a walking distance from his home.

John who finished his higher education at the University of Zambia in 1999, is now a successful lawyer in Lusaka.

The story of John represents hundreds of youths who are in the same predicament in a developing country like Zambia which is passing through harsh economic problems.

Since 1992, the school has established itself by offering quality education whose high standards can only be compared to good international education institutions like Eton, Makerere, Harvard, Cambridge and Oxford.

When grade nine school results were announced in 1994, there was the usual grumbling in most schools and families. However, the situation was different at Sathya Sai school where there was dancing, ululation and hugging among parents and pupils. Why? The school scored a 92 per cent success in examinations! Out of 47 boys who entered the examinations, 43 gained full certificates, three with statement of results with only one failing.

Twenty-seven pupils passed in eight subjects, 11 in seven and five in six.

The private school then had grade one, two, three and four the following year. It later added grades eight, nine, and 10. What surprised educationists, parents and several Ndola residents was that the pupils who passed with flying colours were considered failures most of them if not all dropouts from economically disadvantaged families.

The school obtained 20 distinctions in some subjects, 93 credits, 119 passes and 99 ordinary passes with one fail. In English, 94 per cent passed, 75 per cent in Mathematics, 94 per cent in Science, 89 per cent in Geography, 97 per cent in Book Keeping, 92 per cent in Civics and 85 per cent in social and moral education.

The pupils excelled most in social and moral education and this led to the superb results.

The school’s secret is teaching human values which many educational institutions locally and abroad disregard.

From its inception, Sathya Sai boasts of a blend of professional and experienced local and overseas teachers who are either university graduates or diploma holders.

In matters of discipline, the school is unrivaled in the Southern African region, vandalism which characterises other schools is unheard of with the school keeping all structures intact.

The MMD presidential candidate in this year’s elections, Levy Mwanawasa expressed surprise when he visited the school in 1994 when he was Vice-President of the ruling party.

The veep used several superlatives from the Advanced Oxford dictionary; superb, astounding, unbelievable, excellent to describe the results and behaviour of the pupils of Sathya Sai.

Parents and the Ndola community were surprised that the school did not charge high tuition fees apart from the affordable auxiliary payments towards running costs. It is this humanitarian aspect that has made the school to give an educational opportunity to pupils from all backgrounds irrespective of income class, as is the case in most schools in Zambia.

Most of the so called prestigious schools in Zambia that offer French are closed to pupils from low income bracket which is not the case at Sathya Sai where pupils in their elementary grades can communicate in the international language fluently.

As early as 1992, when the school was opened, the principles of human values which have become the trademark of Sathya Sai were emphasised.

The director of the Sathya Sai Institute, Dr Victor Kanu speaking as early as 1992, enumerated the many benefits of an educational programme based on the principle of Sai Baba, an internationally acclaimed Indian spiritual leader in the same mould with the Dalai Lama and the Pope.

Dr Kanu explained that the end of education is character and not an educational document like a certificate or degree. The school emphasises the four Ds. Discipline, Duty, Dedication and Devotion.

Apart from intellectual learning, practical skills are also encouraged at the school. The school has acquired land for practical agricultural science.

Critics of the 1994 grade nine results who thought the astounding results would be short lived were proved wrong when the school again recorded 100 per cent pass rate in 1995 grade 9 results.

The principal of the school Genevieve Kanu said unlike in 1994, the 1995 grade nine results recorded no failures. The results were breathtaking: Five pupils had distinction in English, 2 in mathematics, 8 in environmental science, 13 in geography, 80 in Book Keeping, 14 in civics, one in religious education and three in history. In short, the school scored 54 distinctions.

Out of the 30 pupils, 20 entered for eight subjects, nine entered for seven while only one entered for six. All the pupils passed in English, 26 in Mathematics, 30 in Environmental Sciences, all registered passes in Geography and Book Keeping. Twenty four in Religious Education while 29 passed in History.

The school also registered 88 credits and 87 passes apart from 54 distinctions. The superb results came from Philemon Zyambo who had seven distinctions in English, Geography, Civics, History, Environmental Science and Book Keeping.

Parents Teachers Association (PTA) chairman Abraham Chanda said the results had cheered the parents. Parents with children in other schools including some elite schools started de-registering their children from their schools to take them to the miracle school.

In 1996, the same feat of producing excellent results was repeated and the situation has been the same ever since. The Times of Zambia has carried several stories about Sathya Sai hailing it as the best school in Zambia and no school comes closer to its enviable status.

In 1996, 22 boys out of 25 were selected to grade 10. The percentage of 100 per cent pass in 1997 was maintained. The school recorded 63 distinctions in all subjects.

Dr Kanu was quoted in the Times as saying that the school ensured that Christian principles were instilled in pupils repeatedly by upholding human values as taught by Sai Baba. These values are truth, love, righteousness, peace and non-violence which were backed by well-tested methodology used to equip pupils spiritually.

Dr Kanu said he found it surprising that many schools taught religious education as an independent subject instead of incorporating it in all other subjects through human values.

The paper also quoted what some Ndola parents said about the miracle school. One parent Matthew Kaoma had this to say this about the institution:

“I would like to convey my sincere thanks to the entire management of Sathya Sai for the wonderful job of transforming my child into what he is compared to his previous conduct before he joined the school. The responsibility, cleanliness and hard work, which are essential to every pupil.”

All parents who have children at the school are full of praise for the school management and teachers. Manard Simumba thanked Sathya Sai Baba, the founder of the school for allowing the school to be built. The motto of the school, “Love all, Serve all” is greatly upheld. It is reflected in the colours of the badges on the snow- white uniforms that pupils wear at the school which has great significance.

The colours black, white and yellow represent the peoples of the world while gold represents the land. Blue symbolises dignity of every person.

And true to the colours, the school is a multi-racial institution which admits all races. All are united by love, righteousness, non violence and peace.

The Kanus advises pupils that no one is a failure in life regardless of their background. This advice creates self-confidence in pupils to work extra hard and excel.

The good results have attracted a lot of attention from educationists. The Ministry of Education, for example, has from time to time invited the Kanus to several education workshops to give talks on human values in education.

Last year the Copperbelt provincial education officer, John Luo commended the school for scoring 100 per cent results for the past seven years in all examination classes.

Just as people expected, Sathya Sai produced the same results at grade 12 level in 1996 maintaining the traditional 100 per cent enviable mark. The school repeated the same feat at both grade 12 and nine in 1998 and 1999. In 1996 all grade 12 pupils obtained first division and acquired places at the University of Zambia.

The school has now received global attention as was manifested at a workshop on value orientation education held at the school in 1999.

The workshop attracted participants from South Africa, Botswana, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroun, Ivory Coast and Gabon.

Said one resource person: “The problem with most schools in the world is that they teach pupils mechanically without targeting their morals and personality to ensure the lessons become part of the person’s behaviour.”

He said human values which were found in all religions should be inculcated in pupils at a tender age as they have a lasting effect.

He cited an example where a teacher asks children how many heads of cattle would remain from 10 heads if seven were stolen.

He said such an example was negative as it introduced the element of theft as one means of acquiring wealth. He said a positive example would be to ask pupils how many heads of cattle will remain if a person with 10 heads gave away two to his friend.

The second example introduces the element of sharing wealth.

The same approach, the research person emphasised, should be used in all subjects repeatedly to inculcate positive human values in pupils.

A South African Jayshree Siwatz from Sathya Sai School International, New Castle South Africa proposed that the human values approach to education should be introduced in all schools. Stella Joana Ebo, a senior Mass Communication lecturer from Enugu State University in Nigeria called Sathya Sai a miracle school because of its emphasis on the spiritual aspect of human values.

The other academic motto of the school to uphold the human values is “do not teach a subject, teach the person” has undoubtedly borne fruit to put the school on the educational international map.

Sathya Sai schools internationally have received global recognition for excellence in that the schools go beyond mere teaching of academic subjects to instill human values in pupils.

Last year, the school attended an international educational conference on strengthening values, innovative approaches to teacher education for peace and international understanding.

The conference held in Putarpatti, India the home of Sai Baba invited two Zambian academics from University of Zambia Dr Peter Chomba Manchishi and Dr Charles Mwendabai.

The international conference brainstormed on human value education for all educational institutions. Dr Kanu was among several internationally acclaimed educationists who gave talks on their experience as an implementer of human value education himself.

Recently, inspectors from Cambridge University visited the school with a view of confirming it as a Cambridge regional centre.

Since establishing the institution in 1992, the Kanus have changed the course of education in Zambia and Southern Africa whose record is unbeaten.

(The author is the Ndola district administrator)