Sathya Sai System of Education in
KANU, welcome to the studios of Radio Sai Global Harmony. You
are of course a very familiar figure to all of us here at
Prasanthi Nilayam but many people might not have seen you and
even if they have seen you they might not know much about you.
So, may be I can request you to say a few words by way of
Thank you very
much for inviting me to this recording. My present name is
Victor-Krishna Kanu. Krishna was added after God had, in a
dream, called me “Victor-Krishna.” I am 75 years old and was
educated through primary and secondary schools and teacher
training systems of Sierra Leone. I subsequently was admitted at
Oxford University where I studied philosophy, politics and
economics. I later became my country’s High Commissioner
(Ambassador) to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern
Ireland with further accreditations to Norway and Sweden. That
was a political appointment which was later to be blown away by
the political typhoons that characterised African politics in
the 1970s in particular. Almost immediately after this
experience, I came in contact with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba
in a miraculous way in late 1975.
You said that you
came in contact with Bhagavan Baba in a miraculous way. Would
you mind telling us exactly how it happened?
The life of a High
Commissioner in London was a life of sophistication, of living
and moving with and around high society – dining at Buckingham
Palace and the House of Lords, etc. Indulgence in quality and
excessive alcohol drinking, smoking the best cigarettes and
cigars and dancing to the tunes of some of the best bands in
London was the order of the day. Surprisingly, this expensive
lifestyle did not vanish with the cessation of my High
Commissionership. Old habits die hard. And so one day, in late
1975, I visited the pub. For a while I was fully aware of myself
and the happenings in the pub. Later, I lost my awareness only
to find myself in bed, at home, in my full winter dress – boots
and all that. I then realised that I was deadly drunk the
previous night. It was in that drunken stupor that I dreamt two
angels had come to take me. We floated (I between them) in and
through the deep blue sky to an unknown destination where I
found my ancestors and thousands of people engaged in spiritual
activities. Five years later, I came to know the name and
recognised the destination as Prasanthi Nilayam when I made my
first visit to Sathya Sai Baba’s Ashram (Prasanthi Nilayam) in
July 1980. Immediately after this dream, my lifestyle changed
dramatically much to the displeasure of my cohorts. The bad
things I used to do, I did them no more. I could not explain the
Would it be right
to say that that was a turning point and you started becoming
spiritual after that?
That is correct
because there was a time in my life when I was riding so high
both in my country and in London that I stopped to care or even
talk about God. The Bible and church-going which I practised in
my youth were forsaken. I was deluded into believing that only
the world and its tantalising pleasures mattered, until Baba
sent His angels to fish me out of the mud and bring me to
Prasanthi Nilayam and be cleansed. Yes, indeed, I became a
spiritual seeker once again – reading the Bible, going to church
and becoming President of the Spiritualists Association of Great
Britain (SAGB) and as well as a member of Sri Sathya Sai
Organisation in the United Kingdom.
This going to
church interests me. You say, you were attracted to Baba but you
went to church! You did not see any contradiction in that?
Not at all. As a
matter of fact, the more I read about Baba’s teachings, studied
and observed His lifestyle at close quarters, the more my faith
in Jesus Christ (faith that was once lost) was strengthened. I
saw no conflict of interests. I only saw and continue to see
Baba and Jesus as manifestations of the Divine. Both are the
That is very
interesting because we have often heard people belonging to
other faiths say, Swami telling them be a good Christian, be a
good Muslim, be a good Jew, so on and so forth. He does not want
people to change their religion and religious affiliations.
That is so. Baba
is the only one in the whole world who has told spiritual
seekers belonging to various spiritual/religious traditions to
remain where they are, become good practitioners of their faith,
love and respect other faiths because all are simply different
pathways to the same God. What a wonderful teaching! Baba is
truly a unifier of humanity; torch-bearer of love and peace to
one and all.
That is very
interesting. Now you were in London and you went back to Africa.
But you did not go to your own country. Instead you went to
Zambia and founded a school there. This is a very remarkable
change in your life, your mission and your work. Would you like
to tell us something about that? How it happened in particular?
As the saying
goes, “Half a loaf of bread is better than no loaf at all.”
Better to join the then Inner London Education Authority (ILEA)
than be a beggar in the streets of London. In any event, both
Genoveva and I were in the field of education before the glamour
and promises of the world sucked us into the volcanic eruptions
of African politics. Now with the revival of our interests in
spirituality and education combined, we were happy to attend the
First Overseas Conference for Bal Vikas Teachers in 1983 at
Prasanthi Nilayam, where we were exposed for the first time to
the Education in Human Values (EHV) Programme.
have been very different at that time?
The difference is
only in the physical appearance of the area. The Divine Presence
of Swami remains the same, so are the feelings of satisfaction
and spiritual upliftment when one is there.
How did you happen
to choose Zambia?
Well, actually it
was Swami Himself. We had visited Zambia very briefly to conduct
an EHV workshop. That was all. We knew no one there except three
or four devotees. But when we came to Baba in 1987, He said to
us, “Go to Zambia and spread My message of love through
education. Build a school and help the people.” And, do you know
why He chose Zambia for us? It was for a very good reason
because Zambia happens to be, in my judgement, a very stable
country. The people are very mature spiritually.
It must have been
very difficult for you to start a school in a country you were
not familiar with. And you must have been short of resources –
physical, financial, and manpower resources. Tell us something
about how you braved it all.
I very well still
remember what happened in the interview room when Baba told us
to go and set up this school. My wife was brave, I was not. She
turned towards Baba and said, “Baba, what about funding?” Swami
said, “Sell your house. If funds are not enough, borrow from
banks.” Well, we were delighted when He told us to sell our
house. Being brought up as Christians, we remembered the story
in the Bible when a rich man went to Jesus and said, “Oh Lord,
what can I do to come near God?” Jesus said, “Sell all that you
have and give to the poor and follow me.” The man ran away when
he heard these words. We were overjoyed.
This was the
Father speaking to you.
Yes, this was the
Father. We were so thrilled that Sathya Sai Baba whom we believe
to be God Incarnate and the Father who sent Jesus had directed
us to go to Zambia. It was not that He could not have given us
funds, but that was a test. We knew that straightaway and we did
exactly as He wanted us to do. We also remembered the stories of
Hanuman, and other great disciples how they went to distant
lands because the Lord was with them. So, that was enough for
us. We knew Baba would be with us throughout. When Baba said,
“Go to Zambia,” He did not say, there would be no difficulties.
Difficulties are part of life.
It is my
experience that when you do God’s work, you face more
difficulties, more tests. We enjoyed every bit of them, we knew
that Lord Baba was testing us.
Your school has
been invariably described as a miracle school. Now tell us
something about why it is called a miracle school.
The school is
located in a socially and economically disadvantaged area. Many
boys had failed the national primary Grade 7 examination (a
precondition for entrance into secondary schools). They failed
because they were truants, poor attenders and difficult to
teach. They were rejects. These were the same boys the Sathya
Sai Secondary School in Ndola admitted. After two years and upon
taking the National Grade 9 examination, not only were they
among those who obtained the highest marks in the country, they
all passed (100%). This success rate has been repeated at Grade
12 later for the past 10 years. They are at various institutions
of higher learning in the country. This is the “Miracle” – the
That was in which
year? I suppose, it was all part of the Divine plan.
That was in 1994.
This was marvellous; the nation was stunned. How come a school
which was located in a village among poor children do so well!
This had never happened in the educational history of Zambia. It
was all part of the Divine plan. It could not have happened
without Swami’s intervention.
I presume there is
no fee. Do you get any subsidy from the government?
No fee at all. We
only ask a little for commitment purposes, but no tuition fee.
There is no subsidy from the government. Swami is the provider
of everything. So, the results were astonishing. The character
of the children improved and they became good boys in a short
period of time.
Did these students
make any impact at home on their families?
Yes. There was a
lot of impact on their families. I can give you two instances. A
boy persistently told his father to take him to Sathya Sai
School very early in the morning, because he did not want to be
late. After dropping him at school, the father would report for
work and was the first to do so. Within six months, the father
got promotion because of his punctuality and regularity at work.
Also, a Managing Director who was the last to go to work began
dropping his child very early in the morning at Sathya Sai
School (at the insistence of the child), and he also became the
first person to open his office; his late coming was reduced and
so was that of his employees. There are many testimonies of this
nature from parents as well as from children. The boys who never
used to study, began to tell others at home to study and not to
I think, Ndola is
not a big town. How much is the population?
It is relatively
big enough. Population is about 250,000 people. We had a choice
between building the school in the heart of the city or in the
poorer area. So, I sent Genoveva to Baba. I said, “Please ask
Him where we should put the school.” He said, “Go to the poor
area, train them.”
And apart from
classroom instructions, you also have social services and things
Yes. We are very
much involved in community work – helping the old and orphans.
That is very good
because you must pay back to your society. I want you to tell us
something about what you are doing for proper utilisation of
water resources in Africa. I have heard that you spoke about
this last year in Sai Kulwant Hall and this was something
totally new and breathtaking. I am sure everyone will be
interested in hearing you.
Well, this is a
United Nation’s (UN-HABITAT) Project - Water Education for
African Cities Programme. There are many reasons why there is
need for water education. Firstly, the population of Africa a
century ago was 150 million. Now it is 875 million. According to
projections, there would be one and a half billion people in the
next 20 to 25 years, using the same water resources, the same
rivers, the same lakes. Also, extravagant use of water, illegal
connections, pollution, vandalism of water infrastructures,
etc., are common practices. Pollution is rampant and at a very
high level. In addition, there are conflicts between countries
sharing the same rivers; for example, Egypt and Ethiopia. There
are water riots and, as you know, there have been water wars in
history. There can be water wars also in Africa. History is
replete with such wars. In fact, water would become a major
issue for peace and stability in the continent.
How did you and
the U.N. come together on this? That will be very interesting to
Well, the U.N. and
national governments have tried many methods (mainly
technological and regulatory) for the supply and uses of water.
But in spite of these measures, the desired result has not been
realised and it is unlikely this will happen. So, the U.N. found
that by bringing in human values into the water education
component will be of great assistance in water
How did they make
They made this
discovery when they heard about the African Institute of Sathya
Sai Education in Ndola. It is the first institute of its kind in
Africa that specialises in human values education.
That is the
offshoot of your earlier school?
That is right. The
UN-HABITAT invited an Expert Group of educationists, curriculum
developers, water utilities experts and environmentalists from
Africa to a meeting in Johannesburg in April 2001. There were
many people who presented papers at the meeting organised by the
UN- HABITAT. I also presented one, “Water Education – A Human
Values Approach.” The participants liked it so much that they
unanimously adopted it as a possible solution, something that
would complement the existing methods. This could only have been
possible by Swami’s grace. After that I was asked to present a
similar paper to a parallel special session of the U.N. General
Assembly in New York on 6th June 2001. This paper was also well
received and it was put in the U.N. records. Then I was asked to
chair a sub-regional meeting of African countries in Ndola and
another in West Africa including some French speaking African
countries. After these I was given a consultancy for integrating
human values in Water Education in the curriculum of schools in
Africa starting with six countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia,
Ghana, Senegal and Ivory Coast. TAISSE (The African Institute of
Sathya Sai Education) examined the syllabuses of all these
countries with a view to preparing a Pedagogic Guide, Lesson
Plans and supplementary materials as a prelude to the
integration of human values in Water Education. TAISSE carried
out the work successfully.
Even for an
average citizen it would be a good thing.
Yes, in fact it
goes beyond the school, the formal sector. We are also
interested in the non-formal sector because they are water
users. We try to re-vitalise the values in traditional African
culture and then harmonise them with the needs and requirements
of modern water users.
Is this received
well by the public and the government?
Yes. This is very
well received and that is why the United Nations (HABITAT) is so
much interested in the Human Values Approach. People really want
to go back to their roots. This makes the work easier since they
can relate this programme to their traditional values. “Human
Values are in every culture”, says Baba.
So, what is going
to happen next in this wonderful programme that has just got
Well, first we
have to examine the syllabi as we have said earlier, extract all
water related topics from pre-school, primary and secondary in
all disciplines and then submit our findings, suggestions to the
United Nations which will then be submitted to the respective
Curriculum Development Centres in the African countries. This is
the first phase of the programme. Phase 2 is being planned.
And when it is
submitted, will it be made mandatory in all schools?
Yes, mandatory by
the government itself because the government will see the wisdom
of adopting such an approach. The beauty of it is that bringing
in human values into the school curriculum really does not
involve any extra time. It does not overburden the curriculum
and is very easy to understand and implement.
I am not
surprised, you just have to remind the people of their culture.
That is all. It
does not require elaborate materials at all. People usually
worry about extra work. “What is water education? How much is it
going to burden the already overburdened syllabus? And how much
is it going to cost?” We tell them that there is no extra burden
and no extra cost – only extra benefit. This is the truth.
Courtesy: Radio Sai Global Harmony