National schools, to be worth the name in terms of Swaraj, for the attainment of which they were brought into existence, must be conducted with a view to advancing the national programme in so far as it was applicable to educational institutions. Thus, for instance, national schools must be the most potent means of propagating the message of the charkha, of bringing Hindus, Mussalmans and others closer together and of educating the 'untouchables' and abolishing the curse of untouchability from the schools. Judged by this standard the experiment must be pronounced, if not a failure, certainly a very dismal success. Out of 30,000 boys and girls hardly one thousand are spinning on 100 charkhas at the rate of ½ an hour per day. Hundreds of charkhas are lying idle and neglected. Whilst in theory the schools are open to the 'untouchables', very few as a matter of fact have 'untouchable' children in them. The Mussalman attendance at the schools is poor. I had therefore no hesitation in advising that now we were to strive not after quantity but quality. The test for admission must be progressively stiffer. Parents who did not like their children to learn spinning or to mix with 'untouchable' children might if they chose withdraw them. I had no hesitation in advising that teachers should run the risk of closing down their schools if the condition of running them required the exclusion of 'untouchables' and the charkha. It was not enough to tolerate 'untouchable' children if they stole in, but it was necessary to draw them into our school by loving care and attention. The teachers were not to wait for Mussalman and Parsi parents to send their children but it was necessary to invite such parents to send their children. A national teacher must become a Swaraj missionary within his own sphere. He should know the history of every child under his care and know the children not in his school. He should know their parents and understand why they did not send their children to his school. He would do all this work not in an intolerant spirit but lovingly. Thus and thus only would national schools be truly national in terms of the Congress resolution.
The difficulty of the task is unmistakable. This Government has made everything mercenary. Character is no test for anything. Mechanical ability to go through a superficial syllabus is the sole test. Every profession has been degraded to mean a career. We become lawyers, doctors and school-masters not to serve our countrymen but to bring us money. The Vidyapith* therefore had to recruit for teachers in such a soul-killing atmosphere. The majority of the teachers have had to rise superior to themselves and their surroundings. The wonder is that they have at all responded to the call of the country.
But now after nearly four years' experience, we must turn over a new leaf. We cannot afford to remain at a standstill and not sink. We must therefore insist upon the boys and girls plying the charkha for at least half an hour daily. It is an education of no mean sort for thirty thousand boys and girls and eight hundred teachers to be spinning i.e., labouring for the country for half an hour every day. It is a daily practical lesson in patriotism, useful toil and giving. That a boy should begin giving even during his education without expectation of return is an object-lesson in sacrifice he will not forget in after-life. And to the nation it means a gift of 1875 maunds of yarn per month. It will supply at least one dhoti each to 5,000 men. Apart from every other consideration let every teacher work out the value of the lesson learnt by each child in thinking that he or she with five others may be spinning in one month yarn enough for supplying one dhoti to each of his countrymen rendered naked during the recent floods in Madras.
Young India, 7-8-''24
I can only think of national education in terms of Swaraj. Hence I would have even the collegiate to devote their attention to perfecting themselves in the art of spinning and all it means, I would have them study the economics and implications of Khaddar. They should know how long it takes to establish a mill and the capital required. They should know too the limitations on the possibility of an indefinite expansion of mills. They should know too the method of distribution of wealth through mills and that through hand-spinning and hand-weaving. They should know how hand-spinning and the manufacture of Indian fabrics were destroyed. They should understand and be able to demonstrate the effect of the adoption of hand-spinning in the cottages of the millions of India's peasants. They should know how a full revival of this cottage industry will weave into an undivided whole the sundered Hindu and Mussalman hearts.
Young India, 11-12-24
Spinning and the Sciences
I do not mean to say that our educational institutions must become mere spinning and weaving institutes. I do regard spinning and weaving as the necessary part of any national system of education. I do not aim at taking the whole of the children's time for this purpose. Like a skilled physician I tend and concentrate my attention on the diseased limb knowing that that is the best way of looking after the others. I would develop in the child his hands, his brain and his soul. The hands have almost atrophied. The soul has been altogether ignored. I therefore put in a plea in season and out of season for correcting these grave defects in our education. Is half an hour's spinning every day by our children too great a strain upon them ? Will it result in mental paralysis ?
I value education in the different sciences. Our children cannot have too much of chemistry and physics. And if these have not been attended to in the institution in which I am directly supposed to be interested it is because we have not the professors for the purpose and also because practical training in these sciences requires very expensive laboratories for which in the present state of uncertainty and infancy we are not ready.
Young India, 12-3-''25
Spinning in Schools
If spinning is to be revived as an indispensable industry, it must be treated seriously and must be taught in a proper and scientific manner like the other subjects taught in well-managed schools. The wheels will then be in perfectly good order and condition, will conform to all the tests laid down in these columns from time to time, the pupils' work would be regularly tested from day to day just as all their exercises would be or should be.
Whilst charkha spinning may be taught so as to enable boys and girls, if they wish, to use the spinning wheel in their own homes, for class-spinning the takli is the most economical and the most profitable instrument.
Young India, 15-10-''25
National vs. Government Education
One of our students has gone to jail in Bardoli and many more will go. They are the pride of the Vidyapith. Much as they may desire to do likewise, can students of Government institutions dare to do so ? It is not open to them to go to Bardoli and help Vallabhbhai, as it is to you. They can only give secret sympathy. What is literary training worth if it cramp and confine us at a critical moment in national life ? Knowledge and literary training are no recompense for emasculation.
Again there is a world of difference between our method of teaching and theirs. For instance, we may not teach English in the way they do. We may give a working knowledge of that language, but we may not without committing national suicide neglect the mother tongue, and make English the vehicle of our thought. In this national institution we strive to correct the pernicious practice We must learn all our subjects through the Gujarati language. We must enrich it and make it capable of expression all shades of thought and feeling.
Then take the teaching of economics. The present system obtaining in Government institutions is vicious. Each country has its own economics. German text-books are different from the English. Free trade may be England's salvation. It spells our ruin. We have yet to formulate a system of Indian economics.
The same about history. A Frenchman writing a history of India will write it in his own way. The Englishman will write it quite differently. The descriptions of battles between the English and the French will differ with the writers who have described them. Indian history written from original sources by an Indian patriot will be different from that written by an English bureaucrat though each may be quite honest. We have grievously erred in accepting English estimates of events in our national life. Here, therefore, there is a vast field for you and your teachers for original research.
Even our teaching of a subject like arithmetic will also be different. Our teacher of arithmetic frames his examples from Indian conditions. He will thus simultaneously with the teaching of arithmetic teach Indian geography.
Then we are putting a special emphasis on manual and industrial training. Do not make the mistake of imagining that this training will dull your wit. It is not by making our brains a storehouse for cramming facts that our understanding is opened. An intelligent approach to an industrial training is often a more valuable aid to the intellect than an indifferent reading of literature.
Young India, 21-6-28