for ISKCON News on July 23, 2011
The newly established Bhakti School in Franco da Rocha, near Sao Paulo, Brazil, has just finished its first semester. It is a government approved day school for children from 5 to 15 of age. It has 55 students.
The project originally was inspired by the teachings of Bhakti Tirtha
Swami, and developed by the efforts of many Vaishnavas from the Franco da Rocha ISKCON Temple.
For many years, Sri Krishna Das and Krishna Bhava Dasi had led a congregational program in the city, and after ten years, with the help of Prana Natha Das and other brahmacari monks, they opened a temple.
Since the very beginning, the temple has been attracting a lot of children from the area; some of them from the middle class, but many of them from underprivileged families. The devotees in the temple felt inspired to organize programs for them. By now, some of the first children attending these programs have become initiated devotees and some even leaders in ISKCON, just like Caitanya Daya Das and Katyayani Dasi, who are managing the two Colleges of ISKCON Brazil.
Gradually, the need to turn these children`s programs into a structured form of education has manifested. Having an education degree, and having studied the gurukula system in India, Prana Natha Das was a natural choice of the local authorities to get entrusted to establish a school. He and a group of teachers got finished with the curriculum and all the planning by the end of 2009, and shortly after, the school building was constructed near the temple.
Sri Krishna Das temple president remembers, "It was a miracle to have the school constructed, as we had no money and no time. However, by the efforts of our sankirtan group of around ten young boys and ladies, and the blessings of the Lord, somehow the school got finished, and got the government`s approval exactly on Sri Nityananda`s appearance day."
Many families were eager to send their children to study in the school.
The curriculum is based on Vedic principles applied for the modern age. The children learn four languages (Portuguese, English, Spanish and Sanskrit), they have daily Mantra and Mahabharata classes, yoga, swimming, and they are also responsible for assisting in the maintenance of the school, cleaning, cooking, or organizing. These activities help them to develop a strong sense of community and a high level of moral responsibility.
The students` families are not ISKCON devotees but seeing their children develop and change for the better, they highly appreciate the school. As one the mothers put it: “every night I pray to God that my children became Hare Krishna devotees.”
Prana Natha Das points out that some of the Bhakti School students have a very difficult background. Some were in jail, some used drugs, have his parents in jail, or suffering for not having food to eat. “However, he says, after just six months in the school, even people from the neighborhood noticed how this children have changed."
The school has been supported by the temple`s sankirtan group (70%), and by individual donations (30%). Unfortunately, the Brazilian government does not provide any funding.
The school welcomes any donation or teacher volunteer. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org