Mahatma Gandhi comes to UN, an avatar provoking, prodding, inspiring ideas of true education

by IANS |

United Nations, Oct 1 (IANS) Mahatma Gandhi "came" to the UN Trusteeship Council chamber with the message of holistic education.

He came on Friday as a holographic avatar, to animate a discussion on "Education for Human Flourishing" at the UN's observance of the International Day of Nonviolence.

And while he spoke of education creating new people and a world of peace, at the nearby Security Council chamber mighty nations were clashing over an intractable war and its violence.

India's UN Mission and UNESCO's Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) brought him to the UN for the observance of the International Day of Nonviolence, and who better to learn nonviolence and the education for the creative change it inspires.

A lifesize, speaking, gesticulating presence on the stage, the avatar provoked, prodded and challenged a panel made up of an activist, a diplomat, a youth and an economist to delve into the meaning of education for humanity.

The avatar was created with digital graphic files merged with motion graphics to produce the high-definition hologram that spoke authentic, researched statements made by the Mahatma himself in the context of the topic.

The Mahatma Gandhi Digital Museum made the hologram to spread his message creatively, said Anantha Duraiappah, the director UNESCO's Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP), who moderated the panel discussion.

The Gandhi avatar, bringing his words with vocal clarity, said that "education is merely an instrument, and an instrument may be well used or abused. The same instrument that may be used to cure a patient may be used to take his life".

"We want to provide only such education as would enable the student to earn more. We hardly give any thought to the improvement of the character of the educated. Schools and colleges and really a factory of turning out clerks for the government," Gandhi's words reverberated.

"On the contrary, real education consists in drawing the best out of yourself. What better book can there be than the book of humanity?"

The Gandhi avatar also questioned the value of even literacy if it is without values.

"Literacy is not the end of education or even the beginning," the avatar repeated his words.

For him, education meant "an all-round growing" bringing out the best in the child's "body, mind and spirit", spiritual training and "education of the heart, the training of the Spirit".

India's Permanent Representative Ruchira Kamboj, who was a panellist, summed it up saying that Gandhi "was very big on holistic education" and "education for the upliftment and dignity of all".

The New Education Policy introduced in India reflects this approach with an emphasis on "holistic development across the sciences, social sciences, arts, humanities and sports" blending "the systems and traditions that have been a part of the rich legacy of India", she said.

The policy "lays special emphasis on the socially and economically disadvantaged groups" and facilitates "multiple pathways to learning involving both formal and non-formal education modes" with a lot of emphasis on digital education platforms", she said.

Bernice King, the daughter of Gandhi-inspired civil rights icon Martin Luther King, said that for her father the "chief aim of education was to save people from the morass of propaganda".

He said that education's "function, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and critically, but if it stops with efficiency, it may prove the greatest menace to society".

"We must remember that intelligence is not enough Intelligence plus character is the true goal of education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate," she quoted him.

Bernice King said that the current education system is "doing a disservice to our young people and to our society, because we're not developing people, enough people who have the level of compassion and courage and conscientiousness to create a just, humane, equitable and peaceful world".

But changing the education system is going to take "some radical action" when a "critical mass of people decide, let's organise, mobilise and strategise and begin to make demands".

She said in the footsteps of Gandhi and King, the people would have to resort to nonviolent resistance and noncooperation to bring about the change.

Princess Hayu, the daughter of Sultan Hamengkubuwono X of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and youth representative on digital education transformation, said that "each culture has its own local wisdom" even though the underlying values are universal.

"That cannot be forgotten, so that has to be continually taught as well because otherwise we are just going to blend in and by becoming just one identity we lose our identity," she said.

Omar Hilale, the Permanent Representative of Morocco said, Gandhi inspired the "constitutional building of our nations and of the United Nations" because "his notion is that peace can be achieved in a very unique manner, nonviolently and with extreme courage, and sacrifice and tolerance".

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