I would hate to think that my opinion on faith schools is ambiguous. I am vehemently against them. As a website, Pickled Politics has specifically opposed any link between the government and faith schools. We’ve also mentioned how Amartya Sen denounces them at length in one of his recent books.
So it is with considerable disappointment I catch up on the latest development in the progress of the UK’s first Hindu state school. Whilst touted quite some time back, nearly Â£10million of taxpayers’ money has now been put forward for the development of the Krishna-Avanti school in Harrow.
The venture is backed by ISKCON, known by many as the Hare-Krishna movement. However, it is the cryptically-named I-Foundation that is promoting the school. The hopeful date of completion is September 2008.
The school initially angered residents by selecting a prospective site they felt would cause a loss of green space, increase congestion and make parking difficult. However, the groundswell of support from Harrow’s large Hindu population seems to have overcome preliminary objections, although the site is yet to be confirmed.
Local residents remain unhappy with the plan, and have formed the William Ellis Action Group (named after the area earmarked for the school) to oppose the school’s building. The directors call this racism.
The primary school is estimated to cost Â£12m to build and a surprising 83% will be provided by the government, with onlyÂ£ 2m to be raised by private donations.
The school’s directors claim “Hinduism’s ethos will be woven into all aspects of school life” and that “the school day will begin with 30 minutes of Hindu worship before classes.” The school will teach vedic maths, which I love, but they wouldn’t be the first school in London to do that. St. James Schools have been teaching vedic maths for some years now.
Nitesh Gor is one of the school’s and the I-Foundation’s directors. He says that “every major Hindu organisation is backing this application” but one of his comments smacks of why I think this school is enjoying the support it’s receiving. He takes care to point out that Hinduism is the only major faith that does not have a state faith school. As someone who loosely associates their views on religion with Hinduism, I quite liked that fact.
I think Hindus were just feeling left out.
Many of you have heard of ISKCON and its unusual history, but what of the mysterious I-Foundation? It is, in fact, a group established by City hotshots like Mr Gor. Its website boasts its aims:
- Create flagship initiatives, grounded in Vedic philosophy and culture, in areas such as education, retail, media, performing arts and professional services.
- Build a strong network of like-minded individuals and partner organisations that can help establish a forum for exchanging ideas, best practice and support.
- Leverage networks and management expertise to create a vehicle for promoting on-mission and for-profit initiatives.
If you can understand that, go to the top of the class.
Gor’s deluded shoulder-chip is more apparent when he says “For the first time Hindu parents will have a choice.” Yes. They’ve NEVER had a choice before, damn that facist Christian government.
Spiritual adviser to the school will be Gauri Dasa, the current president of the Bhaktivedanta Manor, the UK’s largest ISKCON temple. He worked at an ashram school in India:
“Dasa established its first child protection scheme in 1992. He restricted and then abolished the use of corporal punishment. He also helped set up a Kidscape programme to encourage children to identify and protect themselves from abuse.” [Link]
However, a recent investigation’s first conclusion was:
“Gauri Dasa Prabhu used a stick to administer corporal punishment to 3 students.” [Link]
Just as Catholic schools are a separate entity from CofE schools, there will be no such thing as a ‘Hindu school’. The oft-misguided, but sometimes admirable Hindu Human Rights pressure group oppose ISKCON’s involvement with the school. Arjun Malik, spokesman for Hindu Human Rights, said:
â€œIf there is to be a Hindu school, it should be run by a mainstream group, not a sect. It gives the Hindu community a bad name.â€
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Filed in: Culture,Hindu,Organisations,Religion