so long ago, people in most parts of the world took water
for granted. That is no longer possible for two important
reasons. The first is the rapid increase in global population
and the second is the sharp reduction in the available fresh
water resource, thanks to extensive pollution, mismanagement
and wastage. As a result, in many places, matters have already
reached crisis proportions. Thus it is that in Bangladesh,
a country that is supposed to have a lot of water, people
have to depend for drinking, upon ground water that is heavily
contaminated with arsenic. The time has come for mankind to
deal with water and indeed with all aspects related to Creation
not merely from a purely scientific point of view but from
a higher and nobler perspective. As Baba often reminds, man
is himself a product of the five elements that surround him.
Hence, as great ones realised, like the Buddha for example,
external pollution of the five elements starts with the pollution
of the five elements within. In other words, the starting
point for the cure must be a return to basic human values.
Recognising the importance of this approach, the Sai School
in Zambia has launched, with support from UN HABITAT, a very
successful programme to impart water education through human
values. Impressed with the success of this pilot programme,
efforts are now under way to expand the scope of this programme
to the entire world [especially the Third World], through
the UN Millennium Task Force on Water and Sanitation. Way
back, a small seed was planted in Puttaparthi. Today, the
branches of the tree that grew out of that tiny seed have
spread to all corners of the globe!
Baba's five Human Values have now been accepted
by the UN-HABITAT programme on Water Education, as the above
Logo shows. On the left may be seen pictures of two books
published under this programme.
OF ZAMBIA, JANUARY 20, 2003
The Human Values approach to water education in Africa lays
great emphasis on the values rooted in African culture, and
trainees are encouraged to bring out their cultural values.
The Human Values approach emphasises Five universal core
values as their basis. These are: Truth, Love, Right Conduct,
Peace and Non-violence, which have numerous practical modes
Some time ago, Dr. Victor Kanu of Zambia,
well known for his pioneering work on Sai Education in Africa,
recorded an interview with Radio Sai. What follows is a digest
of the remarks he made then, concerning what he calls Water
Education in Africa. Basically, it is a programme to sensitise
school children to the importance of water for the survival
of humanity, via a special approach based on the five human
values that Swami talks about so often. In a later issue,
we expect to reproduce the entire transcript of that interview.
The United Nation's Centre for Human Settlement known briefly
as UN-HABITAT, has initiated across many countries of Africa,
a programme called 'Water Education'. Why such a programme
on 'Water Education'? There are many reasons for this. Firstly,
one century ago the population of Africa was only about 150
million whereas today it is 875 million. According to an estimate,
in about 20 or 25 years, this figure would swell to 1.5 billion
people. And all these 1.5 billion people in the African continent
would be using the SAME water resources, the same rivers and
the same lakes, as did people one hundred years ago. That
should give an idea of the water problem that Africa faces.
Not only that; the water today is more polluted than ever
reveals that countries sharing the same river basins and same
lakes are often at loggerheads; there are also conflicts.
There have been water riots, and there also have been water
wars in history. There could well be such wars in Africa also
in the future, and water usage is threatening to become a
major issue for peace and stability in the Continent.
In the view of the crisis that is looming large on the horizon,
it is necessary to have a change of attitude, especially with
regard to natural resources endowed to us by God. Attitudinal
change in this context essentially means a change of Heart.
In turn, this change of Heart must lead to a proper management
of available water resources, based on traditional human values,
which includes revering and caring for Nature's gifts. Attitudinal
change must lead to solidarity, cooperation and tolerance,
in the midst of scarcity. It is by practising such values
that the people of Africa would be able to face water shortage
in the future, without fighting and without conflict. This
is the essence of the water education project.
Prior to adopting this novel approach, the
UN tried many methods, mainly technological. The UN concentrated
on improving the supply of water; the UN experts are good
at that sort of thing. But this did not remove the water problem
because though the supply got better, a lot of water was also
getting wasted. There was a lot of indiscipline and inefficiency.
There is, for example, illegal connections and tampering with
meters. Then there are the rich who use much more water than
they used to before. For instance, following increased supply,
in Johannesburg, a rich family would use about 200 litres
of water a day for washing cars and watering the garden, whereas
in a neighbouring slum, an entire family would get hardly
20 litres of water a day. This kind of problem is especially
acute in urban areas, where people have lost their traditional
values. The United Nations has finally realised that blending
human values with water education would help enormously.
It all started with an expert group meeting in April 2001
in Johannesburg, to which many experts from all over Africa
were invited. Many papers were presented, and among them was
mine whose theme was Water Education
- A Human Values Approach. They liked this so much
that they unanimously adopted it as a possible solution that
would complement existing methods employed by the UN. After
that I was asked to present a similar paper to the special
session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York
on the 6th of June, which I did. This paper too was well received.
I was then asked to chair a sub-regional meeting of African
countries in Ndola, Zambia, and another one in West Africa.
After that, I was appointed by UN-HABITAT as a consultant,
for integrating human values in water education in the curriculum
of schools of Africa, starting with 6 countries - Ethiopia,
Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, Senegal and Ivory Coast.
My task was to revamp the existing syllabi and blend them
with water education based on Swami's human values. This is
being done all the way from pre-school to primary and secondary
The human values approach is really about transformation
whereas the subject content is about information. So we are
going to blend information and transformation to bring about
the desired attitudinal changes in the young, who would become
the future utility managers and future leaders. This, in brief,
is the programme.
Human values are integrated into the programme by starting
first with the existing syllabus and then blending it values.
Let us take photo synthesis or how plants transport water.
Now the function of the roots is to hold the plant firm and
to give it a solid base while it searches for water. The roots
will go to great lengths in search of water. If the root comes
across a boulder it does not give up; it goes round it - that
is endurance, a sense of duty and persistence. While teaching
children about the function of roots, these values must be
brought out at the same time - persistence, endurance strong
sense of duty, cooperation etc. We also bring in traditional
values. According to our ancients, spirits were supposed to
live in water. Africans believe in the existence of God and
the deities. God pervades the entire Universe and that same
God is also in water. This is ancient African culture. But
that has been forgotten as a result of colonial rule. Baba
says education without culture is like a kite without a rope.
It is like a dark room that is infested with bats. So what
we are trying to do is to harmonise and bring out the positive
values in our cultures and traditions in Africa and harmonise
those values with the present trends in our school system.
This is very well received and that is why the UN HABITAT
is so much interested in this. People really want to go back
to their roots, which makes our easier.
Currently we are in the process of reviewing the syllabi.
We will teach students to Be water wise
and water efficient. Eventually we expect this programme
to be adopted across the board in Africa. Our approach is
very cost effective. It does not require elaborate materials
and things like that.
Once we have dealt with water, I believe we can tackle the
rest of the environment, besides social problems like early
pregnancies, break down of marriages, AIDS, etc. The human
values approach will help solve such problems also. In short,
we are trying to make people realise that they are human beings.