32. AS SCHOOLMASTER
The reader will, I hope,
bear in mind the fact that I am, in these chapters, describing things not
mentioned, or only cursorily mentioned, in the history of Satyagraha in
South Africa. If he does so, he will easily see the connection between
the recent chapters.
As the Farm grew, it was found
necessary to make some provision for the education of its boys and girls.
There were, among these, Hindu, Musalman, Parsi, and Christian boys, and
some Hindu girls. It was not possible, and I did not think it necessary,
to engage special teachers for them. It was not possible, for qualified
Indian teachers were scarce, and even when available, none would be ready
to go to a place twenty-one miles distant from Johannesburg on a small
salary. Also we were certainly not overflowing with money. And I did not
think it necessary to import teachers from outside the Farm. I did not
believe in the existing system of education, and I had a mind to find out
by experience and experiment the true system. Only this much I knew--that
under ideal conditions, true education could be imparted only by the parents,
and that then there should be the minimum of outside help; that Tolstoy
Farm was a family, in which I occupied the place of the father; and that
I should so far as possible shoulder the responsibility for the training
of the young.
The conception no doubt was
not without its flaws. All the young people had not been with me since
their childhood, they had been brought up in different conditions and environments,
and they did not belong to the same religion. How could I do full justice
to the young people, thus circumstanced, even if I assumed the place of
But I had always given the first
place to the culture of the heart or the building of character, and as
I felt confident that moral training could be given to all alike, no matter
how different their ages and their upbringing, I decided to live amongst
them all the twenty-four hours of the day as their father. I regarded character
building as the proper foundation for their education, and if the foundation
was firmly laid, I was sure that the children could learn all the other
things themselves or with the assistance of friends.
But as I fully appreciated the
necessity of a literary training in addition, I started some classes with
the help of Mr. Kallenbach and Sjt. Pragji Desai. Nor did I underrate the
building up of the body. This they got in the course of their daily routine.
For there were no servants on the Farm, and all the work, from cooking
down to scavenging, was done by the inmates. There were many fruit trees
to be looked after, and enough gardening to be done as well. Mr. Kallenbach
was fond of gardening and had gained some experience of this work in one
of the Governmental model gardens. It was obligatory on all, young and
old, who were not engaged in the kitchen, to give some time to gardening.
The children had the lion's share of this work, which included digging
pits, felling timber, and lifting loads. This gave them ample exercise.
They took delight in the work, and so they did not generally need any other
exercise or games. Of course some of them, and sometimes all of them, malingered
and shirked. Sometimes I connived at their pranks, but often I was strict
with them. I dare say they did not like the strictness, but I do not recollect
their having resisted it. Whenever I was strict, I would, by argument,
convince them that it was not right to play with one's work. The conviction,
would however, be short-lived. The next moment they would again leave their
work and go to play. All the same we got along, and at any rate they built
up fine physiques. There was scarcely any illness on the Farm, though it
must be said that good air and water and regular hours of food were not
a little responsible for this.
A word about vocational training.
It was my intention to teach every one of the youngsters some useful manual
vocation. For this purpose Mr. Kallenbach went to a Trappist monastery,
and returned having learnt shoe-making. I learnt it from him, and taught
the art to such as were ready to take it up. Mr. Kallenbach had some experience
of carpentry, and there was another inmate who knew it; so we had a small
class in carpentry. Cooking almost all the youngsters knew.
All this was new to them. They
had never even dreamt that they would have to learn these things some day.
For generally the only training that Indian children received in South
Africa was in the three R's.
On Tolstoy Farm we made it a
rule that the youngsters should not be asked to do what the teachers did
not do, and therefore, when they were asked to do any work, there was always
a teacher co-operating and actually working with them. Hence whatever the
youngsters learnt, they learnt cheerfully.
Literary training and character
building must be dealt with in the following chapters.