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Medical and School Facilities – Part Two
This is the twelfth article in the Trust Objects and Purposes series.
The Trust Deed states:
“(F) In the course of developments according to the availability of funds, preference shall be given to objects and works in the following order . . .
(vi) “Medical facilities for residents, visitors and nearby villagers and schooling facilities for their children.”
A previous article in this series gave an overview of medical facilities for residents, visitors, and nearby villagers. This article provides an account of the development of schooling facilities for the children of nearby villagers and discusses future plans for enlarging these educational facilities.
Throughout His stay at Meherabad and afterward, Baba gave much help to the village of Arangaon, often in the form of medical treatment and care and schooling facilities. In the 1920s, Meherabad was the site of Baba’s most dramatic external work with education: the Hazrat Babajan High School and the Meher Ashram, which served all communities and castes without favoritism. The current Meher English School directly descends from Meher Baba’s work for the Arangaon village children in the early days.
Before Baba opened the Hazrat Babajan High School at nearby Meherabad in 1925, the village school was conducted informally under a tree or on a vacant veranda. In a discussion about the value of education with the early mandali, Baba said, “Education is good and does good . . . it is a step further in human advancement.” He personally supervised the working of the Meherabad School and the progress of the children with great care and attention. In 1927 Baba reopened the school in Arangaon as the Meher Ashram, shifted it back to Meherabad and up to Meherabad Hill, where it assumed its most refined form as the Prem Ashram, the “School of Love.”
Baba recollects some of the history of the early days of schooling at Meherabad in Listen Humanity:
“The school known as Meher Ashram was started as a small day school for the boys of the adjoining village of Arangaon. After some time it was turned into a regular boarding school (May, 1927) that housed more than a hundred boys. Efforts were made to collect them from various cities and different countries. One of the mandali was sent to England for that purpose. None came from the West, but a number of boys from Iran did join the Meher Ashram.
“My first aim was to arrange for teaching the boys English through their various vernaculars, by standards set up in the University of Bombay. Having accomplished this, I began to spend all of my time, day and night, on the general welfare and spiritual upliftment of the boys. Even though I had entrusted several mandali with the job of keeping watch over the boys round the clock, still I would frequently appear in the dormitory in the dead of night to see if they were well wrapped and sleeping all right.” (253-54)
Baba further demonstrated the importance of education when, in 1959, He included the provision of schooling facilities for the village children as an object of the Avatar Meher Baba Trust in the Deed. Continuing Baba’s work with the village children, the Trust expanded the government school by one room in 1976, and on July 26, 1979, Adi K. Irani broke ground for new construction in Arangaon village consisting of two large rooms to be used by the village primary (elementary) school for its expansion. The existing classrooms had become overcrowded, and the extra rooms were of great help to pupils and teachers alike. After the groundbreaking ceremony, Adi, a veteran of the early Meherabad days, addressed the children and teachers: “Baba’s Presence bestowed great moral strength and spiritual understanding upon this village; if the result of this work is not yet manifested, it is sure to come about, for He has sowed the seed. It will take time to fructify. His presence in the lives of the children now coupled with the Trust’s help will likewise have a great impact.”
The Meher English School was opened in 1986 as a preschool for kindergartners and it grew rapidly. Thirteen years later, in 1999 the school encompassed the entire primary and secondary school curriculum, i.e., from kindergarten through the tenth standard in the Indian educational system. By the end of the century, the school’s enrollment consisted of 287 students, taught by a full-time faculty of eighteen teachers.
By 1999, three wings of the Education Building contained all the basic classrooms of the Meher English School, as well as a library, general science laboratory, and a computer room for the students. The plans were drawn up for a final wing of the building, which would encompass an assembly hall, gymnasium, and chemistry and physics laboratories. Over the years, the Trust purchased a fleet of seven buses to transport the students to and from school. Yearly scholarships, books, and notebooks are provided for poor, deserving students from local village communities who attend Meher English School.
The Trust also gives some support to the Vidyalaya High School, a private educational facility in Arangaon at which most of the courses are taught in Marathi and language courses in English and Hindi are offered. The Trust provided the funds for the construction of four classrooms at the Vidyalaya School and supplies textbooks for needy students there. Some individual Baba lovers also helped the school by donating the money to build several additional classrooms.
The Meher English School has grown and, as of the 2009-2010 school year, employs a faculty of 36 teachers and currently enrolls between 860 and 900 students. In the future, the schooling facilities for the Arangaon village children begun by Beloved Baba in the 1920s will continue to grow and flourish.
The next and final article in this series will deal with the seventh object enumerated in the Trust Deed: “Facilities for training Baba-lovers in living a life towards spiritual enlightenment according to instructions which the Settlor may give to the Trustees from time to time.”