The Hare Krishna Children of Ghana, West Africa
Posted July 26, 2003
The day starts with sweeping the classroom with our local grass broom, then offering incense to the classroom "altar" (a picture of Krishna and Srila Prabhupada), then we walk in line past the cowshed to attend Guru Puja and see SriSri Radha-Govinda. Beautiful black Krishna is wearing a Tulasi-leaf and Champaka flower garland, and Srimati Radharani is covered in jewellery such as I have never seen before!
After Guru Puja we attend assembly. Each day different children get the chance to play mrdanga and lead Nrsimhadeva prayers. Now it's time to recite the school pledge:
I, a soul eternal,
Who fell from Krishnaloka
Am ready to return home
Via Lord Krishna's sloka:
"One who is fully conscious of Me
Can enter the Kingdom of God."
So eager am I
To depart for home
That I bow to God's instruction
And vow to follow His direction
Sinning and offending no more,
Serving and loving ever more.
May I be guided by devotion
As I head for Krishnaloka
Resolved to reach the spiritual sky
Of harmony and happiness
To the land of love - Krishnaloka!
To the place of peace - Krishnaloka!
To the abode of bliss - Krishnaloka!
For this free flight back home
I do sincerely pledge to please Krishna
Now and forever...
(Composed by Nrsimhadeva dasa, Ghana)
Finally classes - six examination subjects: Maths, English, Environmental Studies, Moral Education, Local Language and ... Krishna Consciousness. At 12 am we hungrily gobble up the warm lunch since some of us do not have breakfast at home on days that our parents have no money to feed us. The lunch is called "Prasadam" since it is offered to the Temple Deities every day.
Now and then on a Friday we watch Krishna Conscious VCD's in the small school library, or colour in our Krishna Rhymes Book - a big treat for us village kids who live in bamboo and mud houses without electricity. Sometimes we have drama practice - this coming week we are performing "Krishna kidnaps Rukmini" for the Sunday Feast.
Saturday is, of course, our favourite day! Why? No school? Nope!! It's time for Harinama! Now we get to practice what we have been learning about in school:
"Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu indicates that the distribution of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra should be performed by combined forces. Although He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He laments, 'How can I alone pick the fruits and distribute it all over the world?' This indicates that all classes of devotees should combine to distribute the Hare Krishna maha-mantra without consideration of time, place or situation."
(Srila Prabhupada, Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-lila 9.34)
"We go to Accra city or other villages around, two hours' drive, to do Harinama, book distribution and Food For Life. Wow! And now my Muslim classmate has permission from his mom to come too! The highlight of all is to end our day with kirtana at the beach. Even though the city is so near and I am 10 years old, this was the first time I ever traveled to the sea. Talk about a frog in a well (me!) - I had no idea it was so big! "Of all bodies of water, I am the ocean." (Krishna, BG 10:24)
This Hare Krishna school has changed my life so much. Before my parents used to just take me along to farm every day, and I could not even speak English. Now I am starting to read stories in English about Krishna. The only thing is that my parents still feed me meat - if only they could learn to love Krishna too! I hope they learn something at the Parent-Teachers Association Meeting."
These words describe the common experience of many African village children surrounding the ISKCON Temple in Medie village, 2 hours form the capital city, Accra, Ghana. 70 of the 84 school children are form Christian and Muslim families, yet they are attending "Lord Krishna's Academy" primary school along with the small number of temple devotees that were the initial pupils of the school. Many parents saw what a wonderful opportunity it is for their children to get a proper education, since LKA teaches in English, does not pack 50 - 100 children in a class like other village schools, and actually has books in the school too! Some parents are still skeptical about the Krishna Conscious aspect, but gradually their hearts are being won over. Now they are busy farming to help support the school's feeding program - not knowing that their yam, corn and cassava will be offered to SriSri Radha-Govinda, and thereby they will accumulate lots of Ajnata Sukriti (devotional service performed unknowingly).
Lord Krishna's Academy is a wonderful and important project - it is a preaching opportunity; a necessity for taking good care of the devotee community's children; an employment opportunity for devotee teachers and cleaning staff; an opportunity for the Hare
Krishna's to gain more public acceptance and government support; an investment for the future; a contribution towards Srila Prabhupada's desired Varnasrama Communities. The temple, like many others in ISKCON, has not been growing much in terms of adults joining and staying in the temple, especially since it is far from the city and difficult to reach. So where will the future Hare Krishnas come form? From the children, of course!
This project, situated on the African continent, was inspired by HH Mahavishnu Swami, HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami and HH Kavicandra Swami. In September 2003 we will celebrate the end of our second academical year (we started Sept 2001), and pray for the continuous ce and expansion of LKA, to fulfil Srila Prabhupada'Īs desire as expressed in his letter to Tamal Krishna Goswami and Gurudasa Prabhu, London, 23 August, 1971:
"Besides that as I have already told you all several times in India, respectable gentlemen want to educate their children through the English medium. If we can organize such an institution such as St. Xavier's college in Calcutta and Bombay and we can give them instruction through the English medium and raise them in a Krishna Conscious culture we shall get unlimited number of students from respectable families of India. Such institution will be very much welcome especially in Bombay and Delhi. So think over this matter how best to organize such an institution as St. Xavier's college. Our mission is solid. Our philosophy is not utopian. Our men are being trained for exemplary character. So we shall have a unique position all over the world provided we stick to the principles, namely unflinching faith in Spiritual Master and Krishna, chanting not less than 16 rounds regularly and following the regulative principles. Then our men will conquer all over the world."
We wish to thank all our donors and helpers. Recently HG Lokavarnotama Prabhu from the USA donated a school bus, which is helping us tremendously. Now we are working on replacing our temporary wood-and-bamboo school structure with a permanent brick building. We are also expanding our youth preaching program, and have started showing Krishna Conscious films in the local villages, a very attractive way to gain interest from people who have no modern form of entertainment (thanks to HH Kavicandra Swami for the projector!)
Please and stay in touch with your enquiries, guidance and advice!