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News Mumbai Province (INB)

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Education with a Heart
By Concessao Martins
Mumbai, Jul. 5. MUMBAI, Saint Don Bosco believed in a holistic education, which helped in intellectual, social, physical and spiritual growth of a child. Keeping his principles in mind, the Education Commission of the Salesian congregation - under the leadership of Father James Tuscano - organised a seminar on 'Salesian Identity' for supervisors and coordinators of Salesians institutions at Don Bosco, Matunga from June 28 to 30.
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Father Tuscano, Head of the Education Commission, hosted the event and stressed on the importance of imparting education in line with Don Bosco's Preventive System of Education, which involved incorporating principles of reason, religion and loving kindness into the education process.

Salesians, experts in the field of education and youth ministry, helped participants understand the Salesian education system through a series of sessions that dealt with Don Bosco as a role model, understanding the Salesian identity, playground and holistic spirituality. They used case studies, group activities, films, songs and audience interaction to put forth their point.

Father Godfrey D'Souza, Bombay Provincial of the Salesians, in the opening address highlighted the importance of understanding Don Bosco's vision for education and evaluating one's approach. He quoted the constitution book that contains guidelines for educators from the Salesian perspective.

Father Savio Silveira, Vice Provincial, in the session 'Relooking at Don Bosco', raised the standard for educators by asking them to look up to Don Bosco as a benchmark to shape their lives. Through a simple exercise of analysing his life events, participants were able to draw up a remarkable character sketch of the beloved saint and list his notable qualities, which included being methodical, pragmatic, compassionate, enterprising, caring, hard-working and selfless. The exercise focused on qualities and attitude, aims and objectives,  and style and pedagogy.    

Father Brian Moras, used songs, dance and games to dwell on 'Playground Spirituality'. Participants reflected on the playground as a wider dimension that included performing arts like music, dance, poetry, theatre and fine arts like painting, drawing, sketching, craft work. It was remarkable how Don Bosco took spirituality to the playground.

Father Leon Rodrigues in the session on the 'Way Forward' emphasised on goal planning, team work, importance of communication and having a sense of purpose through a fun-filled tower building exercise. Speaking of the importance of love and gentleness in leadership he said, ''A spoonful of honey attracts more bees than a barrel of vinegar,'' adding, ''Nothing is as strong as gentleness and being gentle is the real strength.''

Is there a change in the youth mindsets? What are these changes and how do we address them? With these questions, Father Glen Lowe brought to light a great need for qualitative change than a quantitative one. He presented the Four Dimensions for learning and stressed on striving for vocation- one's call, gift, extending to humanity - rather than merely having a career chasing profit, power and pleasure.

Participants assessed their present situation. Father Lowe used real-life examples from nature as well as from the writings of Robin Sharma and Stephen Covey to make his point. He presented alternatives techniques - like using the integration of the Educative Pastoral Plan (EPP) involving parents, students, pastors, community members and experts. He stressed on being, 'Teachers in the classroom and brothers and sisters on the playground'.

Father Ajoy Fernandes in the session 'Holistic Spirituality' deliberated a deeper look at the ways and degree in which the Four Dimensions were employed and how these could be improved. It was an eye-opener to find out that the spiritual dimension required attention.

Father Joaquim Fernandes introduced participants to a wider Salesian family spread across Mumbai, India and internationally. He gave details about the provinces, centres and the hierarchy. Father Fernandes familiarised participants with various websites like donboscomumbai.org, donboscoindia.org, www.infoans.org weblinks and shared useful tips on report writing on the Salesian web properties.

Father Crispino D'Souza, with the help of case studies and activities, helped participants map their present situation and compared it to the reality faced by Don Bosco. He shared methods of reaching effective solutions through lively interactive and activity sessions. Participants explored the importance of presence and the different ways presence can be asserted, namely personal, spiritual, motivating, creative, friendly, loving, accompanying, preventive, amongst a few.

The sessions were meaningful, inspiring and mentally challenging. As participants unraveled the inspiring character of Don Bosco and his works, they examined their own personal and professional lives as teachers. Each session urged them gently to open their hearts and minds to the guiding principles of Reason, Religion, Loving Kindness and Presence. The holy Eucharistic celebrations and a visit to the Crypt also rejuvenated them.

The seminar imparted a clear message, one which stressed, firstly, that knowledge without morals leads to ruin, secondly, that learners needed the educators time, love, care and presence and, finally, most of all that 'Education starts with the heart!'

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