Thursday May 24, 2018

Ramayana, Gita should be taught in schools: Culture minister

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New Delhi: The Ramayana and the Gita are not religious texts and should be taught in schools, according to union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma.

Sharma said that including the Ramayana and the Gita in school curriculum was an attempt to inculcate spiritual and cultural values in children.

“It is an attempt to teach spiritual values to children. Ramayana is a way of life and it tells stories about many relationships – son and father, wife and husband and brother and brother. Likewise Gita is the knowledge given by Lord Krishna to Arjuna. These are not religious texts,” Sharma told IANS in an interview here.

The minister further said that the importance of these texts are recognised even in countries like Indonesia and Mauritius. “Ramayana is a great book and its importance is being recognised in Indonesia and even Mauritius. These countries have set up Ramayana centres. It’s high time we recognise their value,” added Sharma.

Denying reports of him saying that the Bible and the Quran are not central to India’s soul, Sharma said that he respects all religions and had been misquoted. However, he stressed that while the Bible and the Quran are religious texts, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are not.

“I respect all religions. Bible is a religious text of Christians and Quran is a religious text of Muslims. Gita never advocates the worship of any God or religion. They are karma granths. But Bible and Quran preach to worship a particular God and religion. They are specific religious text for religions,” said Sharma.

Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb meeting with Dr Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State for Tourism and Culture during the Australian Business in India Week.
Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma

The minister had recently stoked controversy by saying that western culture is making inroads into Indian culture and polluting it.

Talking about the foreign culture, the minister said that young people should learn Indian languages like Sanskrit and Hindi to fight the “cultural pollution”.

Sharma said that he wanted students to emphasise on learning Indian languages. “It is a shame that students learn German and Spanish before learning Sanskrit or Hindi. I would like to term it a cultural pollution. Hindi is an optional language in many schools now. Sanskrit and Hindi should be made compulsory in all schools,” he said.

Recently, the culture ministry’s decision to revamp Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) sparked controversy as Congress leaders and many historians termed it an attempt to tamper with India’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru’s legacy. Contesting the charge, the minister said, “We are trying to preserve and acquire documents of nationalist leaders of modern India. The museum is not about one person,” Sharma said.

The ministry also has plans to re-examine the appointment of Mahesh Rangarajan as the director of NMML, the minister said. “There are certain irregularities in the appointment. The appointment was made despite the EC’s order to the Culture ministry on May 12, 2014 asking it to postpone the appointment of Rangarajan,” the minister said.

Rangarajan’s appointment was approved by the UPA on May 14, two days after the last day of polling – when the Election Commission’s Model Code of Conduct ceases to be operational. The minister added that Rangarajan took charge as director on May 19, 2014. “We will re-examine his appointment,” the minister said.

-By Preetha Nair (IANS)

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Child Rights Summit: Nations Should Spend More on Education Over Weapons

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Displaced Syrian children look out from their tents at Kelbit refugee camp, near the Syrian-Turkish border, in Idlib province, Syria, Jan. 17, 2018. VOA

Countries should spend more on schooling and less on weapons to ensure that children affected by war get an education, a child rights summit heard Monday.

The gathering in Jordan was told that a common thread of war was its devastating impact in keeping children out of school.

Indian Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, who founded the summit, said ensuring all children around the world received a primary and secondary education would cost another $40 billion annually — about a week’s worth of global military expenditure.

ALSO READ: Politics and Education: A Relationship that contributes a lot in shaping our Future

child rights summit
Nobel Peace Prize laureates Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai listen to speeches during the Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony at the City Hall in Oslo, Dec. 10, 2014. VOA

“We have to choose whether we have to produce guns and bullets, or we have to produce books and pencils to our children,” he told the second Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit that gathers world leaders and Nobel laureates.

Global military expenditure reached almost $1.7 trillion in 2016, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said last year 27 million children were out of school in conflict zones.

ALSO READ: Exclusive: How is One Woman Army changing the notions of Education in society?

“We want safe schools, we want safe homes, we want safe countries, we want a safe world,” said Satyarthi, who shared the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize with Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai for his work with children.

Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al-Hussein told the summit, which focused on child refugees and migrants affected by war and natural disasters, that education was “key,” especially for “children on the move.”

“Education can be expensive, but never remotely as close to what is being spent on weapons. … They [children] are today’s hope for a better future,” he told the two-day summit.

Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, a nonprofit group, described the number of Syrian refugees not in school in the Middle East as “shocking” as the war enters its eighth year.

Kennedy cited a report being released Tuesday by the KidsRights Foundation, an international children’s rights group, which found 40 percent of school-aged Syrian children living in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq cannot access education. VOA