Manish Jain, of the People’s’ Institute for Rethinking Education and Development in Udaipur, India, and a colleague of the Initiative, recommended this essay by Shri Daval Chandra Soni to us.

CHAPTER 1: The Day Dawns Even in those Places where he Rooster Does Not Crow

O listen to me Preacher, Campaigner of Literacy and School Education! Listen to me Liberator, Benefactor of the down-trodden, poor illiterates and the uneducated.

Since you have come to my village and my home as a guest, I welcome you and I very much appreciate your visiting me.

I am grateful to you for the slogans you have shouted, the songs you have sung and the drums you have sounded to awaken me.

I am also grateful to you for your having undertaken this journey on-foot, for you foregoing the comforts of the city to see me.

I am again grateful to you for being so worried about me. I have given my full attention to all of your preachings.

If I understand your basic mission, we are “illiterate” and “uneducated” — a “black spot” on India. And because of this, you are deeply ashamed of us.

Up until today, you alone have spoken and I have been a silent listener to your sermons. But today, it is your turn to pay attention and listen to what I have to say.

Please take note: I also write the alphabet but not on a slate or on a piece of paper as you do. I write my alphabet on the surface of the fertile soil of my fields — my spade is my pen. The fruits of my alphabet quell your hunger. You gobble them up happily and without complaint.

On the other hand, you hold a pen in place of a spade and dig your alphabet on paper. What is produced by this paper farming of yours is a mystery to me. Do you even know what grows there?

You always maintain a clear and deliberate distance from the milk-yielding cows, she-buffaloes and she-goats, but at the same time you find it difficult to resist consuming dairy products such as milk, butter and curd.

There is a marked difference between our lifestyles. While I am engaged in productive activities all day and night, you are engaged only in consuming what I produce. Yet I lead a more peaceful and content life, while you constantly complain and create trouble in society with your insatiable discontent.

My activities and my interactions provide me with rich learning opportunities on a daily basis. On the other hand, you are unable to tread the path of education without direction and coercion from your classroom teachers.

Whereas your education is restricted only to your books, my whole existence is a rich garden of learning.

Your school is by no means a source of real learning. Your school is nothing but a trader in the commodity of education. The real source, or the mine for learning, is the WORK in which one is engaged and whose company I constantly live in.

Since you are not aware of my educational achievements, let me tell you that I am a specialist in agriculture, I am an expert in dairy work and I am a scholar in my local dialect.

My learning is apparent and authentic in itself. I do not worry about being awarded any certificates to prove this.

Mother learning is not a captive in the prison of the schools. Nor is the basic knowledge of life contained in and restricted to the jumble of the alphabet and numerical figures.

Like the all-pervasive God, learning is present in every atom of this universe. Learning is an unstoppable or ceaseless activity of devotion.

Learning, in its infinite forms, is a universal phenomenon. The stereotyped, monotonous and uniform pattern of education in your school is not suitable for supporting the multiple faces of learning.

Dawn and daybreak take place even where there is no cock to crow and announce the morning. In the same manner, learning too takes place and goes on freely even where you do not start and run a school.

Yet I would not be so arrogant as to deny my need to further my education. But how can I agree to your claim of deserving to be my teacher? In my mind, you are not properly equipped to take on this role.

CHAPTER 2: If the Schooled People Were Really Educated, We Would Not Need Such a Large Police Force

Dear Literacy Missionary, My Brother! I am sorry to say that you do not know the real definition of education. That is precisely the reason why you consider yourself to be educated.

Real education is not about changing one’s attire or their spoken language. True education is that which clarifies and elevates one’s moral conduct and one’s character.

The educated person would not consume without himself taking part in producing. The educated person would not only selfishly seek to acquire things; he would also give or contribute something. The educated person would reduce his needs and necessities to their bare minimum.

The educated person would first serve to others before feeding himself. And he would not desert his tired and exhausted companions. He would seek to care for them.

The educated person would not pose to be a valiant hero in the presence of a weak person, nor would he be submissive to a person stronger than himself.

Learning consists of doing one’s duty with devotion. Learning is to strive to attain Truth, Auspiciousness and Beauty (Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram) in life.

Learning is not limited to the acquisition of knowledge or skills, nor does it lie in a collection of certificates or the passage of exams.

Real learning cannot be evaluated within the short period of three hours which are allotted for answering the questions asked in an examination. The real test of learning extends up to the time when a person breathes his last breath.

An educated person does not require a watchman to stop him from doing anything immoral. He is his own watchman to guard himself from wrongdoing. He sticks to truth as his protector of morality and does not waver from it.