Gijubhai Badheka was born on 15 November 1885. He began his career by practicing as a high court lawyer. In 1913, the birth of his son set him thinking about child upbringing and child development. Looking for new ideas in education, he discovered the writings of Maria Montessori. So impressed was he, that he left his legal practice to devote himself to children and education. In 1920 he founded the first preprimary school - Balmandir - under the aegis of Shri Dakshinamurti Vidyarthi Bhavan. This provided him with a rich opportunity to experiment with new ideas in education.
Gijubhai had an experimenter's scientific rigour, the urge to do and demonstrate something new, the perception to be able to find the sparks in the dark educational system current at that time, and above all faith. With this rich capital he embarked on his journey into the realms of education.
In the 19 years till his untimely death in 1939, Gijubhai worked incessantly, contributing a lifetime of work in the area of children's literature and education. He left behind a legacy of prolific writing (nearly 200 publications for children, youth, parents and educators). His best known work is Divaswapna (meaning day dreams). First published in 1939 in Gujarati it is an original contribution to ideas on pedagogy. Most of his other writings for teachers and parents have not been translated into English. I share below some translated excerpts from these writings, first published in Gujarati in the mid 1930s.
This Will Not Do ... In Our School
Excerpted from Prathmikshalama Shikshak, first published in 1932.
It will do if our school does not have a vast library of books on education. It will not do if no one reads a single book on education related topics.
It will do if our school building isn't clad with fancy stones or tiles. It will not do if there are potholes in the ground, or if its walls are not clad with mud and dung.
It will do if the walls are not covered with paint. It will not do if there is dust and cobwebs in corners.
It will do if the floors are not covered by carpets. It will not do if there is litter and dirt strewed on them.
It will do if there is not a laboratory full of fancy equipment. It will not do if the little equipment that is available is not ever used.
It will do if there is not a great big library. It will not do if there are not at least a few books that children would enjoy reading.
It will do if we are not great scholars. It will not do if we cannot give our children due respect, and an environment that encourages their development.
It will do if we are not constantly engaged in 'teaching' children. It will not do if we interfere in their activities, or threaten or force them to sit down to study.
It will do if the children in our school study a while and play a while. It will not do if they toil through the day like labourers under our strict supervision.
It will do if the children of our school do not cling to us like friends. It will not do if they run at the sight of us, or are afraid of us.
It will do if our children sit, read or draw because they feel like doing so. It will not do if they paint a picture or sing a song to impress an outsider.
It will do if our children learn a little less, or a little slower. It will not do if they are screamed at to study, so that they get fed up and become lethargic.
It will do if children tell us that they did not understand something, or do it slowly, at a later stage. It will not do if they rush through it under duress of punishment.