The reader will, I hope, bear in mind the fact that I am, in these chapters, describing things not mentioned, or only cursorily mentioned, in the history of Satyagraha in South Africa. If he does so, he will easily see the connection between the recent chapters.
As the Farm grew, it was found necessary to make some provision for
the education of its boys and girls. There were, among these, Hindu,
Musalman, Parsi and Christian boys and some Hindu girls. It was not
possible, and I did not think it necessary, to engage special
teachers for them. It was not possible, for qualified Indian
teachers were scarce, and even when available, none would be ready
to go to a place twenty-one miles distant from Johannesburg on a small
salary. Also we were certainly not overflowing with money. And I did
not think it necessary to import teachers from outside the Farm. I
did not believe in the existing system of education, and I had a
mind to find out by experience and experiment the true system. Only
this much I knew – that, under ideal conditions, true education could
be imparted only by the parents, and that then there should be the
minimum of outside help, that Tolstoy Farm was a family, in which I
occupied the place of the father, and that I should so far as
possible shoulder the responsibility for the training of the young.
The conception no doubt was not without its flaws. All the young
people had not been with me since their childhood, they had been
brought up in different conditions and environments, and they did
not belong to the same religion. How could I do full justice to the
young people, thus circumstanced, even if I assumed the place of
But I had always given the first place to the culture of the heart
or the building of character, and as I felt confident that moral
training could be given to all alike, no matter how different their
ages and their upbringing, I decided to live amongst them all the
twenty-four hours of the day as their father. I regarded character
building as the proper foundation for their education and, if the
foundation was firmly laid, I was sure that the children could learn
all the other things themselves or with the assistance of friends.
But as I fully appreciated the necessity of a literary training in
addition, I started some classes with the help of Mr. Kallenbach and
Sjt. Pragji Desai. Nor did I underrate the building up of the body.
This they got in the course of their daily routine. For there were
no servants on the Farm, and all the work, from cooking down to
scavenging, was done by the inmates. There were many fruit trees to
be looked after, and enough gardening to be done as well. Mr.
Kallenbach was fond of gardening and had gained some experience of
this work in one of the Governmental model gardens. It was
obligatory on all, young and old, who were not engaged in the
kitchen, to give some time to gardening. The children had the lion's
share of this work, which included digging pits, felling timber and
lifting loads. This gave them ample exercise. They took delight in
the work, and so they did not generally need any other exercise or
games. Of course some of them, and sometimes all them, malingered
and shirked. Sometimes I connived at their pranks, but often I was
strict with them. I dare say they did not like the strictness, but I
do not recollect their having resisted it. Whenever I was strict, I
would, by argument, convince them that it was not right to play with
one's work. The conviction, would however, be short-lived, the next
moment they would again leave their work and go to play. All the
same we got along, and at any rate they built up fine physiques.
There was scarcely any illness on the Farm, though it must be said
that good air and water and regular hours of food were not a little
responsible for this.
A word about vocational training. It was my intention to teach every
one of the youngsters some useful manual vocation. For this purpose
Mr. Kallenbach went to a Trappist monastery and returned having
learnt shoe-making. I learnt it from him and taught the art to such
as were ready to take it up. Mr. Kallenbach had some experience of
carpentry, and there was another inmate who knew it; so we had a
small class in carpentry. Cooking almost all the youngsters knew.
All this was new to them. They had never even dreamt that they would
have to learn these things some day. For generally the only training
that Indian children received in South Africa was in the three R's.
On Tolstoy Farm we made it a rule that the youngsters should not be
asked to do what the teachers did not do, and therefore, when they
were asked to do any work, there was always a teacher co-operating
and actually working with them. Hence whatever the youngsters
learnt, they learnt cheerfully.
Literary training and character building must be dealt with in the