If we believe that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” (Mandela) and feel that “ intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education” (Martin Luther King) and “ think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private HOPE and Dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation” (John F. Kennedy),then Swami Vivekananda was a man born beyond his time.
In 1904, a few like-minded Tamils living in Brickfields, started a “Reading Room” where people from the community could congregate for recreation and comradeship. They were captivated by the philosophy of Swami Vivekananda and his teachings. Soon the growing Indian population in Brickfields made it imperative that children needed an education. Hence, the Vivekananda Tamil school began in 1914. The Ramakrishna Block was built in 1921 – a building with 4 classrooms within which a small place was assigned where religious activities like daily prayers and Navarathiri celebrations were held.
In the early years, between 1916 and 1926, the school had a very chequered development due to various reasons - The First World War, control of The Ashrama by the Sri Ramakrishna Math, Belur, difficulties in recruiting teachers and lack of funds for a new school building. Despite the issues, it did not deter the Management Committee to continue their efforts into education with the firm belief in Swami Vivekananda’s mission that:-
“The education which does not help the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of a lion — is it worth the name? Real education is that which enables one to stand on one’s own legs.” - Swami Vivekananda
In 1914, The Vivekananda Tamil School Brickfields was established. To provide education beyond primary school, TVAKL went on to establish a secondary school in 1958. The school curriculum supervised by TVAKL as “managers” provided a holistic education. And that was more than 100 years ago! And here lies the Intangible Heritage of TVAKL , an organisation that has stood steadfast with its ideals to the test of time.
The Ashrama’s main focus has always been education, especially of the youth. There are 4 schools under its care. Three Tamil schools and one secondary school:-
SJK (T) Vivekananda Brickfields
SJK (T) Vivekananda Petaling Jaya
SMK Vivekananda Brickfields
SJK (T) Thamboosamy Pillai Sentul
*The Thamboosamy Pillai School which is more than 100 years old (is the second Tamil school to be established in Malaysia) was to be closed in the 1950s due to land issues. The Trustees of the school approached TVAKL to take over the management of the school. TVAKL secured a long land lease from Keretapi Tanah Melayu and the first building was constructed and opened in 1965.
THE WORLD WAR YEARS
Between 1930 and 1950 (except during the 2nd World War, 1941 -1945) with a new syllabus by the Education Department, the Vivekananda Tamil School Brickfields grew in stature. The Ashrama became independent of the Ramakrishna Mission, Belur in 1934.
From 1934 the Ashrama established a very well patronised Reading Room and Library. There is a shrine of Lord Shiva on the first floor of the Ashrama Building. A new Sivalingam was installed in the Shrine Room with the mahamandalabishegam conducted on 15 June 1952. Daily poojas were conducted – a religious practice that still continues today.
Religious discourses, both in English and Tamil, and birthday celebrations of Hindu sages were held on a regular basis on invitation of learned religious persons from India and Sri Lanka.
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PRE-INDEPENDENCE: EDUCATION AND MALAYA'S INDEPENDENCE
Some of the highlights in the history of TVAKL in the two decades when Malaya got its independence include:
1952 - The “Vivekananda Block” for the Tamil School was built and the opening ceremony was officiated by Yang Teramat Mulia Raja Muda Selangor, the late father of the Sultan of Selangor.
1953 - The Ramakrishna Block (the first three classes built for the Vivekananda Tamil school Brickfields ) was refurbished and the Vivekananda English School was started for students in the afternoon
In 1954 after the passing of Mr S. Appudurai, the hall in the Vivekananda Block was named after him in recognition of his 20-year service.
Field Marshal Sir General Gerald Templer who was the British High Commissioner of Malaya (best known for his defeat of the guerrilla rebels in Malaya between 1952 and 1954) visited the school and motivated the students. Lady Edith Templer, the wife of the British High Commissioner was also a guest.
The Vivekananda English school Brickfields (afternoon) had 183 students from Standards 1-6 and Forms I and II. TVAKL organised Malay classes for the students.
In 1955 - the school was also honoured by the visit of Sir and Lady D. MacGillivray, His Excellency the High Commissioner, Federation of Malaya.
1955 – The Tamil school grew with 700 students and 17 teachers. Malay was taught as a subject.
In 1957 the new Kindergarten Building was built
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POST-INDEPENDENCE: RAZAK REPORT ON EDUCATION
1958- With Independence came the Razak Report on education. TVAKL viewed the National Education Plan as its “Article of Faith” and the school set about to establish an ideal way to progress. The Education Act 1961 brought major changes in the education system of the country. The Act provided for vernacular schools at the primary level and Malay and English schools at the secondary level. All schools were government-funded and had to use a common national curriculum regardless of school type. Other provisions included:
- The formation of a single system of national education.
Commencement of a Malayan-oriented curriculum.
Conception of a single system of evaluation for all.
Recognition of the eventual objective of making Bahasa Melayu the main medium of instruction.
On 13 September 1958, the Vivekananda Secondary Tamil School was opened by the Hon’ble Prime Minister YAB Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj thereby creating another milestone in the history of TVAKL. This development clearly showed the Government of the acceptance of the National Education Plan and how TVAKL will provide a “model link” between the Tamil Primary Schools and the University. The Secondary School, located in the Vipulananda Block, began with two classes, Forms I and II, science laboratories and a library. Special arrangements were also made to accommodate students from out of KL including the plantations. To the students this was the first and perhaps the only way to a career on par with the pupils of the English Schools.
With the Razak Report, the Vivekananda Tamil Secondary school was converted and renamed as Vivekananda Secondary English school with 60 students from Forms 1 to 3. At the opening ceremony the Prime Minister acknowledged the quiet dedication of the Committee Members of TVAKL. Click HERE to view
POST-INDEPENDENCE: ACTIVITY HIGHLIGHTS
In the 1960s, the Ashrama established a hostel for students from out of KL as well as guests room for visiting religious leaders. Swami Pranavananda Saraswathi was a spiritual leader who stayed in the Ashrama for more than 15 years. He also conducted religious lectures for the various Guru Poojas that were held in the Ashrama.
1963 – The Birth Centenary Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda was celebrated over 4 days with speeches and the singing of bajans. Each day's event was chaired and patronised by the following enthusiasts of Swami Vivekananda’s teachings.
Chairman – Swami Sidhatmananda, President, Ramakrishna Mission, Singapore
Speeches – Mr A Vaidhianathan M.A. - U.N. Representative in Malaya
Mr Sivananda Ponniah
Bajans - Ms Saratha Sangh
Chairman – Hon Mr V. Manickvasagam, The Minister for Labour
Speeches – Participants of oratorical contest:
Mr N Ramalingam, Mr S Peer Mohamed, Mr P Thasan
Lyrical Lecture – Pulavar Mani Mr C.S.S. Mani Bahavathar
Chairman – Hon. Dato V.T.Sambanthan, Minister for Works, Posts & Telecoms.
Speech – Mr Giridhari Prasad
Chairman – Sree P Navaratnam M.Sc.
Speeches – Venerable Bhikku Ananda Mangla Thero
Swami Krishnananda (Thiruvarur)
Mr Murugu Subramaniam Editor, Tamil Nesan
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THE NEW MILLENIUM
TVAKL saw great strides in upgrading the four schools with fund raising activities which included support from the Government and Dato’ Seri S. Samy Vellu who was the then President of MIC. The following twenty years saw significant improvements to schools’ infrastructure. The main reason being the generosity and goodwill of Government ,individuals and corporations. Much of them were through the efforts of the Ashrama Chairman Tan Sri Dr K Ampikaipakan, an old student of the Vivekananda Tamil School, and the inspired Management Committee which worked as a team. Their united, untiring efforts and commitment overcame the financial challenges to improve the quality of education in the schools. To these effort TVAKL achieved the following:
The Kindergarten had 92 students with 5 teachers.
The Ashrama, in view of the increasing student population initiated, planned and carried out the following:
Special classes in English, Bahasa Malaysia and Mathematics for students in all classes, “Thevaram” classes ,
Free meals for deserving students, and Free books, uniforms and bus fares for students who came from economically-challenged homes.
In 2010, the Indian High Commissioner HE Mr Ashok Kantha facilitated donation of musical instruments for the schools. Music classes were organised for the students - Mrs Jaya Shekar for vocal and Mr Kumar from the Indian High Commission Cultural Centre for Tabla.
At Ashrama’s request, the Ministry of Education allocated RM3.8 million for the Vivekananda Schools – a 3-storey building for the Vivekananda Tamil School Petaling Jaya at a cost of RM3 million and a 2-storey building for the Thamboosamy Pillay Tamil School Sentul for RM 800,000. The buildings were completed in 2011.
Remedial classes for children with learning disabilities were organised and Mrs Sudha Kudva introduced “ Empowering Adult Support Children” for the mental and psychological development of kids from economically challenged homes.