Sun, Jan 09, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Hindu school adds meditation, yoga to daily schedule

‘FREE SCHOOL’:The new school in Leicester will have vegetable patches, and most of the learning will take place before the daily vegetarian lunch

THE GUARDIAN, LEICESTER, ENGLAND

The state-funded primary, to open in Leicester, central England, this September, will be the second Hindu school in the country. Unlike Britain’s first Hindu primary, which opened in north London in 2008, at least half of the new school’s intake will be admitted regardless of their faith background.

Both schools are backed by the I-Foundation charity, which is seeking to open other schools, including a secondary school to cater for Britain’s 1.2 million Hindus.

Backers of the Leicester school say it will expand with each new intake, providing 420 places for four-to-11-year-olds by 2018.

Pradip Gajjar, project director for the school, said: “If you look at things happening around meditation, the growth of yoga, a school that’s not just adding this but embedding these things is very appealing to people of other faiths and none.”

According to the 2001 census, 7 percent of Britain’s Hindus live in Leicester where they make up 15 percent of the city’s population. The Leicester school will open in Evington Hall, which was home to a grammar school until 2007. It was previously a convent and a Catholic boarding school.

The hall will undergo refurbishment to provide modern IT facilities and a new vegetarian kitchen. The building, which contains a mothballed chapel with an image of the Annunciation, will get a shrine with images of the Hindu deity Krishna and there will be vegetable patches in the 2 hectare grounds where children will help harvest produce for school meals.

The school will follow the national curriculum, but with religious features including meditation and the recitation of Hindu scripture at the start of the day. The school day is in keeping with a Hindu belief that “learning in the morning hours is much more productive,” Gajjar said.

At least seven of the first 25 free schools in England given initial approval by the government have faith affiliations. These include a Sikh school, two Jewish schools and three with a Christian ethos. Free schools must admit 50 percent of pupils “without reference to faith.” By contrast, existing church-aided faith schools, which get state funding, can give priority to children of their own religion, but cannot refuse others if they are under-subscribed.

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