The Acharya Shri Rakum School for the Blind is a school for the blind and the underprivileged, in Bengaluru, India.
The founder, Acharya Shri Rakum, has been a familiar face in the region since the early 1980s, when he exploded onto the Indian martial art scene with Kyokushin Karate, a strong full contact fighting art. Acharya Rakum went on to break world records and establish a wide base for the martial art in India. In 1998, he realised his dream of “using the explosive power of Kyokushin Karate to create beauty” and founded the Acharya Shri Rakum School for the Blind.
The school has in time evolved to become a centre of inclusive learning, with the visually impaired studying and living with sighted children, who come from underprivileged families. It is a 100% free residential school, with over 500 kids in their centres at Indiranagar, Arkavathy and Devanahalli. The beauty of the school is that it moves away from the traditional ‘vocation-based’ learning system of other blind schools. Instead, the Acharya has put into place a system that grooms the kids to become leaders in their fields. Students are encouraged to take up masters degrees and pursue the civil services competitive exams. In fact, there are students here who started their education and went on to complete their masters degrees, and are now directors in various departments within the school. Even the headmistress, Ms. Veena Kumari, is a former student of the school. And its not only education, the school goes further and even helps the students find a loving soulmate, sponsors their marriage and in many cases, the newly wed couple continue to live and work at the school itself!
Studies apart, the kids are taught the ancient art of yoga for health, karate for self defence, and meditation for internal strength. A typical day at the school starts at 4.30 am, with the students practising yoga and meditation, followed by breakfast and then studies till the afternoon. In the evening, there are karate classes, followed by ‘bhajans’ or holy songs from all religions, then dinner and meditation.
An interesting aspect is the way the school is governed and operated. Students are directors in various departments, like the computer department, the cleanliness department, the kitchen and storehouse department, to name a few, Decisions are taken after deliberations and the student leaders learn the ropes of responsibility and accountability at an early age.In fact, the school also holds internal elections to select their candidates! The kids take care of all aspects of the school -food, cleanliness, procurement etc. – the kitchen department for example is run by the kids themselves and the food they make is delicious!
The Acharya has since established an ashrama at Devanahalli. This ashram comprises a free day school for the students from the surrounding villages, a residential school for the in-house students, a gowshala (cow shed), a karate temple and meditation cottages surrounding a discourse hall where the Acharya delivers his sermons. The meditation cottages are beautiful and serene, built from thatch and brick, apt for a detoxifying retreat. The gowshala has around a 100 cows, all donated to the school, and the milk from the cows goes towards feeding the children and making of dairy products that are then consumed by the school and sold to the general public.
The act of giving is not just encouraged by the school- it is among their founding principles. The Acharya has been supporting the aged from the surrounding slums for many years, through an initiative called the ‘Seva Day’. Every 1st of the month, hundreds from the nearby slums line up in the morning and receive their food ration and basic necessities from the school. And yes, discipline is another founding principle. So you have the slum dwellers proudly displaying their registration cards and standing quietly in a line – something thats a rarity in some parts of ‘civil’ society.
The Acharya Shri Rakum School for the Blind survives on donations from the public. They have no corporate funding/government funding, and in the Acharya’s words- it is the love of the public that keeps us going. The school is ambitious, the children energetic. “I don’t want my students to limit themselves – let them go on to become IAS/IPS officers. Let them reach the highest levels of achievement…and I will make sure that we do all that we can to help them in this endeavor”, says the Acharya. “Funds are short, but our energy is limitless. The public is God, and God gives. God keeps giving. We will survive…we will thrive”.
The next time you visit Bengaluru, stop by at the school. See what they do. How they have created an oasis of hope in a world of darkness.
http://www.rakum.org. You can donate online, or in person. And you can spread the word. Magic, my friends, does exist. I have seen it at the Acharya Shri Rakum School for the Blind.