TOLSTOY FARM: This site is located in a south western corner of the Johannesburg municipal area approximately 35km from Johannesburg. It is located on the site of privately owned lorobrick brick factory. However, the company has recognized Tolstoy farm’s strategic and historic importance and has granted permission for its usage as a heritage site.
The Tolstoy farm was the 2nd of this experiment established by Gandhi. The 1st experiment was the phoenix settlement in natal, was inspired by him in 1904 by a single heading of John Ruskin’s s‘units this last’, a work that extolled the virtues of simple life of love, labor and dignity of human beings.
Gandhi’s settlement was called as Tolstoy farm at the suggestion of Kallenbach. The settlement consisted of men, women, and children for short, long and irregular intervals who are Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Parsis people who spoke one or more from among Gujarathi, Hindi, Tamil and English.
He regarded the ashram as the family and himself as the ‘Father’. He decided to live amongst them all 24 hours a day as their father. The children in the ashram were expected to undertake for 3 hours in the morning duties which involved gardening, farming, sandal making and cloth sewing. Such work was counter balanced with a programme of lessons in geography, history, arithmetic, writing, and bhajans.
In the Tolstoy farm, the acquisition of knowledge by the students was not through the text books, but through the character building, literary training, building up of the body and vocational training.
Since Gandhi was a great supporter of manual labor, he advocated vocational training to the students. One such vocational training was shoe- making and for this purpose Mr. Kallenbach went to a Trappist monastery and returned having learnt it and Gandhiji learnt it from him and trained the students. Apart from shoe- making, Kallenbach had the experience of carpentry and therefore they had a small class in carpentry also. Almost all the youngsters in the farm had learnt cooking.
The only training that the Indian children received in South Africa was in the 3R’s i.e. reading writing and arithmetic. So, this form of training was new to these youngsters but they showed a great interest and learnt it cheerfully. The reason behind this was an interesting policy followed in the farm i.e. the youngsters were not asked to do anything what the teachers did not do. Therefore when they were asked to do any work, there was always a teacher working with them and so the students learnt with earnestness.
Literary training was much more difficult than these activities. There was no adequate teachers let alone trained teachers in Tolstoy farm and adequate resources were also not available. Since the mornings had to be devoted to work on the farm and domestic duties, the school hours had to be kept after the mid- day meals. Three periods were given to the literary training. Languages like Hindi, Tamil, Urdu and Gujarathi were taught to children along with elementary history, geography and arithmetic. Gandhiji was in charge of teaching languages even though he was not well versed in any of them, but, he did not conceal this fact from his students. This truthfulness earned Gandhiji a lot of respect from them.
Gandhiji did not believe in teaching from textbooks as he did not consider them necessary. According to him, the true text book for the pupil is his teacher. The instruction based in teachers experiment and convictions would carry more weight than the lifeless pages of the textbooks. Gandhiji could not arouse the student's interest books. Through experience, he realized that that the children pay more attention when they listen to teachers than when they read from the text books. Gandhiji as a teacher was exemplary and had love for the subjects i.e. languages of his own nation and had confidence in himself and acknowledged his limitations and tried his best to arouse students’ interest in self learning.
This was a presentation by HEP I