The final Sunlit Path Programme for schools for 2016 took place on Friday, 5 August at the Sunford Primary School hall in Phoenix. Two hundred and two learners from the following six secondary schools in Phoenix participated: Avonford, Brookdale, Crystal Point, Greenbury, Trenance Manor and Woodview. It is heartening to note that 168 out of the total of 202 learners signed the pledge form to try to keep away from drugs and its associated social ills. (83%).
Our Guest from the Department of Education, Mr N. Bridglall (Director, Psychological Services) spoke about the “Impact of social media on teenagers and how to manage social media”. He encouraged learners to focus on their studies as this will also lead to success later in life. He traced the scholastic life of a learner who against all odds, applied herself diligently and became a pilot —one who guides ships into the harbour. It was her uncle who at her tender and impressionable age advised her to become a “professional”.
“Always focus on what you want to achieve, always focus on the goals you want to achieve. If you do not have goals, then you are floating through life”, said Mr Bridglall. He exhorted them, “Everyday do something to get towards your goal.” He showed how by taking little steps every day towards one’s goal, one was likely to benefit in a big way later as the little steps are compounded over time to have a life-changing impact. In a light hearted practical exercise, he highlighted the benefit for learners of listening carefully to the views of caring adults.
Regarding the use of facebook and other social media, he used the analogy of a knife to bring home his point. A knife in the hands of a surgeon will help to heal, but in the hands of a criminal it could be used to take life. Similarly, if one visits unhealthy sites on the social media, it could have a detrimental effect not only on one’s academic career but also on one’s mental and physical health. Quoting from the “Psychology Today” Website, he showed how watching pornography was correlated to viewers having smaller striatum (the area of the brain associated with stimulus response learning, reward cognition and motivational salience). He highlighted further that pornography was addictive and that addicts looked for more intense fixes as time progressed. This could lead "regular people" perpetrating unimaginable sex crimes. Such are the dangers of abusing the social media! Mr Bridglall concluded by stating, “Anything that is going to take you away from that goal (the goal of attaining success)—shun it!”
An important part of the workshop is the guidelines given on the completion of the diary and the filling in of the pledge form. If you have bad thoughts about someone, write down the number of times you had bad thoughts, said our presenter. Continue this daily and you will find that gradually, the number of bad thoughts will decrease and you will become a better person. If you have succeeded in controlling a bad habit put a tick in that column, if you have failed, put a cross. Here again, you will find that gradually there will be more ticks. Our presenter concluded with the profound words, “You cannot change the world, but you can change yourself.”
One of the highlights of our Sunlit Path Programme is the responses from learners during the breakaway sessions, based on the readings and talks on the various social ills. Towards the end, a brave learner came forward to share her experience. “I was depressed and suicidal and it was only through the help and support of my family, friend and teachers that I was able to come out of this difficult situation. I indulged in drinking and smoking and even cut myself to escape from the pain. God gives you challenges. He takes you to the lowest and then brings you up. Now all I care about is my school, family and friends. Today, I stand before you healthy and sound of mind. If you commit suicide, you are taking the easy way out. Take life as a game. Play it and enjoy it! Our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda reinforced this thought in the poem “I AM PAIN, THY TEACHER”:
I am an eye-opener, a soul-awakener,
I am an inspirer and thriller,
I come to remind you of God,
To point to you the divine path,
To make you desist from evil ways,
To make you practise good habits;…
We are also pleased to report that in response to feedback from learners, educators and facilitators, the Sunlit Path Programme has evolved, making it less tedious to listen to and more entertaining, educative and spiritual.
We express our thanks to the Department of Education (KZN) for allowing us to conduct this workshop during school hours. We thank Mr Bridglall for his inspiring motivational address. The Phoenix branch of Divine Life Society of S.A. prepared and served refreshments and lunch. We are grateful for this support. We close this report by thanking principals of schools for allowing their charges to attend this workshop. A special report has been prepared encapsulating the process at the workshop and we urge principals to allow one of the attendees to present this report at the school assembly. Perhaps workshops of a similar nature should be conducted at school on a smaller scale.