July 22, 2022 Akshanth Gunda

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If you’re asked what is the coolest fact you know about Rabindranath Tagore, tell them there is an elementary school located 15,000 KM away from Kolkata in the city of Rio de Janeiro that teaches diversity and inclusion, named after Kobiguru. 

Just about half an hour drive from Brazil’s exotic Copacabana Beach, Escola Municipal Tagore (Municipal School Tagore) was founded in 1963. If you’re wondering what is Tagore doing in Brazil, the history is quite amazing. 

Almost a century ago, in May 1924, Tagore received an invite to celebrate the centennial of Peru’s independence. In September, he embarked on a ship named Haruna Maru at Colombo bound for Europe. 

While sailing to South America from France, Tagore fell seriously ill. Days later when the ship docked at Buenos Aires, Argentina, the doctor advised him not to make the journey to Peru. 

Although his South American voyage was reduced to a minimum due to health concerns, on his way back home, he was able to make a halt in Rio de Janeiro for a day. Tagore was not an unfamiliar name there. 

Translation of Gitanjali ‘A Offerta lyrica’ was already published in Brazil in 1914, and the following year ‘A lua crescente’, a translation of The Crescent Moon was published with multiple editions to follow. 

However, Tagore’s popularity in Brazil’s literary circle was due to unparalleled effort from Cecília Meireles – one of the finest Portuguese poets and a Tagore devotee who translated many poems of Tagore. 

Another pioneering educator Lúcia Casasanta published an anthology ‘As mais belas histórias’ (The Most Beautiful Stories) which has been used in schools since 1950s. Stories from this book have been recounted for generations. 

She followed the principles of “Escola Nova” (New School”) – a progressive movement that doesn’t discriminate against students based on race, religion or gender. Tagore’s vast secular body of work was a natural fit for the cause.  

She included one of Tagore’s little poems “Sleep-stealer” (Ghumchora in Bengali) translated as ‘A ladra do Sono’ for intermediary reading and thus Tagore became a popular name among millions of Brazilian children. 

Escola Municipal Tagore ( Municipal School Tagore) is one such elementary school in Brazil’s capital, founded to commemorate Tagore’s maiden trip to Rio and  to embrace his principle of diversity and inclusion. 

They embraced Tagore’s unique philosophy and teaches students from every race, class and creed without discrimination including kids suffering from Down syndrome and Autism, through events, exhibitions and activities. 

In their own words “Children are like butterflies in the wind. Some fly fast, some fly slowly. But they all fly in their best way. Each one is different, each one is beautiful and each one is special.”

Source: Escola Municipal Tagore (Facebook Page), wikimedia,  https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk ( Jose Paz Rodriguez), Tagore in South America : Some Perspective/Dr. Rajat Chanda,

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