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Educating Children for the Future

by Low Siok Khim Angelina, Singapore

[from the SGI Quarterly]

Low Siok Khim Angelina was 11 years old when her father was introduced to Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism by an office colleague. She was studying in a Catholic school at the time and, although she thought that chanting was unique, she did not understand what Buddhism was all about. To her, the Gohonzon (the object of worship in Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism) was just another kind of Buddhist idol. As she grew older, she began to appreciate the uniqueness of this Buddhism, and at present she says that she is "proud to be a member of Singapore (SSA) actively promoting this humanistic movement."

Ever since she started school, Ms. Angelina always wanted to be a teacher. From the very first day, she admired and appreciated those teachers who showed so much care and concern for her and her fellow students. As a teenager, she felt an even stronger desire to understand children and to help them lead happy and successful lives. Upon learning that both the first and second presidents of the Soka Gakkai were educators, she felt even more confident that she had chosen the right career.

After becoming a teacher, Ms. Angelina says that she realized that the growth and development of her students depended entirely on her efforts. She says, "I am always striving to understand the meaning of humanistic education and to be able to actualize SGI President Ikeda's hopes for the children who will be the leaders of the next century. I read and study as much as possible to provide young children with a wholesome education."

For her first 15 years as a teacher, Ms. Angelina taught primarily in a Catholic school. She recalls, "That was never a problem for me even though I was a Buddhist. I often chanted to be able to help my students as much as possible and sometimes I would go out of my way to satisfy their specific needs. Every morning I set the target for that day and chanted about it. All the projects under my care were successful. I was able to work well with my colleagues and I also got along very well with the other staff at the school."

Meeting the Challenge
In 1990 Ms. Angelina faced the challenge of teaching a very difficult class of seven-year-olds. She had many children with behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and uncooperative parents. 

She recalls "The students were not doing well in their studies and their mid-year examination results were not good. Every day was a challenge, and I often returned home totally exhausted. I worked harder than usual, however, and by the end of that year the students' grades had improved tremendously. In fact, their average marks were the highest in the school in that level. I also won the confidence of their parents, who wrote a letter to the principal requesting that I remain with their children for another year. In my second year with those students, four in my class out of seven from the entire school were offered places in the gifted program. This was the first time in the history of the school that so many students in one class had qualified for the program."

Since 1993, Ms. Angelina has been teaching at the Soka Kindergarten in Singapore. She is even more serious than before about her work because her responsibilities have increased. She says, "I now feel that in addition to being a teacher, I am also a role model for the students. I constantly strive to be a positive influence in their lives."

Over the past three and a half years, Ms. Angelina has been greatly encouraged to see so many children show so much interest in learning. She feels that the desire to learn is exceptionally strong at Soka Kindergarten. There is also strong cooperation between colleagues who work very closely together, with a shared objective, to bring forth the innate capabilities of each child. "We work as a team rather than as individuals and we share all failures and successes alike," she says.

This year marks the 20th year of Ms. Angelina's Buddhist practice. She says that she cannot imagine what her life would have been like without Buddhism. "Through my practice I have learned so much, including aspects of my character that are unfavorable. As a result, I have worked hard to improve myself." She says that it took many years of effort to learn to keep her temper under control and to stop being overly assertive and demanding.

Developing Compassion
Ms. Angelina also feels that her practice of Buddhism has also helped her develop more compassion for others. "Growing up," she says, "I did not experience much suffering in life and, therefore, I was self-centered and unable to feel genuine compassion for other people. After a Buddhist study course, I prayed strongly to develop compassion for those people who are challenged by problems and obstacles." Her prayer was answered, but not until she had experienced suffering first hand some years later. "Although I had some bitter experiences," she recalls, "such experiences helped me strengthen my faith and change my attitude toward those who are suffering."

To fulfill her leadership responsibilities in the Buddhist organization, Ms. Angelina is determined to strive to understand people better and to be able to demonstrate concern and compassion for them.

In her home, she is determined to work towards building a truly harmonious family while fully supporting her husband and children in their endeavors.

In her work, she is more determined than ever before to work for the happiness of children. She has recently accepted the position of principal of Soka Kindergarten in Singapore. Although she knows that the road ahead is not going to be an easy one, she is confident that her Buddhist practice will help her develop the strength and wisdom to meet the demands of this challenge, for her own sake as well as for the sake of the children of Singapore.