“Imagine a school where your teachers are your friends and mentors, looking for the best within you, and helping you see strengths within yourself that you may not have known were there…where helping you develop your character is as important as helping you develop your mind…where helping you be the best person you can be is as important to helping you be the smartest person you can be…a school that sees you essentially as a spiritual being, and nurtures the life of the spirit…”1
That school exists, and it’s called Townshend International School.
Townshend International is a Baha’i-inspired school located in a town called Hluboka nad Vltavou in the south of the Czech Republic. It’s about a two hour train ride from the nation’s capital, Prague, and its students come from all over the world to attend. I’ve visited the school and I know many people who have studied there, and I have to say that everyone I know who’s attended Townshend International School can’t say enough good things about it, and how the school had a profound effect on both their spiritual and academic growth.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Vivek Williams, the School Director of Townshend, and I thought it would be great to ask him a few questions to find out more about this wonderful Baha’i-school and to share it with everyone:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell me a little about the school and what it aims to achieve?
We are a Baha’i-inspired international school surrounded by the forests and lakes of beautiful South Bohemia in the middle of Europe – and are so thankful to be blessed by this magnificent setting every single day. We teach the Cambridge International curriculum, with residential and day students from over 30 different countries – ages 3 to 19 yrs… But let’s just stop there for a moment…
Because if you look at the websites of nearly all international schools you will find essentially the same thing – great academics, university successes of graduates, a rich co-curricular programme, educating the ‘whole’ person, being a global citizen, and character development. In this sense we are no different. Over the past 22 years we have ‘ticked all the boxes’ above with our fair share of success stories and commendations.
However, we are unusual – in that we do attempt to clearly articulate the essential principles that guide everything we do – basically spelling out what it means to be ‘Baha’i-inspired’, and how that translates in reality to our day-to-day procedures and practices.
Critical to this is the central premise that a human being is fundamentally spiritual in nature – a nature that must be fostered with the utmost care and attention.
Baha’i Blog: So how do you describe the students that Townshend produces?
Interestingly, we don’t ‘produce’ students. The mighty oak is present in an acorn. If the soil, weather and environment is conducive, the tree will reveal itself by virtue of a far greater power. It is our mission to constantly and lovingly monitor and enhance the environment where these potential spiritual giants can start to reveal themselves. It is a sacred trust, and at times we can only stand back in awe to see how a divine power sweeps up and transforms lives.
As one of our graduates once said “Townshend helped me see something within myself that I did not know was there.”
These individuals have been, and currently are, engaged in professions, businesses and social enterprises that are powerful catalysts in bringing about social change in the world. They are often leaders in their respective fields of endeavour and are driven by a deep-seated desire to make a difference.
Baha’i Blog: Where do the students come from?
We have welcomed students from 98 countries. Many from neighbouring countries, but also from most of the countries in Europe, from North, Central, and South America, from Asia, Africa, Australia, and the islands of the Pacific.
But our diversity is not restricted to nationality – our mini world community embraces those from different ethnicities, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds – we actively encourage this mix, and families find out about us mainly through word of mouth.
Baha’i Blog: What are some of the advantages and/or unique opportunities the school has compared to other educational institutions?
We are like a large family. There are no cliques. Emotional security for each individual is guarded vigilantly – so everyone is free to be who they really are, and express themselves without the oppressive weight of negative peer pressure.
The outcome is an interconnected community that is so close-knit yet so international and far-flung. Our students are truly the embodiment of world citizenship. While at school they are constantly visiting each other in all corners of the globe (during the holidays). As university students, they keep these friendships and travel together to do community service projects. And now we are seeing that in their professional lives they maintain their Townshend connections – certainly socially and often in business as well.
Baha’i Blog: What message do you have to all the parents and kids out there?
For parents, it can be a precious gift for your child. One of the most powerful ‘interventions’ a parent can make in the life of a child is to change their peer environment. Often times parents look on helplessly as they see their children under-challenged, or swept away by the forces of a society with deficient standards. In the absence of local initiatives, some have overcome the thought barrier and sent their children to us in Europe. After the first term, parents invariably tell us they now talk more to their child via Skype than they did at home!
For the kids out there, we simply say ‘imagine’ life at Townshend. Read the page on our website with this same title …. ‘imagine‘.
And for everyone, we say welcome. Be our guest for a couple of days, come meet us and see the school in action. Set foot on the campus and you will immediately feel a spirit and get a sense of what we are all about.
Baha’i Blog: Thanks so much Vivek for taking the time to do this interview, and I really did feel that spirit you mentioned when I visited the school.
To find out more about Townshend International School, visit their website: townshend.cz
- http://townshend.cz/about-us/imagine/ [↩]