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Six Teachers who Rewrote the Rules of School Teaching

In India, the most unfortunate reality is the poor light in which we view our school teachers. We don’t really give them their due as the heroes of early education. This Teachers’ Day we bring to you the stories of a few extraordinary teachers who changed the perspective in which we view school education.

Babur Ali

One to make the international headlines, BBC dubbed this young man from Murshidabad as the “youngest headmaster in the world”; and that is a big accolade especially when you receive it just at the age of 16, while still a minor! Babur had started teaching at the age of nine mostly as an extension of fun and games but soon that hobby turned into a serious passion and finally turned into a profession. Ali runs a school of his own in the backyard of his parents’ house. The school is at present an outdoor school and has 800 students seeking education starting right from the early ages of four or five years. The school doesn’t charge tuition fees which makes it affordable for the countless number of marginalised people in his town. Moreover, it is run by student volunteers who teach and at the same time pursue their own academic careers. Babur himself is still a student enrolled at the government-run Cossimbazar Raj Govinda Sundari High school in Beldanga. Babur already has a list of accolades to his name. He features in the Forbes Asia ’30 under 30′ list of social entrepreneurs and was awarded the NDTV ‘Indian of the Year’ award in the year 2009.

Vimla Kaul

At the age of 85, Vimla  Kaul still continues to tirelessly teach underprivileged children in her locality in the capital city of Delhi. The children are mostly from working-class families with their parents servicing middle-class households of the colony lining the octogenarian teacher’s neighbourhood. Ma’am Kaul has been teaching children English, Maths, Science and even Environment since she retired more than twenty years back as a government school teacher. Kaul believes that the quality of education in government schools isn’t up to the mark where students are left without proper guidance and skill and teachers go without corrective measures for failing students. In her private held classrooms, no student is ever refused. However, a basic entrance is conducted to test the level at which a student stands and then determine their progress. Her only motive is to ‘teach them properly’, for she believes it is only the right opportunity that can bring them at par with mainstream kids.

Sandeep Desai

Professor Desai had been an erstwhile marine engineer and management professor until he came up with an idea that his colleagues deemed ‘outrageous’. The idea was to collect money from Mumbai trains to build English medium schools in villages. It is known to the whole of the country how much an ‘English-medium’ schooling is valued and coveted in rural or semi-urban locales of India. Professor Desai wanted India’s villages to take their dream of learning English ahead. “Vidya danam, sreshtha danam” Is his glowering refrain amidst the ear numbing chaos of Mumbai locals, yet he has practised outshouting the din. Six years from his first day that he collected Rs 700 in two to three hours, Professor Desai opened one school in the drought-hit Yavatmal district in Maharashtra and three in Sipur, Sadakadi and Naijhar villages in what is known as Udaipur’s tribal belt. Desai set up his trust for educating underprivileged children, called Shloka Missionaries and is now a name inseparable from his cause.

Abdul Mallik

How far can your zeal to teach take you? Abdul Mallik from Malappuram district of Kerala is a 42-year-old teacher of mathematics at a lower primary school. A profile most of us would ignore or not pay many herds to. However such dedication does the man have for his craft that he swims to school each day for over twenty years now and has never missed a single day of class. The distance from his home to school is a whopping 24 km by road. The fastest route is to swim across the river that saves three separate bus journeys he has to make in order to avail the road. His clothes and books are held in a plastic bag and once he crosses the river, he changes into the fresh pair he carries. Apart from this, Mr Mallik is a staunch environmentalist who often takes his students swimming along and removes plastic filth that has dirtied the rivers surrounding their school over the years. If there are to be lessons taught on staying dedicated to your craft, then it is this village schoolteacher one needs to learn from.

Rajesh Kumar Sharma

Rajesh Sharma showed the world that education does not need a building or a shelter overhead to be imparted. Though it is very true that the environment plays a role in concentration, there are always miracles, and sometimes there are ones crafted by human beings for us to learn from. Rajesh Sharma runs a school for the underprivileged called ‘Under the Bridge School’, which is quite literally what its name suggests for the school is hosted underneath the Delhi Metro Bridge. And there are 200 odd students who attend it daily, in case you were wondering if the idea works. Mr Sharma likes calling his school “Free School: Under the Bridge” and his students love attending his classes. Most of them come from extremely challenged and impoverished households and school for them is a glowing escape from the drudgeries of poverty and life in slums and shanties along the banks of the Yamuna( the most economically challenged belt in Delhi). And if you are wondering about how a school functions in the dirt and squalor underneath a train bridge, then the lively pictures dotting your google search shall amaze you. The place is cleaned regularly and the students have painted the contours and pillars sheltering their open roof school in brilliant colours and hues. Well-wishers have also contributed a toilet for female students.

Roshni Mukherjee

Roshni Mukherjee exemplifies to this country of millions how the power of the internet can be harnessed to the benefit of all. An MSc. degree holder in Physics, Mukherjee quit her job to teach Science and Maths to her 70,000 student subscribers on her virtual school. She uploads videos explaining various concepts in the subjects of Science and has over 3900 videos on her site so far. Her site is called ExamFear and it truly has shooed away the sickening fears that approach one before science exams for thousands. Mukherjee frequently receives messages from her student subscribers some of whom have gotten into prestigious institutions with the aid of her explanatory videos, and the young teacher has never been happier.

Like these six,, there are gems of individuals pursuing the line of pedagogy hidden away and unknown of,  in various nooks and corners of the country.

This Teachers’ Day we dedicate all our love and respect to these noble souls.

May Teaching continue to spread smiles of awareness, knowledge and happiness to both the teachers and taught.

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