WHAT DO WE OWE OUR TEACHERS?

Kreeanne Rabadi (Director, Western Region, CRY) explains why investment in teachers and upgrading their teaching skills regularly should be taken up on a priority basis

It’s Teachers’ Day once again, and like every year, this day too will be celebrated with felicitation speeches and gifting of mementos to deserving teachers.

We do however need to ask ourselves – is this one day

celebration for our teachers truly enough?

Today in India, one of the biggest challenges that children face is staying in school. While there are many high impact factors that compel children to drop out, it is difficult to argue with the fact that our teachers play a critical role in ensuring that children are retained in schools, and learn effectively. Our teachers can shape childhoods, and can significantly influence whether children will be able to live up to their potential.

So we need to go beyond honouring our teachers for one single day. Instead, we must ensure that we make continuous investments in them so that they become effective stakeholders in our children’s lives.

I was recently reminded of the important role a teacher can play when I watched the Hindi movie Nil Battey Sannata. The movie’s protagonist (wonderfully portrayed by actress Swara Bhaskar) is a domestic worker who struggles to encourage her daughter to finish her SSC exams. She is a school dropout but re-enrols herself in school to motivate her daughter. Being the oldest student in a class of teenagers is hugely difficult but she pulls it off with the support of her employer, and the government school’s headmaster Tripathi.

In so many of CRY’s project areas, I have come across real stories of teachers like Tripathi, who have relentlessly pursued the cause of education against tremendous odds. In one such project in Maharashtra, the teacher Dhanraj Haribhau Dudhkuwar , is alone in tackling insurgency and language barriers to educate children of Mauja Dholdongari, a tribal village that lies 40 kilometres away from Kurkheda block in Gadchiroli district.

This village which lies in a Naxal affected area now has a fully fledged primary school thanks to the efforts of Dudhkuwar. Located in a remote locality on a hilly terrain, in the middle of a deep forest, Mauja Dholdongari is home to 36 Gond tribal families who speak the Gondi language. The population of Mauja Dholdongari is 182, and the village grappled with low literacy rates for a fairly long time. A lack of proper transportation facilities made it difficult for them to avail of health and education services and decent employment opportunities.

The village’s first zilla parishad school Dhol Dongri was established on January 1, 1995 with Mr. D. D. Sahare as the school’s first teacher and headmaster. Interestingly Dudhkuwar was appointed in a temporary position for 15 days only, but looking at the dedication to his job and the seemingly miraculous changes that he brought in not only the school but also to the entire village, the government soon changed his temporary position to a permanent one.

Since the village had no all-weather road or any facility for lodging, Dudhkuwar stayed at neighbouring Mauja Navejhari village located 4 kilometres away to continue his work of not only constructing a school building in the area but also a road connecting to it. Dudhkuwar who used to walk across from one village to another across the vast farms and the deep forests to reach his workplace did not understand the Gondi language spoken by his students. Despite this he took the support of a 10th grade passed student, Raisu Sanau Hilko to overcome this challenge. He taught the class in Marathi while Raisu Hilko translated the session in Gondi. Dudhkuwar paid him Rs.1000 from his own salary for his efforts. He also made sure that the children attended school regularly, by meeting their parents frequently and motivating them to send their children to school. In most cases, Dudhkuwar himself used to go to each house to bring the children to school.

There are many teachers like Dudhkuwar across India who are struggling to educate our children. To enable children to experience the joy of learning, to give them a chance for the future, we need to ensure our teachers are rewarded adequately and are equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills and competencies to be effective.

Government teacher are often burdened with doing multiple jobs, and yet more often than not they don’t get their salaries on time.

Under qualified and untrained teachers too is an issue that needs to be addressed. The District Information System for Education (DISE) Data for secondary schools (2014-2015) has some disturbing statistics. In Bihar, Gujarat, Assam, Odisha and many of the north east states, 40 percent or more of the teachers are not graduates, while in Karnataka the figure is as close to a staggering 70 percent. Considering the educational requirements of children at the secondary school and higher secondary levels, recruiting teachers with adequate professional credentials is crucial to enhancing student learning levels.

Teacher training has a direct impact on learning outcomes which is why improving teacher capacities is of utmost importance and must be given top priority.

Regular refresher courses along with practical exams and capacity building programmes for teachers irrespective of their duration in the profession would go a long way in creating a more holistic teaching environment. Keeping them abreast with the introduction of latest technological developments in the teaching world is also one way of making them empowered to add innovative techniques to our traditional teaching techniques. Teaching methodologies should be developed in such a way that they are able to identify and tailor curriculum to respond to the needs and environments of first generation learners and children from poor and disadvantaged communities.

In summary, as a nation, we must do much, much more to fully appreciate and support the work of our teachers. So this Teachers Day let us make a commitment to do just that.

Happy Teachers Day!

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