A Salute to the Architects of Our Society

A Salute to the Architects of Our Society

Teachers are the real architect of our society who build and shape the future of our children, of our country. Despite several odds and personal challenges, teachers play a crucial role in life of our children. In my line of work I constantly come across teachers, some absolute role models who work selflessly to motivate and shape students. I couldn’t think of a better occasion than Teachers’ Day to write about their work.

Pramod Dixit is a head teacher of an english-medium government primary school in  Pachokhar in Banda. Earlier, he served as the Sub-Coordinator at Block Resource Center (Naraini) in Banda and was always very keen on and provided insights to teachers to adopt child-friendly and inclusive teaching learning environment in their schools. “There is a negative image of government teachers in our society. There is a common perception that we do not perform their duties properly,” he said.

To challenge this image, Pramod, in November 2012, along with 15-20 teachers like himself created a teachers’ resource group ‘Shaikshik Samwad Manch’. Since then the group has monthly meetings to discuss their pedagogical processes and learn from each other. "We worked intensively with Child Parliament or Bal Sansad. Though the Bal Sansad was created with the objective of taking the help of children to maintain discipline, we conceptualised it as a group to develop democratic values among children. The results were great," he said.

Between 2012-20, Pramod said they have observed that children who are members of these Bal Sansads organised awareness drives in their respective panchayat about democratic values before election. He also initiated a concept of ‘Wall Magazine’ which involved students and teachers. In this, children discuss, decide, edit and publish news on their own in a newsletter. This is practiced in several schools of Banda and has helped develop writing skills among children. “This also helped a lot of their work getting published in magazines such as Chakmak, Diwar Patrika-Ek Rachatnatmak (Uttarakhand) and several other magazines.”

Pramod was posted in his present school in August last year. Though there were 157 students enrolled, the attendance was an abysmal 40. Then, on his visits to the neighbourhood he found that 18 students had enrolled themselves in private schools. He tried persuading them to join back, failing which he started with 139 children. But he had to do more than persuading the parents to get the students back.

“When I had joined the school, the premises had overgrowth of wild bushes. I formed different children’s groups and engaged them to improve the school. This also helped imbibe a sense of voluntarism among children. Each of the groups were allotted space and they were encouraged to grow vegetables and flowering plants. The children loved the practical lessons,”he said.

As word of his innovative teaching processes went around, children started coming to school. The attendance increased to 100. This year, 29 students passed out from upper class. Despite the pandemic, 45 new admissions took place and 15 others are waiting for admissions. Out of these new students, 22 were enrolled earlier in a private school, some 6 kms away, but now want to study in this government school.

A parent we met earlier today, who had come to get his child enrolled, said that he was shelling out an annual fee of Rs 12,000 to Rs 14,000 for the private school plus Rs 500 a month for the school van, simply because there was no option back then. But with the improvements that Pramod has brought about he wanted his child in this school. While this is all good news, Pramod is a little concerned about accommodating students of five classes in four rooms or even managing with students with the current number of teachers.

In neighbouring Hamirpur, another teacher Jitendra Kumar— the head teacher of Girls Primary School in Kusumra— painted the outside of the school like the coach of a train and used the inside walls of the classrooms as part of his teaching learning material (TLM). This clearly piqued the interest of the students and parents; it boost the enrolment by nearly 15%. At present 111 children are enrolled in this school. The efforts of the teacher and the school was much appreciated; an official of the district Basic Shiksha Adhikar adopted this school and made it a role model for the district.

Some of the best teachers are doers, as we have seen till now. Another such teacher is Azad Singh, a head teacher of Purv-Madhyamik School, Terahimafi, Banda. During the lockdown when teachers and parents were worrying about the impact of the lockdown on students and studies, Azad was  busy organising meetings of School Management Committee (SMC) to find a solution to the problem. He along with the SMC members identified educated volunteers of the village and convinced them to teach the children in the village while maintaining physical distancing. The teachers organised a brief orientation for the volunteers and provided books from the school library. A similar exercise was done by the head teacher of the Primary School.

Bring Teachers to Classrooms

Teachers try but they are limited by administrative issues. They are  blamed for not teaching properly  but many ignore the fact that teachers are also picked to do non-academic work often by the education department and district administration. Last year, the district magistrate of Jaunpur had deployed teachers for verification of toilets constructed by the government. This was reported in the media as well. The RTE Act does not allow teachers to be allocated in any form of non-academic work.

Teachers are humans too. But apart from providing quality education to multi-grade, multi-level students, they are also expected to do clerical work and monitor mid-day meal distribution. Nearly half of the schools (45.7%) schools in the state are under-staffed according to the RTE norms. As per the 2017-18 government data, 224,329 posts of teachers are still vacant in the state.

Consider this, in Rae Bareli town area there are 51 elementary schools (Upper Primary and Primary) and only 68 teachers. There are 37 Primary Schools and to provide ‘quality’ education there are only 24 teachers. Out of 37 schools, three do not have even a single teacher. One Primary School of Chak Ahmadpur is being managed by teachers of Upper Primary Schools in nearby location, while two primary schools at Khaspari and Munsi Ganj have closed down due to lack of teachers. Though the SMC Forum raised this issue with the education department and the minister on several occasions, there has been no progress on this.

Then there is the issue of under-staffed female teachers. Parents would be more comfortable sending their daughters to schools with female teachers around. 27.5% schools in the state do not have any female teacher in the state. Now the RTE Act has set 10 minimum norms and standards for schools, one of them being toilets. Schools had to comply with these within three years of the enactment of the Act in April 2010 but even after 10 years only a mere 12.2% schools have complied to these 10 norms. So toilet remains an issues. And female teachers have to bear the brunt. They risk their health by going without water for long hours, lest they have to take a toilet break. With no facilities in school, they will have to go to a neighbouring home or find a secluded place to relive themselves. In a casteist society like ours it is even more difficult if the teacher happens to be from a Dalit community.

All of this can be and should be seen as a big failure of the education ministry and the Basic Education Department of the state due to which parents do not want to send their children in government schools although they want to get free and compulsory education.

There is an urgent crying need to fill the vacant posts of teachers in the state with immediate effect. Teachers should not be engaged in any form of non-academic work and for which State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR), Basic Education Department and district administration needs to work together. Funds should be allocated to schools for purchasing books for libraries so that they are able to engage with children better, lockdown or no lockdown.

On the occasion of Teachers Day, there is a need for the government to take concrete steps for teachers rather than sending out congratulatory messages which is mere lip service. Only then can we have more Pramods, Jitendras and Azads teaching our children and shaping the future of the country.

 

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