06 December 2019

How my job changed my perception of teachers

Ranjeet is working as the state head of Jharkhand, for Sampark Foundation.
By Ranjeet Kumar

I have been working in the development sector for the last 15 years and got an opportunity to see Indian villages from close quarters. Since I joined Sampark three years back, my entire focus has been on education. I read a lot about various problems that afflict the education system in our country: flawed pedagogy, lack of infrastructure, unqualified and unmotivated teachers, among others. 

I feel sometimes, it is easy to blame teachers for being unmotivated, or ineffective. During my journey, I have come across many remarkable teachers who left a strong impression on my mind and beautiful memories in my heart. But some of them stand out, maybe owing to the situation or the mood. One such teacher Mr. Praduman Kumar Choudhary of Jharkhand.

One day, I was on a school visit, unaware there was a retirement celebration taking place that day. The teacher, who was taking retirement, was one of the most enthusiastic and passionate educators I have ever met. His passion for teaching, was the same on the day of his retirement as it was on the day he started teaching. He told me ‘jab tak mai service mai hun, mai puri dedication ke sath kaam karunga.’ (Till the time I am in service, I will give my best). 

His enthusiasm surprised me. I had heard stories about how teachers in government schools are always disinterested and demotivated. But my experience in the field tells me another tale. 

When I reached this government school in Dumka, I thought the school was closed, what with the absence of any hustle-bustle and chitter-chatter. But soon I saw a row of neatly parked bicycles, which made obvious that children were in attendance. On further inspection, I saw that all children were attending classes with utmost diligence. Their teachers, too, were sincerely conducting classes. 

I’ve observed, that teachers in rural India have very strong bonds with their students as compared to those in urban areas. There are many reasons for this, but majorly the class size in rural schools is very small and the teachers invest a lot in the children because they can relate to their struggles (want to see each student grow). 

In states such as Jharkhand where majority of teachers (around 80,000 out of 1,20,000) are para teachers, and in villages where the only cement building is the school, and the locals still live in thatched-roof homes, people are sending their children to school because they want their children to be educated and live a better life. And the teachers, they believe, can lead this journey of transformation. 

What we need to understand is that the teachers, who are seemingly failing to perform their duties, may be facing bigger, unseen challenges. For example, in a school, there were only two teachers: one was roped in for non-teaching work and, so the other one was having to take care of all five classes. In such cases, no matter how hard a teacher tries, he won’t be able to do justice to his job. And the students of such teachers suffer immensely. 

Through Sampark, we have been trying to help such teachers, keep their motivation up. Our innovations empower such teachers with tools and methodologies and take 30 per cent load off them. I feel happy and proud when I see teachers using our teaching-learning material (TLMs) and effortlessly managing multi-grade classrooms. I am happy that our organization has bought about a tangible change for thousands of teachers in rural India.

(The writer is the Sampark State Head of Jharkhand. Views expressed are personal)