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Rickshaw-puller’s daughter bags sixth place in class XII board exam merit list

Shivani Prajapat, daughter of a rickshaw-puller from Alwar has become a hero not only in her colony where her family lives in a rented room but for all class XII aspirants. She stood sixth in the state merit list (Arts) after battling typhoid and her frugal lifestyle.

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Life has the strange capacity to plant brilliance in the most unlikely of all places. Who would have thought that a girl hailing from an under-privileged background, living in a 12-feet-by-nine-feet room will take the sixth position in the State merit list of the class XII (Arts) exam? But yes, that’s exactly what’s happened.

Shivani Prajapat, 17, daughter of a rickshaw-puller from Alwar, clinched the sixth place on the state’s merit list of Class 12 (Arts) exam. Satish Singh, the principal of Rajasthan Academy Senior Secondary School, personally called up Shivani to congratulate her after the results were declared on Saturday evening. It wasn’t long before the news of her achievement brought a horde of journalists and photographers to her small rented house in Alwar’s NIA Colony.

“My principal only told me that I scored 88% in political science and that I was sixth in the state merit list,” said Shivani. She didn’t know her subject-wise marks until Sunday evening. “I thought I’d score more in drawing,” she said when she heard she got 94% in the subject.

Her overall score was an impressive 468 out of 500, or 93.6%, but like a true champion she is not satisfied. She shared that she had contracted typhoid during exams and was very sick on the day of the political science exam. “It’s my favourite subject and I had studied well,” she said.

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The beauty of dreams is that they need not have a connection with the reality and here too dreaming big was not hindered by either her illness or even her frugal lifestyle. Shivani lives in a single, almost bare room in Alwar’s, NIA colony with her 2 siblings and a cousin. Her mother, Santara Devi, does odd stitching jobs to contribute to the family income.

“My father earns around Rs 5,000 a month and pays Rs 2,500 as house rent. We are very poor but my school supported me in studies,” she said.

 “We don’t take fees from them and provide them books free of cost,” said Singh, adding that it was the school’s policy to support poor students.

Encouraged by her father, Tejram Prajapat, and her school, Shivani now has her sights trained on becoming an IAS officer. “I want to become an IAS officer so that my parents don’t have to work in their old age,” she said.

Shivani’s younger brother, Vishesh, is awaiting his Class 10 results, and the youngest, Gyandeep, is in Class 8. Singh said he expected them to follow Shivani’s footsteps and land a place on the merit list as well.

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A Former Monk And His Abode of Love: Jhamtse Gatsal

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There are only a handful of experiences in everyone’s life that get etched in one’s heart for a lifetime. My visit to Jhamtse Gatsal qualifies as one such experience; special, unforgettable, and forever a part of me.

View from Jhamtse Gatsal: Tawang Chu River marks the border with Bhutan on its left.

‘Jhamtse Gatsal’ literally, translates to ‘garden of love and compassion’. Standing true to its name, it’s a place where young souls are nurtured with love and tended to with compassion, much like seeds sown in a garden. It was opened in the year 2006, with 35 kids under its care and today it is home to 128 children.

The physical location of Jhamtse Gatsal is as enchanting as the philosophical essence behind its inception. About 50 Km away from the noise and bustle of the district headquarters in Tawang, it is located in the remote and picturesque Lumla sub-division. Built atop a hill, it is surrounded by majestic mountains that are lush green during summer and sparkling white during the winter. It overlooks the mystic Tawang Chu River meandering through the foothills and demarcating the international border with Bhutan to its left.

Far from the madding crowd and nestled in nature’s bounty, it is not an overstatement to say that the place satiates the yearnings and heals the maladies of the soul. Jhamtse Gatsal is a world in itself; complete and self-sustaining. The story of how it came into existence is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Jhamtse Gatsal is the brainchild of Mr. Lobsang Phuntsok, the former monk who left his fairly comfortable and thriving life in America and came back to his birthplace Tawang, to give back to the place and its people, all that was in his capacity. He is fondly addressed as Gen-la (‘Gen’ is a Tibetan term for an honored teacher and La is added to indicate respect. Together, Gen-la translates to ‘honorable teacher’), by everyone in Jhamtse Gatsal community and beyond it, by others in Tawang. Gen-la’s vision, grit, and conviction to transform lives and mold them, comes from the childhood he lived.

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A sit-out spot on campus overlooking Bhutan.

Born to an unwed mother, he was looked upon as “an uninvited guest in the universe”. Even though the pain and embarrassment his birth brought to his mother and family are not the best memories to go back to, he does not shy away from embracing and sharing his story. He rather acknowledges its instrumentality in shaping the person he is today. He recalls being a difficult child; often detested by the villagers for his notorieties. His loving grandparents saw no way out to mend his ways and finally at the age of 7, with the earnest hope for his life to take a better turn, he was sent away to a Buddhist monastery down south of the country to live a monk’s life. Notwithstanding, he recalls his young self continuing with his old ways in the monastery. Eventually, the faith, patience, and compassion shown by his Gurus set him on the path of self-transformation. Reaffirming the fact that behind different facades, lies the inherent human goodness in each one of us.

The children fostered by Gen Lobsang La at Jhamtse Gatsal share stories similar to his own; where the mere accident of birth in a certain family or circumstance left them in a position of pain or disadvantage. His mission is to give these children a fair chance at life and more importantly, guide them to transform themselves into better humans capable of being agents of change wherever they go, in making this world a better place to live in. He shares that, to love, care, provide for, and see the children happy is like time traveling back to his formative years; giving him a chance to relive his childhood through them and experience everything he missed out on. It is true indeed that the love we give is the love we keep. The only way to retain love is to give it away.

Sharing knowledge.

In his 50s now, Gen Lobsang la has the exuberance of youth and his passion is evident in the joy with which he shares about his mission and the future plans he has for Jhamtse Gatsal. He is backed by a team of dedicated teaching and non-teaching staff, who are not only competent in their respective specialties but also share some common core values. Benign in their approach, they are professional with a human touch and value, laying the base of a healthy work environment.

Jhamtse Gatsal campus is at present, broadly divided into three main sections – the children’s residential complex, the academic block, and an area designated for building a residential colony in the near future. Together, they make up the Jhamtse Gatsal Community. Every aspect of Jhamtse Gatsal is well thought-out and holds meaning. The children’s residential complex is sectioned into four parts, each one of them a Khemsang’, meaning a family house’. The four khemsang have been named – Panggyen, Ganghla, Serchen, and Gurkum after rare plants with medicinal properties and healing capabilities. The thought behind this is to bespeak and symbolize self-healing and then, the the ability to heal others. It is rightly said,

“Hurt people hurt people. And healed people heal others. Free spirits free others, enlightened people enlighten others”.

Each khemsang and its children are looked after and taken care of by one ‘Ama-la’ (‘Ama’ means mother, ‘La’ is added to express respect. ‘Amala’ translates to respected/beloved mother). The four Ama-La(s) manage the four Khemsang(s) just like a mother does in a family. Along with the family-like set up with a mother figure, the older children are also taught to look after and care for the younger ones just like siblings do in a family.

It leaves no room for bullying or domination and instead, develops qualities of affection, a sense of responsibility, and mutual love between children of different age groups. These are just a few subtle and manifest ways in which the system devised at Jhamtse Gatsal empowers children and nudges them to a better path.

Gen-La with house mothers/Ama-la(s)

Keeping the ideals of a family, the mess at Jhamtse Gatsal has no fixed menu that repeats week after week. The Ama-La in charge decides what is to be fed. From ‘Thentuk’ (Hand-pulled noodle soup with mixed vegetables) to healthy curries, every meal is cooked with love and dedication.

Happy children posing for a photo after their morning study hour.

One of the inspiring routine events I was privileged to take part in, was the weekly one-meal fast (Wednesday dinner). It is not compulsory for guests or even for others in the community to participate, it is a completely voluntary choice. Dinner is still served for anyone who decides or feels the need to eat, along with the younger lot who are strictly exempted from participating.

The apportioned ration for those days is saved and donated to the needy in the villages around. In explaining the idea behind this observance of fast, Gen-La re-defined the notion of charity and sacrifice for me. He says the right way to gauge our dedication and love for fellow human beings is to see what we can forgo for someone else. He says, to be generous, donate, help only when there is an overflowing abundance, or give away that which we don’t want/wish to discard, hardly captures the spirit of charity or qualifies as one.

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Taking a moment to thank before the meal.

This made me rethink the idea of donating clothes we don’t want, and the leftover food on our plates that we give away, as an act of kindness. Sure, something is better than nothing and to feed an empty stomach is better than dumping it in a thrash bin. But it made me wonder that perhaps, cutting out from our portion for someone else is to treat the other person with respect, as equal sentient beings to share and care for, and not subjects of our kindness born out of a condescending privilege. Along with the standard curriculum for each class, children are engaged in a myriad of extracurricular activities, skill training, and other creative projects. The goal is to ensure an all-around development encompassing emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical health.

Each child is counseled, encouraged, and helped to polish their unique strengths by abled teachers and Gen-La, together. Instead of trying to fit everyone in a specific predesigned box, each child is allowed to bloom at its own pace and shine in their unique domains. Teaching the science and art of sustainable living is a major focus and the base on which the edifice of Jhamtse Gatsal Community is built.

Children in the queue for an afternoon snack.

Children are exposed to lessons and activities that arm them to live scientifically and in harmony with nature, through fun and interesting engagements. From plastic recycling, waste management, and vermicomposting to arts and crafts, the children at Jhamtse Gatsal are taught and trained by teachers, Ama-la(s), and enthusiastic allies from across the world. Other than professional and academic lessons, it is ensured that children learn basic life skills – cooking, cleaning, and self-care across genders.

Jhamtse Gatsal is a beacon of hope for the world we live in today. In a world of information overload and easy access to social media, it is sometimes dispiriting to witness the tragic events happening across the world. At such a time, Jhamtse Gatsal is a place that felt refreshing and reaffirmed my faith in a shared brotherhood of humanity with the promise of a better, kinder, and harmonious world. In my assignment to write for The Borderlens, I feel fortunate to have discovered my Shangri-La at Jhamtse Gatsal Children’s Community; a place that felt like a remotely hidden, beautiful utopia.

Learn more about Gatsal: https://linktr.ee/jhamtsegatsal

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Remembering Sardar Patel: Observing Ekta (Unity) in Education

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Statue of Unity | Image Source: Gujarat Tourism

Every year, on October 31, India comes together to observe Ekta Diwas or National Unity Day, a significant occasion that commemorates the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a stalwart in India’s struggle for independence and the nation’s first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister. Born in 1875, Patel’s legacy reverberates through the annals of history, especially for his pivotal role in integrating the princely states and colonial provinces, shaping the modern map of India post its independence from British rule.

In 2014, the Government of India declared this day as National Unity Day, a heartfelt tribute to Sardar Patel’s monumental contributions to the nation’s unity, integrity, and security. This declaration signifies more than just a date on the calendar; it embodies the collective strength and resilience of India against internal and external threats.

The celebrations on National Unity Day are vibrant and diverse, reflecting the essence of India’s rich cultural tapestry. Various activities, such as runs for unity, pledge-taking ceremonies, cultural programs, debates, quizzes, essay competitions, and exhibitions about Sardar Patel’s life, mark the day. The focal point of these celebrations is the Statue of Unity, the world’s tallest statue standing at 182 meters (597 feet), dedicated to Sardar Patel. This colossal statue, situated near the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river in Gujarat, Sardar Patel’s home state, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 31, 2018.

National Unity Day is not merely a ritual; it is a day of inspiration. It urges the citizens of India to emulate Sardar Patel’s ideals of unity, patriotism, and selfless service. Beyond that, it serves as a reminder, urging the nation to recall the sacrifices and struggles of the freedom fighters who toiled for India’s independence and integration. It is a day to cherish India’s diversity, a unique feature of its culture and identity, and a day to recommit ourselves to preserving the unity, integrity, and sovereignty of our nation.

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This day is a call to action, reminding every Indian of their duty towards their motherland. It instills a sense of national pride, fostering a spirit of belonging among the citizens. National Unity Day promotes harmony and brotherhood, serving as a beacon of India’s secular and democratic values enshrined in its Constitution. It strengthens our resolve, reminding us that as a united nation, we can face any challenge that comes our way.

National Unity Day stands as a testament to India’s unity in diversity. It is not just a tribute to Sardar Patel; it is a celebration of his legacy, a legacy that unites the hearts of every Indian. On this day, we salute him not just as a leader but as an icon of national unity, reminding us of the strength we possess when we stand together as one, undivided nation.

As we observe National Unity Day, let us reflect on Sardar Patel’s wisdom and vision. Let us embrace the diversity that defines us and work hand in hand to build a stronger, more united India for the generations to come.

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World Students’ Day: Celebrating Young Indian Entrepreneurs Shaping the Future

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On the occasion of World Students’ Day 2023, celebrated on 15th October 2023, we are showcasing stories of student entrepreneurs who are nothing less than an inspiration. They have left their indelible mark on the world through their work and innovation

Student entrepreneurs are young people who start their own businesses while pursuing their education. They are driven by their passion, creativity, and innovation to solve problems and create value in the market. Student entrepreneurship is a growing phenomenon in India, as more and more students are taking up the challenge of becoming their own bosses. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report 2020-21, approximately 81 percent of youth in India reported having the skills and knowledge needed to start a business. A survey by Amway India also revealed that over 60 percent of students in the country consider entrepreneurship as a good prospect for earning a livelihood. Some of the successful student entrepreneurs in India include Ritesh Agarwal of OYO Rooms, Bhavish Aggarwal of Ola Cabs, and Kunal Shah of Freecharge. Student entrepreneurship can be a rewarding career option for young Indians who want to make a difference in the world.

Aadit Palicha and Kaivalya Vohra are the young entrepreneurs behind Zepto, India’s fastest-growing delivery platform that promises to deliver anything within 10 minutes. The duo met as childhood friends in Dubai and later enrolled in Stanford University, where they dropped out to pursue their dream of building a disruptive startup.

Zepto was launched in Mumbai in 2021, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when the demand for online delivery services was soaring. The company leveraged its network of hyperlocal warehouses and delivery partners to offer a wide range of products, from groceries and medicines to electronics and fashion, at affordable prices and lightning speed. The company soon attracted the attention of investors and customers alike, reaching a valuation of $200 million in just one month of operation. By the end of 2022, Zepto had become a unicorn, valued at $900 million, and expanded to over 20 cities across India. The company also made history by making its co-founders the youngest billionaires in India, with Aadit Palicha’s net worth estimated at Rs 1,200 crore and Kaivalya Vohra’s at Rs 1,000 crore.

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Palicha, just 23-year-old and Vohra, in his early 20’s have also been recognized for their achievements by various prestigious platforms, such as Forbes’ 30 Under 30 for Asia, Times of India’s Unstoppable 21, and Wikitia. They are regarded as the rising stars of the Indian startup ecosystem and an inspiration for many aspiring entrepreneurs.

Tilak Mehta is a 15-year-old entrepreneur who founded Paper n Parcels, a delivery platform that offers same-day delivery services within the city at low costs. He started his business when he was 13 years old, after facing a problem of getting his books delivered from his uncle’s place. He came up with the idea of using the Mumbai Dabbawalas, who are known for their efficient and reliable delivery of lunch boxes, to deliver other items as well.

Paper n Parcels has grown to become one of the most successful startups in India, with an annual turnover of Rs 100 crore. The company provides shipping and logistics solutions to various businesses, using its online platform and network of partners and suppliers. Paper n Parcels also offers value-added services such as parcel tracking, order management, and shipping insurance.

Tilak Mehta is an inspiration for many young aspiring entrepreneurs in India. He has been recognised by various prestigious platforms such as Forbes’ 30 Under 30 for Asia, Times of India’s Unstoppable 21. He is also a TEDx speaker and the youngest Forbes panellist. He believes that age is no barrier to innovation and success.

Divya Gandotra Tandon is a rising star in India’s entrepreneurial landscape. She is the founder and director of Scoop Beats Private Limited, a company that provides digital media solutions and content creation services. She is also the chief operating officer of ASTNT Technologies Private Limited, a company that offers web development, app development, and digital marketing services.

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Divya started her career as a tech YouTuber at the age of 13, with a channel named Technical Divya. She later changed it to Tech Divya, which has over 30 thousand subscribers. She has collaborated with brands like Aquaconnect, Lazy Gardener, Coolpad, Infinix, and ASCENT Technologies. She has also attended launch events and confidential meetings of various tech companies.

Divya is not just an entrepreneur but also an influential figure in various domains. She is also the chairperson of the KiranPrakash Social Welfare Foundation, a role that reflects her commitment to giving back to society and making a positive impact.

Pranjali Awasthi is a teenage prodigy who has made a mark in the world of AI with her startup, Delv.AI She founded the company in 2022, when she was just 15 years old, and has raised nearly Rs 4 crore in funding at a valuation of Rs 100 crore.

Awasthi’s passion for technology and entrepreneurship was inspired by her father, who is a computer engineer and taught her coding when she was seven years old. She moved from India to Florida when she was 11 years old, where she got access to computer science classes and competitive math programs. She also landed an internship at the research labs of Florida International University, where she worked on machine learning projects.

Advait Thakur is a young and dynamic entrepreneur who has made a name for himself in the Indian tech industry. He is the founder and CEO of Apex Infosys India, a company that provides innovative solutions in automation, networking, and digital media. He is also a computer programmer, an AI researcher, and a tech influencer.

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Advait’s passion for technology started at an early age. He launched his first website at the age of nine and became a Google, Bing, and Hubspot certified professional. He has worked with Google’s AI and Cloud Platform for several years and has developed various applications and projects using them. He has also collaborated with brands like Aquaconnect, Lazy Gardener, Coolpad, Infinix, and ASCENT Technologies.

Advait is not just a successful entrepreneur but also a social change-maker. He co-founded Crophle, a social enterprise that aims to improve the agricultural supply chain and empower small farmers. He is also the chairperson of the KiranPrakash Social Welfare Foundation, a non-profit organization that works for the welfare of underprivileged children and women.

 

 

 

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Nurturing Teenage Minds: The Imperative Need for Mental Health Awareness in India’s Curriculum

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In the bustling classrooms of India’s educational institutions, among the faces of countless teenagers like Hunar, Janhavi, Krishh, and Zahra, lies an untold story- the story of silent battles with mental health. India’s youth faces a silent epidemic of mental health issues, and it is time to address these crisis head-on through an essential addition to our curriculum with mental health awareness. Anvi Kumar, Founder, of The Mind Canvas, discusses through a real-life example the importance of mental well-being among children.

The Silent Epidemic Among Teens

Among the many statistics and data points that highlight India’s mental health crisis, it is alarming to note that teenagers are particularly vulnerable. Hunar, a bright 14-year-old student from New Delhi, has felt this firsthand. The pressure to excel academically, paired with societal expectations, took a toll on his mental well-being. Like many of his peers, Hunar struggled with anxiety and stress.

Janhavi, his classmate, has her own battles. The relentless competition for college admissions and the burden of expectations weighed heavily on her shoulders. She realized that academic success should not come at the cost of her mental health.

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Krishh, in their class, spent hours online, finding solace in the virtual world. While the internet offered a sense of connection and escape, it also presented its own set of challenges, such as cyberbullying and the addictive allure of screen time.

Meanwhile, Zahra, grapples with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a condition that made her daily life a constant struggle. The stigma surrounding mental health issues only made her battle more arduous.

Breaking the Silence Through Education

Hunar, Janhavi, Krishh, and Zahra represent countless teenagers who need support and understanding. These young minds are not just future leaders but also the heart of our society. We must acknowledge their emotional well-being as the foundation for a brighter future. Mental health education in our curriculum is the first step in this direction. It helps students like Hunar understand that they are not alone, that it’s okay to ask for help when they need it, and that their mental health matters just as much as their grades. Janhavi, having experienced the struggles firsthand, believes that discussing mental health openly in schools can break the stigma and normalize seeking help when needed. She’s convinced that such discussions would have helped her navigate the turbulent waters of adolescence more effectively. Krishh, recognizing the allure and pitfalls of the internet, emphasizes the importance of teaching teenagers how to manage screen time, navigate online challenges, and foster healthy offline relationships. Zahra, with her personal battle against OCD, knows that early education about mental health would have helped her understand her condition better and seek treatment sooner.

A Personal Approach to Education to create a lasting impact, mental health education must be personalized and integrated across subjects and grade levels. It’s about fostering empathy and understanding among students. It’s about equipping educators like Hunar’s teacher with the tools to recognize signs of distress and provide support. Hunar, who once felt overwhelmed, now finds solace in knowing that he can discuss his anxieties openly with his teachers and peers. Janhavi’s school has introduced regular sessions on stress management and emotional well-being, making her academic journey more manageable. Krishh’s school offers guidance on responsible internet use, empowering him to make informed choices online. Zahra’s struggles with OCD have become less isolating as her school promotes understanding and acceptance of mental health challenges.

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Incorporating mental health awareness into India’s curriculum is not a mere choice; it’s a moral and societal responsibility. It’s about nurturing the minds of teenagers like Hunar, Janhavi, Krishh, and Zahra, ensuring they not only excel academically but also navigate their emotional well-being successfully. It’s time to break the silence, end the stigma, and empower our youth with the knowledge and support they need to thrive both in and out of the classroom. By doing so, we invest in a healthier, happier future for India.

NOTE- On the occasion of  World Mental Health Day 2023 observed on October 10th, ScooNews has dedicated this week to amplifying the voices of the education fraternity on the Inclusion of mental health in our curriculum. Stay tuned for the whole week, we will be coming up with stories and articles on mental health in education.

This article commences the series #ScooNewsforMentalHealth campaign. 

 

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World Teachers’ Day 2023: Rising Above the Teacher Shortage Crisis

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In India, we pay homage to our teachers every year on September 5th. But the world celebrates a group of unsung heroes who wield pens and knowledge rather than capes and superpowers on 5th October every year as World Teachers’ Day. It is a day dedicated to recognizing and honoring the pivotal role educators play in shaping the future of our society. This year’s theme, “The Teachers We Need for the Education We Want: The Global Imperative to Reverse the Teacher Shortage,” calls attention to a critical issue facing not only India but the entire world – the scarcity of teachers.

However, beyond this day of homage lies a stark reality. According to recent research, India faces a daunting shortage of over one million school teachers, both in traditional classrooms and the increasingly important digital realm. The ‘2021 State of the Education Report for India: No Teacher, No Class’ by UNESCO paints a grim picture, revealing that approximately 1.1 lakh schools in India are single-teacher entities, and a staggering 19% of teaching positions, totaling 11.16 lakh, remain vacant nationwide. These numbers not only highlight the shortage but also underscore the rural-urban disparity, gender imbalance, and the myriad challenges that teachers face. But India is not alone in this crisis. Globally, the shortage of teachers is a critical issue, particularly in low and middle-income countries. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics warns that nearly 69 million new teachers are needed to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030.

In the realm of education, there exists a fine line that separates teachers from real-life educators. While teachers impart knowledge within the confines of a classroom, educators transcend these boundaries, touching lives and breaking barriers. On this World Teachers’ Day, here are some real-life heroes who don’t wear capes but wield pens and paper, proving that it only takes one educator to change a million lives.

Dr. Bharat Saran: A Doctor of Dreams

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Dr. Bharat Saran’s journey began in the challenging landscape of Rajasthan’s Barmer district. Born into a world where resources were scarce, he faced an education system devoid of teachers and devoid of guidance. Despite these odds, he held an unshakable dream of becoming a doctor, a dream that would lead to profound change.

Completing his 12th grade in a government school in 2003, Dr. Saran’s path was marked by economic hardships. Yet, undeterred, he joined a coaching institute in Kota, Rajasthan, while simultaneously tutoring financially disadvantaged students. Years of unwavering dedication bore fruit when he secured admission to a government medical college in Kota to pursue MBBS. However, his mission went beyond personal success; it led to the establishment of the ‘Fifty Villagers Seva Sansthan’ in Barmer, dedicated to providing free hostel facilities and educational support to orphaned students who had completed their secondary education.

Dr. Lalita Sharma: Fostering Excellence through Diversity

Dr. Lalita Sharma, within the Abhakunj Welfare Society, has woven a diverse team of teachers and volunteers who selflessly dedicate their time and skills. This organization thrives on the contributions of retired professionals, homemakers, working professionals, and interns, with Dr. Lalita herself mentoring teachers, including retired professionals and engineers. Their collective mission is to shape the lives of underprivileged children, with a team of trained volunteers and interns from universities and colleges making valuable contributions.

Aarti Naik: Breaking the Chains of Slum-based Girls’ Education Challenges

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Aarti Naik’s story unfolds in Mumbai’s sprawling slums. Despite adversity and a substandard education system, she pursued her dream after failing her 10th grade, defying her parents’ wishes. Her determination revealed the urgent need to transform the outlook on girls’ education in her community. Aarti launched an initiative to reshape mindsets and break the cycle of poverty ensnaring many young girls in Indian slums.

Aditya Kumar aka ‘Cycle Wale Guruji’: Pedaling Towards Education

Aditya Kumar from Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh, embarked on an extraordinary mission – providing quality education to underprivileged children while cycling across India. As ‘Cycle Wale Guruji,’ he made every place he stopped a classroom for the day, symbolizing the extraordinary efforts some educators make to bring quality education to those in need.

Keshav Datta: Creating Scalable Models for Social Welfare through Education

Keshav Datta recognized the transformative power of education from a young age and established the Sarvahitey NGO to create scalable models for positive change. His unwavering belief in the potential of education is inspiring a movement where everyone can contribute in their unique way, forging a better tomorrow for all in India.

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On this World Teachers’ Day, let our hearts unite in celebration. We honor not only the heroes of yesteryears but also stand in solidarity with every educator shaping the future. They blur the lines between the roles we assign and showcase the limitless possibilities when we embrace the spirit of true education. Their tireless dedication and boundless passion illuminate the path of knowledge for generations to come. Together, we can uplift these unsung champions and ensure that the beacon of education continues to shine brightly, lighting the way for a brighter tomorrow.

To know more about such Educators, read our special issue dedicated to “Teacher Warriors” Read Here

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Inspiration

Celebrating Gandhi Jayanti: Embracing Gandhi’s Vision in Modern Education

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Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Indian nation, was not just a political leader but a philosopher and a visionary who advocated for peace, non-violence, and social justice. His ideas and principles continue to inspire millions worldwide. To ensure that future generations understand and appreciate his legacy, there is a growing call to incorporate Gandhi’s ideology into school curricula.

Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of education transcended mere academic knowledge; it aimed to shape individuals into well-rounded, self-reliant citizens capable of contributing to society. In his words, “An education which does not teach us to discriminate between good and bad, to assimilate the one and eschew the other, is a misnomer.” Gandhi envisioned a holistic approach to education that focused not only on intellectual growth but also on physical labor, vocational training, and moral development.

Exploring Gandhi’s ideology in school curricula unveils a rich tapestry of principles that encompass his enduring legacy. At the heart of it all lies non-violence, or Ahimsa, a powerful force for achieving social and political change that fosters peace and harmony by teaching the art of conflict resolution without resorting to violence. Truth, known as Satya, stands as a cornerstone, championing honesty, integrity, and transparency in words and actions, molding students into pillars of virtue. Self-reliance, or Swadeshi, echoes the call for economic independence, sustainability, and entrepreneurship, urging individuals and communities to stand on their own feet. In the pursuit of a balanced life, simplicity, or Sarvodaya, is celebrated, offering a countermeasure to materialism, consumerism, and environmental degradation. Lastly, the principle of Equality, or Samanvaya, champions the fight against discrimination based on caste, religion, or gender, paving the way for inclusivity, social justice, and equality within the walls of our educational institutions.

Education should serve a dual purpose, he believed that every individual had a right to the necessities of life but also a duty to engage in manual labor to support society and there should be a system where students learned the dignity of labor and regarded it as a patriotic duty to pay for their training through their work. In Gandhi’s scheme of education, the ultimate goal was the harmonious development of all aspects of human personality: body, mind, and spirit. He stressed the need for a balanced approach that nurtured physical fitness, intellectual capacity, and moral values.

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Today, as we mark the ninth anniversary of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and observe the Swachhata Hi Seva (SHS) campaign from September 15th to October 2nd, it is a fitting moment to contemplate the enduring wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi on the occasion of his 154th birth anniversary. In his vision for a ‘Clean India,‘ Gandhi placed emphasis not only on physical cleanliness but also on the purity of the mind and soul. He firmly believed that genuine cleanliness extended beyond our immediate environment to encompass our thoughts, deeds, and core values. As we recall Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s words during the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission in 2014, “A clean India would be the most meaningful tribute that our nation could offer to honor Mahatma Gandhi.”

In our rapidly evolving world, the need for an education rooted in Gandhian principles is more crucial than ever. It is not merely a choice but a necessity, a pathway to nurture individuals who are not just intellectually adept but also socially conscious and ethically grounded. As we look forward, let us embrace the spirit of Gandhian education, transforming it from a beacon of hope into a tangible reality for generations to come.

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Sustainable Practices in Educational Institutions: World Environmental Health Day 2023

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World Environmental Health Day 2023 brings with it a poignant reminder of our collective responsibility towards the planet. As we stand at a critical juncture in the fight against environmental degradation, the role of educational institutions in promoting sustainability and environmental health takes center stage. In this article, we delve into the multifaceted realm of sustainable school practices, focusing on their role in reducing the carbon footprint, addressing wastage, and nurturing environmental health in the Indian context. We will also explore why education centers should place sustainability at the core of their educational mission.

One of the most pressing environmental issues of our time is the burgeoning carbon footprint. Educational institutions, as hubs of knowledge and innovation, possess immense potential to influence this paradigm. Through conscientious efforts to reduce carbon emissions, educational institutions can significantly contribute to a healthier planet. Implementing energy-efficient systems, promoting eco-friendly transportation options, and advocating for responsible resource consumption are just a few ways in which educational institutions can lead the charge in carbon footprint reduction.

Addressing Wastage

Wastage in educational institutions extends beyond the disposal of materials; it encompasses valuable resources like energy, water, and food. Sustainable school practices necessitate a vigilant approach to resource management. Educational institutions can adopt recycling programs, implement water-saving measures, and promote responsible food consumption. Moreover, teaching students about the consequences of wastefulness instills lifelong values of resource conservation. On addressing this issue, Yashraj Garg, Co-founder, Envirocare Foundation, a social and non-profit initiative said, “To begin with, schools can employ imaginative, artistic mediums, such as visual and literary arts, to cultivate eco-friendly mindsets among students. By raising awareness through creativity, we can foster a collective commitment to sustainable daily practices. Additionally, schools should establish avenues for expression and advocacy, like clubs and waste management initiatives, within their communities. Such inclusive initiatives can broaden students’ perspectives on climate change’s social dimensions. Addressing food waste within school cafeterias is paramount. Implementing technology-driven food preservation models and involving students in socio-environmental projects can drastically reduce wastage.”

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Environmental Health in India: A Multifaceted Challenge

India grapples with a profound environmental health challenge, with air pollution standing out as a major concern. According to IQAir’s World Air Quality Report 2021, India ranks as the fifth most polluted country globally among 117 assessed regions. In 2021, the country’s annual average PM2.5 levels reached a staggering 58.1 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³), significantly exceeding the World Health Organization’s guideline of 10 µg/m³ for annual mean PM2.5 concentrations. The situation is exacerbated by the return to pre-quarantine pollution levels observed in 2019, emphasizing the urgency of addressing this issue.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) reports that, as of September 22, 2023, India’s National Air Quality Index (NAQI) stood at a moderate value of 78. However, many cities, including Bhiwadi (162), Pune (149), Jalandhar (147), and Gurugram (138), faced poor or very poor air quality levels. The primary sources of air pollution in India encompass fossil fuel combustion, biomass burning, industrial emissions, vehicular exhaust, and dust.

India’s environmental health challenges encompass a broad spectrum of issues, from air pollution to access to safe water and sanitation, extreme weather events, loss of biodiversity, and emerging infectious diseases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), environmental factors accounted for a staggering 26% of total deaths and 25% of the total disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) in India in 2019. Leading causes of environmental mortality and morbidity include lower respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, ischemic heart disease, and stroke.

While India grapples with these challenges, it has also undertaken significant initiatives to enhance its environmental health situation. Key programs include the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), the National Biodiversity Action Plan (NBAP), and the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP). These initiatives reflect India’s commitment to addressing pressing environmental concerns.

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Educational Institutions Leading the Way

Notably, several educational institutions in India have emerged as pioneers in reducing their carbon footprint and promoting sustainability on their campuses.

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, achieved a remarkable feat by reducing its carbon footprint by over 50%. This achievement was accomplished through the strategic purchase of power from green generators and the installation of solar panels on campus rooftops. The institute also implements an innovative waste management system that converts organic waste into biogas and compost.

Similarly, Sri Ramakrishna Engineering College (SREC) in Coimbatore has undertaken a meticulous study of its carbon emissions from January 2018 to December 2019. The study revealed that the college emitted just 5.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per student per year, surpassing the national average of 6.7 tonnes CO2e per capita per year. SREC has adopted a range of sustainable measures, including the use of LED lighting, energy-efficient appliances, rainwater harvesting systems, and biodegradable packaging materials.

One such example is provided by Pallavee Dhaundiyal Panthry, Chief Communication Advisor, World of Circular Economy (WOCE), an organisation in environment, climate, and sustainability solutions, “As we stand on the precipice of a world grappling with environmental challenges, schools emerge as beacons of hope, illuminating the path toward a sustainable future. The question at the forefront of this journey is: How can we help individuals adopt ‘Sustainable Human Behavior’ to support the growth of all people and help them lead a life of dignity, thereby creating a culture of sustainability among the masses? For instance, take the example of the Green School in Bali, Indonesia. Their curriculum goes beyond traditional education; it’s a holistic approach to sustainability. Students there learn about sustainable farming practices, participate in reforestation efforts, and engage in constructing eco-friendly bamboo buildings. Picture students on field trips, immersing themselves in the intricacies of ecology, their hands in the soil, planting seasonal crops, and nurturing an eco-agricultural sensibility. Schools should foster an environment of open discourse — a sanctuary where students commune, exchange ideas, and champion a more environmentally sustainable future for all. Schools must integrate sustainability into their very DNA. It’s not a subject but a way of life, an ethos that guides every decision and action.”

 

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Sustainability has evolved from a buzzword into a moral imperative. Educational institutions are not merely centers of academic learning but also institutions tasked with shaping responsible global citizens. Focusing on sustainability aligns with this mission and equips students with competencies vital for the future. Additionally, sustainable practices in educational institutions can lead to cost savings, creating a win-win situation for both the environment and the institution. On the importance of schools to follow environmentally friendly practices, Mamta Shekhawat, Founder, Gradding.com said, “To make the entire environment sustainable, schools should provide quality education. Schools should teach everyone that to secure the future generation & their needs, the current generation must meet all their requirements with eco-friendly methods. There must be suitable lessons present in the curriculum by which students know the importance of a healthy environment. That is how education plays a huge role in making environment healthier.”

Today’s younger generations are increasingly vocal about environmental concerns. They aspire for an eco-friendly world and demand action on climate change. Children and adolescents engage in self-reflection about their actions and contemplate how the broader community can contribute to sustainable development. This burgeoning eco-consciousness is a powerful force that educational institutions can harness to effect positive change. By integrating sustainability into the curriculum and school culture, educators can nurture this innate desire for a greener planet.

Educational Institutions can embark on various initiatives to promote sustainability effectively. These include:

  1. Curricular Integration: Incorporate environmental education across subjects to provide students with a holistic understanding of sustainability issues.
  2. Green Infrastructure: Develop sustainable school facilities, incorporating features like solar panels, rainwater harvesting, and green spaces.
  3. Waste Management Programs: Implement recycling and composting programs to reduce waste and educate students about responsible disposal.
  4. Student Engagement: Encourage student-led eco-clubs or initiatives that empower young minds to drive sustainability efforts.
  5. Community Involvement: Extend sustainability practices beyond the school gates by involving parents and the local community.

“Create opportunities for students to engage in practical, hands-on learning environmental projects. As Maldives is facing serious issues related to seagrass restoration. Therefore, our students have established a small seagrass nursery at the school and have been successfully restoring the seagrass since March 2023. I strongly believe by integrating these strategies, schools can not only educate students about environmental responsibility but also serve as role models for sustainable practices.” Said Mohsina Mirza, Principal, Billabong High International School, Maldives.

The imperative for sustainable school practices in nurturing environmental health cannot be overstated. Educational institutions have a pivotal role to play in reducing the carbon footprint, addressing wastage, and fostering environmental health, particularly in the context of India’s unique environmental challenges. By embracing sustainability, educational institutions prepare students for a future where responsible environmental stewardship is not an option but a necessity. These commendable efforts by educational institutions not only reduce their environmental impact but also serve as inspiring examples for the broader community. On World Environmental Health Day 2023, let us reaffirm our commitment to the planet and recognize the profound influence that educational institutions can wield in shaping a brighter, greener future

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GD Goenka’s Shooting Championship 2023 to Honour the legacy of Abhinav Bindra

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GD Goenka University is excited to introduce the inaugural Gayatri Devi Goenka Memorial Shooting Championship, a remarkable event that underscores the university’s unwavering commitment to nurturing sports excellence and paying tribute to the exceptional sharpshooters from all corners of India. Set to be held from September 26 to September 29, 2023, at the GD Goenka Shooting Range featuring 25 professional lanes, this championship is poised to become one of the nation’s most prestigious shooting competitions and will be conducted using Electronic Scoring Target System (EST).

This championship serves as a testament to promoting sportsmanship and fostering the talents of both emerging and seasoned shooters. With participation from over 500 competitors hailing from across India, the event promises to be a grand spectacle, celebrating the passion and precision of shooters who have honed their craft to perfection.

Notably, this championship holds particular significance as it pays homage to Abhinav Bindra, India’s first individual Olympic gold medalist. The GD Goenka Shooting Range, dedicated in his honor in 2022, stands as a guiding light for aspiring shooters, offering world-class facilities and expert guidance to nurture their talents.

During the inauguration, Abhinav Bindra expressed his thoughts, stating, “I extend my heartfelt congratulations to GD Goenka for the remarkable facilities they have established and the emphasis they place on sports across their educational institutions. I am confident that the students will achieve remarkable success in various tournaments, but more importantly, they will imbibe the values that sports instill in us.”

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Nipun Goenka, Managing Director of GD Goenka Group, aptly remarked, “The Gayatri Devi Goenka Memorial Shooting Championship transcends mere competition; it’s a celebration of the essence of sportsmanship, camaraderie, and unwavering dedication. We take immense pride in providing a platform for India’s talented marksmen and markswomen to shine, and we firmly believe that this championship will serve as an inspiration to a new generation of shooting enthusiasts.”

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Education

Super 30 Founder Anand Kumar Announces The Opening of a New School in Bihar

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In an exciting development for the education landscape in Bihar and beyond, Anand Kumar, the visionary behind the acclaimed Super-30 coaching institute, has unveiled his plans to establish a school in Patna, Bihar by 2025. This school aims to nurture students not only academically but also as well-rounded individuals with practical knowledge.

On this Teachers’ Day, Mr. Kumar announced to launch an enlightening eight-part series titled “The Anand Kumar Show” on a private news channel. This series will serve as a platform for Mr. Kumar to mentor and guide students preparing for various competitive examinations across the country.

“The first part of the series, debuting on Teacher’s Day, will tackle the pressing issue of students succumbing to the burden of high academic expectations, a problem tragically highlighted by recent student suicides in Kota, Rajasthan,” revealed Mr. Kumar.

Having recently garnered international recognition through a feature in a prominent Japanese business newspaper, Anand Kumar shared that he has long nurtured the idea of establishing a school. “By 2025, we will open this school in Bihar, the place of my birth and the origin of Super-30, which transformed my life. Our social media campaign for the school will commence next year,” he added.

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Mr. Kumar envisions a school that departs from conventional educational norms, focusing on practical knowledge and hands-on learning. “This school will be distinct from traditional educational institutions in India. Students will engage in agricultural activities, carpentry, and other practical pursuits of their choice. The goal is to shape them into individuals well-prepared for real-life challenges, rather than turning them into mere bookworms,” he explained.

The Super-30 coaching institute launched in 2002, selects and trains 30 exceptionally talented students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds to excel in the Joint Entrance Engineering Examination (JEE). To date, it has produced over 218 successful candidates for the IIT entrance examination, with many securing admissions to other prestigious engineering colleges across the country.

He emphasized that the proposed school would serve as an extension of the Super-30 coaching institute, focusing extensively on the holistic development of students within natural surroundings. “My intention is to groom them into responsible and compassionate human beings,” he affirmed.

When asked about his choice of September 5 for the TV show’s launch, he shared, “This date was chosen to reach out to millions of students through the program. While I won’t be teaching them directly, I will motivate and inspire them by addressing various issues that concern them in different episodes of the program.”

Anand Kumar’s commitment to transforming education and empowering young minds continues to inspire, and these new initiatives are poised to make a significant impact on the educational landscape, not only in Bihar but throughout the nation. His vision for a holistic and practical approach to learning holds the promise of shaping a brighter future for generations to come.

 

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10 Unforgettable Films That Celebrate Inspiring Teachers

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Lights, Camera, Learn!

As we celebrate Teacher’s Day in the month of September, here are the list of films that featured some stories and teachers who left an indelible mark on the audience in cinema, showing the world how it only takes one teacher to inspire a million lives…

Dead Poet’s Society (1989): “Dead Poets Society” is an acclaimed drama film about an unconventional English teacher who inspires his students to embrace poetry, think independently, and seize the day. It explores the conflicts between personal aspirations and societal expectations, offering a thought-provoking exploration of individuality and the pursuit of dreams.

Where to watch- Disney + Hotstar
Directed by- Peter Weir

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The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969): “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” is a captivating tale of a passionate and unconventional teacher who leaves an indelible mark on her students at an all-girls school in 1930s Edinburgh, empowering them to embrace their individuality, challenge societal norms, and strive for greatness in a world that seeks to confine them.

Where to watch- YouTube
Directed By- Ronal Neame

Stanley Ka Dabba (2011): “Stanley Ka Dabba” is a heartwarming film that tells the touching story of Stanley, a young boy with a vivid imagination, who faces adversity when his schoolmates try to steal his lunchbox (dabba) every day. With the compassionate guidance of his teacher, Stanley finds solace, resilience, and the power to overcome obstacles, showcasing the transformative impact of friendship, mentorship, and the indomitable spirit of childhood.

Where to watch- Disney+Hotstar
directed by- Amole Gupte

“A Beautiful Mind” (2001): A biographical film that chronicles the life of mathematician John Nash. The story explores Nash’s struggles with mental illness and the challenges he faces in differentiating between reality and hallucinations. Supported by his dedicated wife, Alicia, Nash perseveres and makes significant contributions to the field of mathematics.

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Where to watch- Amazon Prime Video
Directed by- Ron Howard

English Vinglish (2012): A heartfelt film that revolves around the transformative journey of Shashi, a middle-aged Indian housewife who embarks on a trip to New York and enrolls in an English language course. With the guidance and encouragement of her patient and understanding teacher, Shashi not only improves her English-speaking skills but also discovers her self-worth, gaining confidence, and finding her voice in a world that underestimated her.

Where to watch- Jio Cinema 
Directed by- Gauri Shinde

Black (2005): A film that explores the life of Michelle McNally, a visually and hearing-impaired girl, and her relationship with her teacher, Debraj Sahai. Through their unconventional bond, Debraj strives to break through the barriers of Michelle’s disabilities, guiding her towards education, communication, and self-discovery, ultimately illuminating the triumph of the human spirit and the power of perseverance.

Directed by- Sanjay Leela Bhansali

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Super 30 (2019): “Super 30” is a film based on the true story of mathematician Anand Kumar. The movie depicts Anand’s journey as he establishes the “Super 30” program, where he selects talented but underprivileged students and trains them for the highly competitive Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) entrance exams. With his unconventional teaching methods and unwavering belief in his students’ potential, Anand empowers them to overcome social and economic barriers, offering them a chance at a brighter future. The film highlights the transformative impact of education, determination, and the power of dreams.

Where to watch: Disney + Hotstar
Directed By: Vikas Bahl

Taare Zameen Par (2007): ” A film that revolves around the story of Ishaan, a young boy with dyslexia, and his journey of self-discovery. When Ishaan’s struggles with academics and unconventional ways of learning go unnoticed by his family and teachers, a new art teacher enters his life. With his understanding and compassionate approach, the teacher helps Ishaan unlock his hidden potential, allowing him to thrive and shine in his own unique way. The film beautifully explores the importance of recognizing and nurturing the individual talents and strengths of every child.

Where to watch- Netflix
Directed by- Aamir Khan, Amole Gupte

Hichki (2018): “Hichki” is an uplifting film that tells the inspiring story of Naina Mathur, a woman with Tourette syndrome who dreams of becoming a teacher. Despite facing rejection and discrimination due to her condition, Naina secures a teaching job at an elite school. She takes on the challenge of teaching a class of unruly and privileged students, using her determination and unique teaching methods to break through their barriers and make a positive impact on their lives. “Hichki” portrays the power of perseverance, inclusivity, and the ability to overcome adversity.

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Where to watch- Amazon Prime Videos
Directed by- Siddharth P. Malhotra

Parichay (1972): Ravi, a struggling job seeker, reluctantly accepts the daunting task of tutoring five unruly and privileged children who have managed to intimidate their previous teachers. As he navigates the challenges of teaching this challenging group, Ravi’s unwavering determination and unconventional teaching methods begin to transform not only the students but also his own life.

Where to watch- Zee5, YouTube
Directed by- Gulzar

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