Our series "Teacher Warriors" honours some of the country’s best and bravest teacher warriors, striving to give kids a fighting chance at a better present and a future floating with possibilities. In the Twelfth episode, Anjana Deepak speaks to Sudheer Jalagam, An NRI living in Washington who is trying to improve the quality of education in government schools:
An NRI living in Washington hasn’t forgotten his country or his people. He is going all out to bring changes to improve the quality of education in government schools. Introducing the concept of ‘Tea with Headmaster’ here (since we have more tea drinkers in our country!), on the same lines as ‘Coffee with Principal’ followed in US schools, this outreach method sees parents and teachers discussing prevailing issues and solving them.
The concept has already been introduced in two schools — the government school at Venkatrampuram, Kodad in Suryapet district; and Zilla Parishad High School, Almaspur in Sircilla district. Sudheer Jalagam feels if most children attend government schools abroad, why can’t the same be followed here?
What was your motivation to start your educational project ‘Tea with Headmaster’?
The ‘Coffee with Principal’ program is my inspiration. My parents struggled a lot for my education in private schools. I have decided to strengthen public schools so that no parent struggles for their kids’ education. I have seen many public schools in USA which have this program and successfully involves parents for their school development. At least 25% of the parents work voluntarily at school for their kids.
Your vision for education for children…
Education is very important for everyone in this modern age. State and central governments are spending huge amounts on the public education system but they are unable to get 100% utilization of those funds. After some research on the public education system in USA, I decided to start the ‘Tea with Headmaster’ program in public schools in Telangana, India and Andhra Pradesh, India. This program will help parents and teachers discuss issues pertaining to the school and resolve them. The initiative will ensure improvement in infrastructure, and new methods of learning, among other requirements.
What are the challenges you continue to encounter?
It is very difficult to convince government teachers to follow some international standards due to certain restrictions from local governments. With minimum involvement of parents, teachers won’t concentrate on new methods and other issues at school. We have noticed that there are insufficient toilets and play areas in the public schools. Many groups and organizations in the teachers’ community are delaying the implementation of new methods.
Yet your efforts have brought about positive changes…
Mr. V. RangaRao and his team from Venkatramapuram primary school in Telangana State implemented the ‘Tea with Headmaster’ program twice and received an impressive response from parents and teachers. Many changes were noticed such as parents starting to visit school regularly to know the status of their children’s education. Based on the results from this school, a few more schools started working on this program and are getting good results.
What, in terms of support and awareness, do you feel the government needs to offer?
I have requested Hon’ble Minister for Education of Telangana and Hon’ble Minister for Education of Andhra Pradesh to implement this program in each and every school so that parents can be involved in school development.
What are your future plans?
My son, Vedansh Jalagam (6 years) visited India in August 2016 and visited a government school. He wrote a letter to Hon’ble Minister for Education, Telangana about the school issues. I have requested the Hon’ble Minister to utilize public school buildings and playgrounds for private functions/ meetings on the weekends and holidays to generate revenue. Also I have requested him to start short term courses on Indian culture for NRI kids in government schools at a nominal fee.
This article was originally published in the June 2017 issue as a part of our cover story on Teacher Warriors. Subscribe to ScooNews Magazine today to have more such stories delivered to your desk every month.
Images courtesy – Sudheer Jalagam