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These superheroes do not wear capes but their acts are nothing short of astonishing… and yes, they save lives. (Part 2)

It’s that special time of year again, when ScooNews felicitates the real braves of education. ScooNews takes pride and pleasure in bringing the wonderful mission of these Teacher Warriors to the forefront.

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It’s that special time of year again when ScooNews felicitates the real braves of education. The ScooNews Teacher Warriors Awards 2017 put in motion the act of highlighting the heart-warming efforts of a dedicated band of men and women championing education rights for disadvantaged children. This year’s winners are similarly worthy of complete respect and emulation.

ScooNews takes pride and pleasure in bringing the wonderful mission of these Teacher Warriors to the forefront. Their endeavours are bound to inspire, as we bring readers a closer look at their mission, their beliefs and their vision. The future of underprivileged children is significantly brighter thanks to the untiring efforts of these admirable individuals, driving change against tall odds.

While the chosen Teacher Warriors were felicitated at the awards ceremony at the ScooNews Global Educators Fest 2018 in Udaipur on August 3, we bring readers a closer look at their motivation and mettle, in their own words…

Teacher Warrior Rajani Paranjpe
Door Step Schools

The Society for Door Step Schools was founded by Rajani Paranjpe, also known as Rajani tai, along with her student Bina Lashkari and other colleagues from Nirmala Niketan College of Social Work, Mumbai in 1989. Its aim was to address the three major issues related to the education of children from marginalised sections of society through its various programs namely non-enrolment, wastage and stagnation.

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Door Step School, Pune runs various community-based programmes for the Primary Education of the underprivileged children for their school enrolment and support classes for them to be able to cope up with their studies in school. Through these programmes, DSS also works with parents in order to raise awareness about the importance of education and their role in it. Door Step School also runs programmes in government schools, which are categorised as School Intervention Programmes.

Recognised for her contributions to the field of non-formal education on various occasions, Professor Rajani Paranjpe is a Rotary Club Pune Vocational Excellence awardee (2003 and 2009), Maharshi Karve Stri Shikshan Santha Bava Puraskar awardee (2008) and a Pune Marathi Granthalaya Matrusmriti Purskar awardee (2011). She currently serves as President of the Door Step School and continues to strive for the education and welfare of underprivileged children.

Igniting a spark

“During all these years of my work I have never given a thought to this question. It is difficult to say which is the most satisfying part of my work – every part of it is satisfying, must be so, otherwise, it would not have been possible for me to continue doing it year after year. But when I look at the entire process now I think the most satisfying moment in my life is the one when I see that spark in the eyes of a student which shows that he/ she has understood what I wanted to say and has opened a new gateway of ideas.”

Every child counts

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“My motto is very simple and apparently very easy to achieve: I want every Indian child to be able to read and write if nothing more. I think every child counts, as every one of them, is a precious gift of God. My motivation comes from within and without. I am a teacher by nature – it is my instinct. I like to share with others what I know and always wanted to be a teacher in my life. But the motivation for the work which I am doing now is based on my experience, exposure and training. As a professional social worker, I was exposed to situations in slums, the conditions in which children live and grow and the reasons which keep them away from schooling. I used to teach Research Methodology and worked in our college’s Research Department on various research projects. This experience showed me again and again and brought to my notice very clearly that education, however minimal, makes a difference.”

Miles to go

“My field experience of working for adult literacy showed me very clearly that teaching children is far easier than teaching adults. These and such other experiences helped me in my decision to focus on the literacy of children and I am doing it to the best of my capacity but unfortunately, the end is not in sight.
My dream is to reach out to every child who does not have access to education and find out a suitable way of making that child literate. It is really disturbing to see how so many children fall through the cracks – and how so many different problems come in our way in achieving the simple goal of making every child able to read and write.”

  • Anushka Yadav

Teacher Warrior Anand Kumar
Super 30

An educator, mathematician and renowned columnist for various reputed journals and magazines, Anand Kumar started Super 30 programme in Patna, Bihar in 2002. With an extraordinary vision and a down to earth attitude, he provides education to economically backward students for the toughest examination in India – IIT-JEE. A speaker at reputed institutions such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, Kumar’s work has been showcased by Discovery Channel. He has also been invited as a participant on ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’.

Anand Kumar has made it possible for 422 out of 480 students to enroll in the IITs in 2018.

Taking education to those who lack resources

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“Today, education reaches to those who can afford it whereas those who have the talent, power and the will to do something extraordinary often lack access to basic education. We at Super 30 believe in giving education to those who have that zeal and talent but lack the resources; it is this aspect of my work as an educator that makes me want to go to sleep with satisfaction every day.”

Lessons in patience

“My late father has always been my motivation and pillar of strength. I lost him at a young age but everything that he taught me continues to help me every day. He taught me how to maintain my calm even in the toughest of rides. He said it is important to be patient when someone is revolting against you even when you are doing a good deed. My father has taught me everything from how to speak and behave, to becoming a better educator. It is his words that motivate and empower me.”

Powering dreams

“My dream and vision for all the children is to live in a country where they don’t have to leave their education despite having the talent and the will to study; each child deserves to get a quality education and fulfill their dreams.”

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  • Anushka Yadav

Teacher Warrior Mukesh Sahay
Sonaram High Secondary School

Director General of Assam Police, tough cop Mukesh Sahay kept a tight rein on law and order during his tenure. In fact, insurgency activities had shown a sharp decline as he operated with a firm hand. Post superannuation in April this year, Sahay turned to a possibly tougher mission – teaching kids maths! Aware that the Sonaram High Secondary School in Guwahati had been functioning minus a Maths teacher for two years, he offered to fill in and that was that!

Ever practical, he points out that he is simply offering his services; at the end of the day, it depends on how the students take it. And the students are evidently taking it very well, as are the school authorities. Mukesh Sahay’s simple guiding philosophy – lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness – mirrors his mission of quietly yet effectively making a difference.

Joy multiplied

“I was born in a village in Bihar. I did my studies in Patna. I did my post-graduation in Physics. I also have a degree in law and diplomas in i) Intellectual Property Laws in the Internet age and ii) Cyber Laws. I have been working since my school days to augment my family income and to sustain my studies. I joined in the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1984 and worked in Assam, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Sashatra Seema Bal (SSB) in various capacities. I demitted office on April 30, 2018, as the Director General of Police (DGP), Assam. Immediately afterwards, I have been volunteering my services in school education specially in Mathematics and Physics. This is for my own pleasure primarily. If the students get benefitted, this pleasure will multiply manifold.”

Giving back

“The school where I started volunteering my services did not have a Mathematics teacher for two years for classes XI and XII. Post-retirement, I decided to fill up this gap for my own satisfaction and for the benefit of the underprivileged students. The burning desire to pay something back to society was the real motivator behind the move. This gives me great satisfaction because it helps me to keep physically active, mentally engaged and socially relevant. But the real satisfaction will come if and only if the students get benefitted, even on a nanoscale. Quality school education is the key to social transformation and is the fundamental right of every child. I am strongly of the view that all citizens, especially the educated ones, must contribute in this process.”

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Try to light a candle

“I am very fond of quotations. Some of the quotations that constantly motivate and propel me are as below–

i)          Rather than cursing the darkness, try to light a candle.

ii)         Challenges are what make life worthwhile. Without challenges, life won’t be worth living.

iii)         Struggle is life, stagnation is death.

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The strong urge to do something for society, especially the less privileged and the underprivileged gives me strength, stamina and the motivation to keep moving and keep going. To help the students is my humble contribution in this direction. I am no dreamer neither am I a visionary. But I do strongly believe that quality school education is the fundamental right of every child. It is the key to transforming society. Access to quality education only can provide equality of opportunity to all and will lead to an egalitarian society driven by democratic values. A quality education will bring the best out of every child and help them actualise their potential. This will help the nation, society and civilisation achieve the desired objectives. Such an education system will provide the required knowledge, skills including life skills and attitudes to transform the children into worthy members of society, community and the nation.”

  • Nichola Pais

Teacher Warrior Safeena Husain
Educate Girls

An active social worker and founder-Executive Director of Educate Girls, Safeena Hussain works to tackle issues at the root cause of gender inequality in India’s education system. Educate Girls empowers communities to facilitate girls’ education in rural India and helps them take a stand against gender inequality. Their mission stems from the belief that if girls in educationally backward districts are educated, they will have the potential to enter the formal economy, gain employment and lift their families out of poverty.

Working in partnership with the government, the community and with the help of 11,000+ community volunteers (called Team Balika), Educate Girls has helped ensure higher enrolment and attendance for girls as well as improved learning outcomes for all children.
Established in 2007, Educate Girls has grown from a 500-school pilot project in Rajasthan to now serving over 21,000 schools spread across 15 districts in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. They aim to achieve the behavioural, social and economic transformation for all girls towards an India where all children have equal opportunities to access quality education.

The turning point

“I grew up in Delhi. After my schooling, I took a break and went to a Krishna Ashram on the banks of the Ganges in Rishikesh. This gap year helped me connect with my inner self and develop a sense of charity and service. After graduating from the LSE, and spending over a decade working with grassroots development projects in Latin America, Africa and Asia, I finally decided to return to India. When I moved back, as I was deciding what I should dedicate my life to next, a personal incident led me back to a cause that was always close to my heart – that of girls’ education. On a project for setting-up a clinic in a village in the foothills of the Himalayas in north India, my father and I came across a group of women. They asked him how many children he had and my father, putting his arm around my shoulder, answered, “This is it. This is my daughter, my son, my everything!” The women replied to him by lamenting his misfortune over the lack of a son. I realised in that moment, in which I felt both angry and sad, that women and girls were still being discriminated against. I asked myself what would be the most sustainable way to create gender equality – Educate Girls was the answer. After a 50-school test project followed by a 500-school pilot project in Pali, Rajasthan, Educate Girls was independently registered in 2007. Since then, Educate Girls has consistently scaled its operations and presently works across 15 districts of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. There are over 4.9 million total beneficiaries of its programmatic interventions, since inception. Educate Girls works in educationally backward districts by partnering with the government and mobilising communities to achieve impact in three key outcome areas – Increased enrolment and retention of girls and quality learning for all children.”

Education’s transformative power

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“I once remember asking an out-of-school girl, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ She replied, ‘I don’t know, No one has ever asked me this question, so I’ve never thought about it.’ This same girl, enrolled in school by Educate Girls, is now studying well and aspires to be a police officer. This is the transformative power of education! I am firmly convinced that education is the most effective means of offering the same opportunities to excel in life for girls and boys, women and men – thus promoting social equality. I strongly believe that creating community ownership and involving people in the process of social transformation is a powerful way to sustain change. Our volunteers from the villages have a motto, ‘My village, my problem, I am the solution’. Also, we have seen that in patriarchal communities it is essential to involve the men and boys in conversations. More often than not, girls are not aware of their rights and boys don’t know that they are violating a girl’s rights.  Ultimately, gender-inequality is a mindset issue and that’s what our activities address.”

Educating one girl – educating future generations

“Not a single girl I have met so far has said to me that she does not want to be in school. For me, and everyone at Educate Girls, nothing compares to the joy of seeing girls, in their school uniforms, with their book and bags, walking to school and learning well! We celebrate every single enrolment because we know that by educating that one girl we have educated future generations! The feeling of seeing a child improve in their learning because of some additional help from us is phenomenal. Ultimately, the fulfilment in achieving actual impact for these underserved children is what keeps us going in spite of the challenges and setbacks and this is why we so work hard. This commitment to every child has always been at the forefront for Educate Girls and because my vision was about solving a widespread issue, from the start Educate Girls’ model was about being ready for scale. When we started expanding to more districts I wanted to be sure that Educate Girls would continue to be accountable to the last child and so we have always pursued innovation and partnerships that enable this accountability. This is also why Educate Girls initiated the world’s first Development Impact Bond (DIB) in education, which is a proof of concept that ties funding to pure outcomes. My dream is to one day wake up to an India where every daughter in the country is no longer discriminated against and where every child has access to quality education and equal opportunity.”

  • Nichola Pais

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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Inspiration

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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Inspiration

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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Edutainment

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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Inspiration

The Many Faces of Learning: Understanding Different Learning Styles

In the case of learning styles, the belief that one-size-fits-all teaching methods are ineffective is not entirely unfounded

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Once upon a time, in a world full of magical educational theories, there existed a belief so powerful that it transformed the way teachers taught and students learned. This belief was known as “learning styles,” and it dictated that every child possessed a unique way of grasping information – some were visual learners, others auditory, and a few even kinesthetic. Like an enchanting potion, it spread across the realm, enchanting educators and infiltrating lesson plans.

But, as with all powerful spells, the time came for learning styles to face the harsh light of scientific scrutiny. Spoiler alert: the magical potion turned out to be nothing more than snake oil. Allow me to unravel the tale of how learning styles were debunked, and how we discovered that the magic was, in fact, a mirage.

Our story begins in the land of academia, where researchers and scholars embarked on a quest to uncover the truth about learning styles. Their journey led them through a labyrinth of studies, experiments, and observations, all in search of evidence to support or debunk the popular theory. Like intrepid explorers, they persevered, determined to separate fact from fiction.

One such group of researchers, led by Harold Pashler, published a paper in 2008 that shook the foundation of learning styles. In their study, they searched for the holy grail of evidence: the presence of a “meshing effect.” This elusive phenomenon would prove that students who were taught in a manner consistent with their learning style would fare better than those who were not. But alas, the researchers found no such evidence. The holy grail remained undiscovered, and the myth of learning styles began to crumble.

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Undeterred by this revelation, proponents of learning styles continued to argue that their beliefs held merit. But as the years went by, more and more studies emerged that further debunked the theory. A 2012 review by Paul A. Kirschner and Jeroen J.G. van Merriënboer compiled decades of research on learning styles and concluded that there was no scientific evidence to support the idea that teaching to individual learning styles improved educational outcomes. The once-magical potion was losing its lustre.

But why, you might ask, did learning styles become so popular in the first place? The answer lies in the human tendency to seek out patterns and explanations for complex phenomena. We are drawn to the idea that we can unlock the secrets of learning by simply identifying a person’s preferred style. This allure is akin to the seductive pull of astrology or personality tests – we crave the comfort of neatly labeled boxes that tell us who we are and how we function.

Sadly, this desire for simplicity often leads us astray. In the case of learning styles, the belief that one-size-fits-all teaching methods are ineffective is not entirely unfounded. We do, indeed, possess individual differences in how we process information. However, the leap from this truth to the idea that we should tailor instruction to specific learning styles is misguided. Science simply does not support it.

In reality, effective teaching and learning hinge on far more complex factors. Research has shown that employing a variety of instructional methods, engaging multiple senses, and incorporating active learning strategies are all key ingredients in the recipe for educational success. Instead of pigeonholing students into predefined learning styles, we should focus on cultivating an environment that fosters curiosity, critical thinking, and a love of learning.

As we bid farewell to the mythical realm of learning styles, let us not mourn the loss of a magical potion, but rather celebrate the opportunity to embrace a more nuanced and evidence-based approach to education. The spell may have been broken, but the quest for knowledge continues.

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Author – Prashant Bhudwal, Founder, Medal, Bangalore

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Meet the Youngest Indian to build a crypto software in the US

Arnav was declared the youngest Indian to build accounting software for digital currency in the US at 21 years of age.

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Arnav Bathla, a young entrepreneur from Jalandhar has made waves in Silicon Valley with his innovative start-up. His success story is an example for all aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking for opportunities to make it big in the tech world. After he dropped out of college and moved to the US with a one-way ticket, Arnav was declared the youngest Indian to build accounting software for digital currency in the US at 21 years of age.

Arnav is the founder and CEO of Coinbooks, a San Francisco-based Web3 startup, building accounting software designed for crypto-native organizations. The company, which Arnav calls “Quickbooks for crypto,” has now raised a total of $3.2 million with support from world-class investors like Lattice Capital, Founders, Inc., and Multicoin Capital. The company was also accepted into Silicon Valley’s Y Combinator program participating in the summer 2022 batch.

In an interview with Forbes Digital, Arnav said that ever since he was 13 years old, he was always fascinated by computers and technology. He was then inspired by the stories of Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs to create a product of his own that will impact billions of people all over the world.

The idea of Coinbooks came with the vision to make it easier for businesses to manage their finances without having to worry about complex calculations or tedious paperwork. Arnav achieved this by leveraging blockchain technology and creating a secure and reliable platform for businesses to track their financial data with ease. The features of the software include decentralized governance, smart contracts, tokenization, asset management, security tokens, digital asset exchange integration, and more. These features are designed to provide businesses with the tools they need to make informed decisions and ensure compliance with regulations. The businesses can be sure that they are operating at peak efficiency while also ensuring that their customer’s data is secure.

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In a statement given to The Block, the 21-year-old CoinBooks founder said, “Existing accounting platforms integrate with your bank account. DAOs and crypto companies use wallets for their crypto transactions. This means they have to manually copy-paste transactions onto existing platforms to track their crypto.”

Additionally, the software provides users with the ability to set up automated rules for trading and investing in cryptocurrencies. This makes it easier for users to stay on top of the ever-changing crypto markets and make informed decisions about their investments. Coinbooks is currently building the fastest accounting software for crypto-native organizations and already has customers like Layer3, ThirdWeb, and Pointer. The company has also established partnerships with bookkeeping and tax preparation companies like Fondo, Metacounts, and Electrafrost.

Arnav has also won one of the most prestigious awards at NASA Ames Space Settlement Contest and Recognition of Excellence with Distinction (three times consecutively) for the presentation of the Space Settlement Design at the International space conference by NSS(National Space Society).

In an interview, his proud parents shared, “The fact that our son’s work has got acknowledged today by major investors of Silicon Valley as one of most innovative professionals brings us a great sense of satisfaction. He was a student at Apeejay School here before moving to United World College, Pune. He remained a winner of the NASA Space Settlement Contest three times consecutively for his presentation of the Space Settlement Design at the International Space Conference by the National Space Society.”

“He has worked on some of the most prestigious assignments in the fields of economics, stock marketing, and computer science. He has even been accepted into On Deck, a community of ambitious builders. He started by building side projects, one of which became the top-ranked product on Product Hunt (a space to vote on products). Our son’s unique experience, global perspective, strong academic credentials, and record of achievements in the field makes us feel so proud of him,” they added.

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Arnav envisions a world where everyone pays in crypto and that a decade from now, every company that transacts in crypto will use Coinbooks.

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Teacher Warriors 2022: Guldasta, bouquet of hope and education

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In the summer of 1993, a couple had just retired as teachers and were on their way to Madanpur Khadar. It was a small village only a few kilometers away from the center of Delhi. This short trip was necessary to brainstorm ideas for all the newfound time on their hands. One day, while exploring the village, they realized that there were no schools around for the children. Some did go to study in the city but, most of them spent time at home. Not a single girl in the village was enrolled in any school and neither were the parents interested. By the end of their visit, they had found a purpose that would not only keep them busy but also transform the lives of children in the village. This is the story of Guldasta, a school-cum-learning center for underprivileged children. The school was founded by Vimla Kaul and Prof. Hari Mohan Kaul in 1995.

“We named it Guldasta because we wanted it to be a bouquet of underprivileged children’s hopes, dreams, and aspirations of a brighter future and better life ahead,” she said. Vimla Kaul started her journey as a teacher of History in 1969, at St. Joseph’s Convent School in Kalimpong, Darjeeling. She turned her passion for teaching into her profession and now, at the age of 87, she still goes to school to teach and learn.

Challenges along the way
When Vimla and her husband visited the village, they were not satisfied with the living conditions of the children. “We saw children; big, small, naked, semi-naked, loitering in the Sun, doing absolutely nothing,” she said. “Education has the power of bringing a change, and that is why we decided to open a school that not only taught language and subjects but, also life skills,” she added.

Getting students to join the school was not easy. Vimla had to argue with a myth that was stuck in the parents’ heads – girls did not need education. Girl children contribute over 20% of total work at home. India’s constitution guarantees free primary school education for both, boys and girls, which has now been changed from 14 years to 18 years. This has been repeatedly reconfirmed but not many can use the opportunity. The literacy rate of women in rural areas is still low where six out of 24 states only have 25 percent, of literate women. However, Vimla’s efforts did not go in vain because for the first time, the girls of the village were seen going to school.

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Guldasta also battled several challenges. Since it was a small school that was following an unconventional method of teaching, the location of the school would shift now and then. The couple shifted the school to their colony in Sarita Vihar where about 200 students enrolled. Just when they were getting started, an angry resident, bothered by this initiative, threatened to go on a hunger strike if the school was not shifted from the area. She was torn between the choice of closing the school or moving to another location. The classes continued for another 12 years in a garden near but, outside the colony. Professor Kaul passed away in 2009. Since then, she has been working for both of them. She also opened her NGO Vasundhari Society for Social Action to support Guldasta.

In a report by ASER, it was found that less than 20 percent of students in India could access education during the pandemic. “It was a challenge to keep in touch with the students when we were forced to close the school during Covid-19. We hosted small functions at school whenever we could, like Children’s Day celebrations and Christmas celebrations to keep their spirits high. All the students joined back as soon as the situation improved,” Vimla said.

Over 1.5 million schools across India closed down due to the pandemic. Monetary support came to a halt for many. Guldasta was being funded by the Malviya trust for over eight years; they had also provided a four-room apartment space for the students to study. However, during the pandemic, the school lost its support and has been running on Vimla’s personal funds ever since. A donation link was set up which helps now and then.

Innovative method of teaching
Vimla’s teaching experience gave her a close insight into the techniques that were being followed in schools. “Government schools follow a no-detention policy and the students often fail to grasp what is being taught to them. As a result, we have many teenagers studying with junior-grade students because they are unable to construct basic sentences in English or Hindi,” she said. “We accept all students that come to study in our school but, we do conduct an entrance test to evaluate the standard of the child. We also hold the students back if they are not performing well in their annual examinations because our goal is to teach them thoroughly, not just for the sake of it,” she added. The school is for students from kindergarten to grade 4, they are later enrolled in government schools nearby.

Students are taught English, Science, Math and Social studies, Geography, and General Knowledge at Guldasta. The teachers at the school are girls from the village who were given proper training before being appointed. The school also engages in extra-curricular activities like yoga, dance, and drill, to ensure the overall development of the children. The NGO runs tailoring classes, basic computer courses, dance, and henna application classes. There are frequent workshops for candle-making, dyeing, and embroidery, all free of cost. Many of her students are invited to Heena ceremonies at weddings and during festivals. There is also a two-day camp during festivals in Sarita Vihar for henna application. The girls keep their total earnings from it and donate a part to the NGO. Over the years, the number of girl students has crossed that of boys and Vimla encourages females to join the school.

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Pat on the back
In 28 years of Guldasta, the school has touched many young lives by educating, grooming, and equipping them with life skills. “Our children are not only degree-qualified but also well-settled, earning and living a good life, better than their parents, and that’s quite an overwhelming and rewarding feeling for me,” Vimla said when asked about her achievements.

“One must have a lot of conviction and confidence when they are around children. The children draw strength from the hard work of their teachers. One must be very soft with children because they already feel discarded,” Vimla said in her message for educators who are following the same path as her. “After all these years, I still have parents who tell me that I am not doing the right thing by educating their daughters. This thinking is very difficult to change and therefore, must always be challenged. Girls deserve just as much respect and equality as boys in society. As teachers, it is our duty to help them realize the importance of education, no matter how many times we have to repeat ourselves,” she added.

Call for action
Age is just a number and Vimla Kaul stands true to the statement. When most people retire into oblivion, she continues to invest her time in the field of education. She is all set to release her autobiography and looks forward to the new achievements of Guldasta and her students.

Guldasta seeks funds to maintain its school in the post-pandemic era. The donation link can be found on their website. We urge the readers to visit their website and reach out to the members to contribute and engage in this cause for change.

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Teacher Warrior 2022: Stich of Empowerment

This is the story of Simran Preet Kaur who empowers women by teaching them the art of embroidery at Pins and Needles.

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Once upon a time, there was a lady who was trying to cope with a feeling best described as empty nest syndrome. She had spent beautiful years of her life with her children and now they had all departed to create a life of their own. With much time on her hands, she began tutoring a few kids from the nearby slums. Two of them would come to her house to study.

The students mentioned that their mothers were getting harassed at home. Physical abuse was common in their household, and so was alcohol rage. When the lady heard their stories, she instantly called for the distressed mothers. The next day, she spent time listening to their problems and taught them how to make cloth bags with simple stitching techniques. She gave them a yard of fabric from her house and promised twenty rupees per bag to the women. The women took the materials and returned with ten bags each in two days. The lady was more than satisfied, for she had just taught them a lesson on financial independence. This is the story of Simran Preet Kaur who empowers women by teaching them the art of embroidery at Pins and Needles.

Simran was blessed with a healthy life and family. She wanted every woman to have that happiness and satisfaction. The two women created a ripple effect. Simran would greet a new student every day and she shared her craft of crochet, knitting, embroidery and stitching with them.

Challenges along on the way

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Women around the world were deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. An increase in inequalities was experienced both, at work and at home. Official employment surveys have shown that this century has been observing a sharp decline in women’s participation in India’s labour force. The nationwide lockdown also had a major impact on the employment rate when more than 100 million Indians lost their jobs in weeks. With businesses shut, many were forced to return to their home town or village and never found another stable employer.

The number of working women in India dropped from 26 per cent to 19 per cent between 2010 and 2020, according to a report by World Bank. Economists in Mumbai estimated that female employment would only increase to 9 per cent by the end of 2022. Little progress has been made towards improving the prospects for working women. Even with the nation’s rapid expansion, employment opportunities in rural areas are a far-fetched dream. It is also where more than two-third of the country’s population resides. Simran’s initiative provided aid to many women who were capable and in desperate need of work.

When the pandemic hit, most women took to their skills to deal with the disruption. Pins and Needles welcomed everyone who knew a thing or two about embroidery and encouraged sharing the techniques amongst each other. The digital world challenge was met with training and soon, the ladies were able to share photographs of their products online, create groups and enable digital payments for the purchase. More than a hundred women artisans produced thousands of stylish, embroidered masks for local residents, police and sanitary workers.

“It was interesting to watch them feel confident; they were now the sole earning member,” Neetu said. “Even the husbands helped them in knitting once they realised that it was bringing food to the table. The kids joined too, helping them write names and addresses for the orders. So, it became a family project during the pandemic,” she added.

 Innovative method of teaching

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At Pins and Needles, the students are first taught the different types of stitches and embroidery styles on a plain cloth for three months. The classes are for crochet, knitting, embroidery and stitching where the students alternate every week. The students have stitched aprons, masks, and bags, and have knitted hats, caps, socks and mittens that are in huge demand during Delhi winters. The production and work depend on the demand with crochet work being in high demand throughout the year.

Currently, there are over 70 girls working with Pins and Needles. They are divided into different categories according to the style of work, with 12-15 girls in each group. To place an order, the customer comes in contact with Simran through Whatsapp, and she shares the request in her Pins and Needles group. The head of the group is then connected with the customer. Depending on the demand, she appoints girls of the group to work with her and the final payment is divided accordingly. The money is directly transferred to their bank accounts, ensuring trust and transparency.

From the age of 15 to 95, Pins and Needles is open for anyone who wants to learn or teach the art of embroidery. “I started with a few and there were about 80 girls at one point in time. However, most of them got jobs in nearby boutiques and I have never been happier. I don’t intend for them to stay with me for too long. A year or two of learning, and then I would want to see them working and making their own designs,” Simran said. “Age is never an issue for us. We help in employing even the old grandmothers who look for something to keep themselves busy. I knew that my mother was into crochet in her time, so I asked her to make a sample of dolls for us. She gave me a treasure to cherish for life, and many can do that. All they need is a little encouragement and guidance,” she added.

Pat on the back

The art of embroidery is done with a bowed head and lowered eyes. This is a symbolic act of patience, focus and hard work. Stitcher Betsy Greer is credited with popularising the term ‘craftivism’ to describe the intricate art of hand embroidery. Simran Preet Kaur is not only building a strong foothold for women in the craft industry, but she is also helping to revive the dying art.

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Call for action

Simran and Pins and Needles do not believe that money is the solution to all problems. Therefore, they accept donations of fabrics, laces, kits, sewing machines, and anything that can contribute to the learning and empowerment of women. We urge the readers to visit their website and reach out to the members to contribute and engage in this cause for change.

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Teacher Warriors 2022: The story of Sushil Kumar Meena, an Engineer turned Educator

This is the story of Sushil Kumar Meena, an engineer who found his purpose in working with underprivileged kids.

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One night, a railway engineer was walking home from the station. With him, walked little kids from the nearby slums with a rag on their backs. It was an odd hour to be awake and he was surprised to see so many of them around the neighbourhood. They were collecting things that could be later sold for money; hair pins, pens, a scarf. Some were also looking for food and would find a half-eaten packet of biscuits along the road. Their parents were either missing or asleep but, they didn’t seem to care what the children were going through. They needed money and kids as young as 4-year-old were trying to fend for themselves and their families. This wasn’t his usual route home but, that night, what he saw changed his perception of life. This is the story of Sushil Kumar Meena, an engineer who found his purpose in working with underprivileged kids.

Sushil Kumar was always a keen observer. His family shifted to Delhi from a village in Rajasthan, in the early 2000s. Even as a child, he would observe the existing gaps in society. When he would go to school, many children of his age would only loiter around because their parents could not afford to send them to school. This would make him want to help those children.

In 2009, he was preparing for competitive exams and attending coaching classes. There, he saw that many students were very capable and intelligent but were not able to pay for the classes because of their weak financial background. After successfully clearing his exams, he was posted in Delhi and returned from his training in 2013. He already knew what he had to do; balance his job and start teaching the children.

He started a free-of-cost coaching class for students preparing for government exams and took 3-hour classes at least while juggling with work and also engaging in teaching children of the slums. Instead of taking fees from the students, he asked a few students to help him teach the little children after their coaching classes. Within months, he had 300 students studying with him.

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When he approached a few government organizations and schools to get the children admitted, they would have their set of excuses ready for not taking them in. This left a bitter impression of such organizations in Sushil Kumar’s mind. With only three teachers, they discontinued the government exam coaching classes and focused only on the primary education of the children with the hope of eventually getting them enrolled in mainstream school. The classes continued in a park where volunteers would join from time to time but, not regularly. However, with time the public came forward to contribute to the open school, and in 2015 Nirbhed Foundation was registered.

Challenges along the way

In 2019, a was study conducted on the sanitary facilities for adolescent girls in an urban slum in Central India. It was seen that privacy was a huge problem in the use of public toilets, use of sanitary napkins was very less, and changing of absorbent material in toilets was also a matter of concern for the girls.

During college, Sushil Kumar joined National Service Scheme (NSS). They would go to nearby villages to conduct awareness drives and campaigns. “We would organize awareness camps regarding sanitation, education, general cleanliness, availability and development of toilets by governments and provide the village with basic materials to build toilets or schools,” he said. “Availability of sanitary pads was a huge issue because they wouldn’t buy it from the shops and men had too big of an ego to do that for the females of the house. I observed all these issues during my time and now I teach the interns, the volunteers, the children, everybody about nutrition, sanitization, women’s health, and safety,” he added. Teaching the values of living life is just as important as education.

Nirbhed tries its best to improve the lives of neglected children. They came up with many initiatives but unfortunately, none received any assistance from CSR funds or the government. Members of the organization have been pitching their own money and using crowdfunding platforms for whatever little help they can get.

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Sushil Kumar also played the role of a real-life superhero when his centre in Ghaziabad was set on fire in the middle of the night. Just as things were starting to come together, one April night of 2019, the center in Ghaziabad was burnt to the ground. There were two reasons for that; land disputes and the anger of people who were opposed to this initiative. At 12:30 am, the kids stood next to Shushil Kumar, crying as they watched their school, materials, and donations disappear into thick smoke.

“In Ghaziabad, it is common for people to illegally acquire land. Our centre was not built illegally but, some people wanted our piece of land too. We did not comply and would often fight them off if they came to harass us. We had set up tents and small lights because children would study as late as 2 am at the night,” he said. “The night of the fire, we were all sitting close to the centre but nobody was studying inside. Thankfully, none of the children or staff members got hurt. I still remember the faces of the children and parents whose hopes were turning into ashes,” he added.

The next morning, supporters of the centre, parents, and teachers gathered outside the police station. An FIR was lodged at the police station. The harassment continued still. The female staff of the organization was being followed on their way home, and children would spot the faces of the troublemakers from that night and share it with their teachers. Sushil Kumar gathered all the help he could get and built the centre again, this time with support from the police and government. The area of Ghaziabad is full of such incidents.

Innovative teaching method

“We follow Bal Bhasha Bharti Adhyapak Pustika that comes for just ₹25. It covers the basics for students. We follow NCERT books to cover the syllabus of CBSE as they enroll into schools later. We teach in Hindi to the senior secondary grades but for students who start with us from the beginning, we teach them in English and Hindi both. We conduct examinations at the centre after every grade and accordingly get their admissions into formal education. Our admissions are open throughout the year and the timing is equally flexible. We understand that some children still have to be the bread earners for their families so, we open as early as 7 am and go on till midnight. Our main aim is that the students are provided a safe environment to learn and study,” he said.

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In India, the closure of 1.5 million schools due to the pandemic and lockdowns in 2020 impacted 247 million children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools. In addition, there were over six million girls and boys who were already out of school even before the COVID-19 crisis began. Online education is not an option for all as only one in four children has access to digital devices and internet connectivity. Pre-covid, only a quarter of households (24 percent) in India had access to the internet and there is a large rural-urban and gender divide, according to a report by UNICEF.

During the pandemic, Sushil Kumar found a unique way of continuing the classes through an initiative called ‘Main Bhi Hoon Shishak’. The students of grades 8, 9, and 10 were asked to teach the junior classes and the initiative paid them ₹3000 monthly, giving the family a source of income when everything was shut down. The volunteers would train the senior students and they would go door-to-door to help the junior class students. The homework and progress would be checked by the staff weekly. “If you ask me, I don’t think we went through any loss in terms of education. We fully utilized the time we had during the lockdown and kept the classes going,” he said.

When asked about different subjects, Sushil Kumar said, “we teach arts to the students like drama and theatre and host workshops for crafts like soap making, bag making, envelope making, etc. We also have yoga instructors, martial arts instructors dance and games teachers who assist in the overall development of the children. We also participate in exhibitions during festivals where the students display their creations at the stalls. Like festive goodies such as handmade Rakhi or diyas during Diwali. The girls of our school are very good at henna art.”

“The Ghaziabad team of the Indian Medical Association also has a tie-up with us so they organize medical camps for our students twice a month. We are yet to provide medical facilities in other centres but, that should happen soon. We also send eatables to the centre in Bihar but, are yet to start meal systems in the other centres due to lack of resources,” he added.

NEP 2020

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India recently announced the National Education Policy 2020 which seems like a tremendous transformation in the education system. It promises high-quality education and global exposure to all. The policy aims to make the education system flexible, holistic and multidisciplinary; things that will meet the demand and needs of this century. This policy is also very different from those that have been governing the system, therefore it has also divided the opinions into two categories.

Shushil Kumar supported the views of NEP but highlighted the accessibility of schools in rural areas and urban slums of the cities. “While the policy has much to look forward to, it still seems to be neglecting the children of urban slums. The fundamental rights must be equally accessible to our children. We work with them from the root level, we must have the support of government schools to help them grow and receive a quality education,” he said.

Pat on the back

“Often, we lie to our own families, fake a smile and hide our worries. I can’t tell you how the number of times I’ve sat in the car by myself listening to Kishore Kumar as he sings Ruk Jana Nahi. The song also happens to be my callertune for the same reason; it motivates me to keep going. To the teachers working with the underprivileged, my message is to never stop trying, no matter how tough the situation. A problem is merely a delay of some time and the solution will get you a very positive result,” he said.

Sushil Kumar and their NGO have provided almost 1000 children in the nearby slums with two-time meals while teaching many of them in his centre. His aim for them is to be able to earn through education instead of working as rag pickers. During the lockdown, the NGO distributed ration kits in UP and Bihar to over 4,300 families. It adopted 2,200 families who received regular meals. In total, the NGO distributed over 40 lakh meals to needy families.

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When asked for a message to those students who want to study and turn their life in a different direction, he proudly said, “share my number with them. If I can’t get them to my centre here in Ghaziabad, I will get their admission done and if they are unable to do that, I will arrange for their studies. My number is available on Google always.”

Call for action

Nirbhed Foundation is always looking for volunteer teachers to reduce their student-teacher ratio. All 27 centres need helping hands. We urge the readers to visit their website and reach out to the members to contribute and engage in this cause for change.

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Teacher Warriors 2022: Ranjitsinh Disale – The Accidental Teacher

When he was appointed for his first post as a teacher, he found himself in a remote village, looking for a school that did not exist. This is the story of Ranjitsinh Disale, the accidental teacher.

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A young student pursuing an IT engineering degree was starting to lose interest in it. Perplexed, he went to his father for advice. The retired headmaster did not convince his son, he asked him to enroll in a teacher-training college. Teaching was never his interest but, he respectfully followed his father’s advice and joined the college. He was taught to empathize with children, understand their questions and solve their problems. He wasn’t very sure at the beginning about this profession. Especially, because when he was appointed for his first post as a teacher, he found himself in a remote village, and the school did not exist. This is the story of Ranjitsinh Disale, the accidental teacher.

In 2009, he was sent to Paritewadi Zilla Parishad Primary School in Solapur, Maharashtra for his first teaching experience. When he entered the quiet village, he realized neither the children nor the parents were interested in the concept of school. Not even a handful of students were going to the school and there were no female students enrolled. So, for the first six months, Disale did not even mention textbooks to them. He would have conversations and share facts and stories on his laptop and mobile phone. This started having a magical effect on the local children of the village. They wanted to spend more time around him, learning without having the fear to be scolded or punished. He would teach the students through their observations and with the help of videos, audio, and sometimes field trips.

In 2014, Disale came up with an innovative idea that enabled easy access to learning resources. He knew that the children enjoyed audio-visual aid to study. So, he created QR code-enabled textbooks that were embedded with audio poems, video lectures, stories, and assignments. He curated the content for each of the children he was teaching so that they could learn at their own pace.

The word spread fast and in 2015, the Maharashtra government adopted Disale’s idea and made QR codes available in Balbharti textbooks. As a result of these efforts, the school was awarded Best School for the district in 2016, and 98 percent of students achieved their expected learning outcomes before completing the school year. The Ministry of Human Resource & Development (MHRD) encouraged the use of QR codes and in 2017, launched the project ‘Diksha’, which used an open-source platform called Sunbird to produce the content. Subsequently in 2018, the then Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar announced that all National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) textbooks will have embedded QR codes. Even with schools closed, 20 lakh students in Maharashtra used QR-code learning to continue with their studies.

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Innovative method of teaching

The students of the Zilla Parshad school in Solapur’s Paritewadi study with Disale where he teaches grades 3 and 4. The school is only until grade 4 but, there is a possibility of introducing higher grades in the school. They follow Marathi as their medium of teaching. The students often study with the help of visual aid. “I don’t have a single method of teaching. I try to use multiple methods for the same topic. We also have guest lecturers and expert teachers for different subjects so the children don’t lose interest by studying all subjects from just one teacher,” he said.

Disale made the transition from entertainment to edutainment very smooth for the children. He understood the learning style of each student, whether it was visual media, face-to-face explanations, or others, and grouped the children accordingly. He would modify his teaching methods according to each group. Within a year and a half, the school had achieved 100 percent attendance and the children were performing excellently in their academics.

Challenges on the way

The tribal people of the village were the local inhabitants. Due to poor economic conditions, and backward thinking, not many children were sent to school. Attendance was as low as two percent. The parents did not seem to mind that too much. This also led to the conversion of the school rooms into cowsheds and storerooms. However, this did not break the spirit of this teacher who was determined to make a change.

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His first step involved visiting the families of the village. He would initiate informal dialogue with them and spend time trying to understand their perspective on education. Gradually, he established polite friendships with the people. To persuade them, he would share the achievements of the children living in the nearby villages and ask a simple question – wouldn’t you want to see your child reach great heights? It took about six months for Disale to gain their trust and convince them.

His second step was to be friends with the children and come up with an idea to make the classroom interesting. So, for the first semester, he did not even mention textbooks. Disale borrowed money from his father and bought a laptop for the class where children would watch movies, interesting videos, and presentations. With this technique, he was sending a message to the children – a school is a place of fun and enjoyment, just as much as it is a place of education. The remaining few students who were yet to start school were soon sitting amongst the rest of the children. His method had worked.

School closures had devastating consequences on children’s learning during the covid-19 pandemic. In these, most vulnerable children come from remote areas which have do not have access to learning and are at risk of never returning to classrooms and even being forced into child marriage or child labor. According to a report by UNESCO, the education of more than 888 million children worldwide faced disruptions due to full or partial school closures. In India, most government and rural students rely on schools for peers, support, access to a safe environment, and a nutritious meal. The shutdown of schools affected these children the most.

For Disale, the biggest challenge during the pandemic was to stay connected with the students. He appealed to people through social media and requested to donate old mobile phones. He collected 67 devices and distributed them amongst his students, convincing their parents to buy an internet pack to ensure effective learning. However, in the post-pandemic era, the effect of the intense two years can be seen in the progress of the students. While some have been able to maintain their level of learning, many students have to struggle because the online method of teaching wasn’t the easiest to adapt.

NEP 2020

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This National Education Policy 2020 is the first education coverage of the 21st century and aims to increase the growth and development of the education sector. The new policy proposes the revision and revamping of all aspects including regulation and governance, to create a brand new system that is aligned with the aspirational goals of 21st-century education including SDG4 while building upon India’s traditions and value system. Along with appreciation, there is also criticism that focuses on the drawbacks of this new education policy.

In an article written by Disale on the recruitment, training, and assessment of teachers, he highlighted challenges that teachers face and said, “considering the diversity and different socio-economic strata in the society, there is a need for tailored teachers training. The training should be customized/need-based, continuous, practical, and more focused.”

“The NEP looks promising as it rightly highlights the changes necessary in the 21st century. With the addition of some more alterations to teachers’ training program and their implementation, the system will achieve greater goals, assist teachers to think out of the box to attain great heights,” he added.

Pat on the back

Ranjitsinh Disale was the first Indian teacher to win the Global Teacher Prize 2020. He was among 12,000 educators from 140 countries, who were nominated for the prize, which was set up to recognize teachers making outstanding contributions to the profession as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society. He promptly shared half of his $1 million win with the nine other finalists.

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With his share of the prize, he has been able to provide scholarships of Rs 1 lakh each to 10 girls who are completing their graduation. Currently, he is particularly focused on the teachers of the country. “The country needs to invest more in its teachers. We are not respecting their work and status in society. There is also no system to support teachers for their innovative teaching projects. So, I am trying to give incentives to teachers and support their initiatives towards education and especially for rural education,” he said. He has also invested in his ‘Let’s Cross the Borders’ project, which connects young people from India and Pakistan, Palestine and Israel, Iraq and Iran, and other conflict zones.

The CEO of Microsoft (Satya Nadella) has recognized Ranjitsinh’s work as one of three stories from India in his book Hit Refresh. The central government named Ranjitsinh 2016 Innovative Researcher of the Year, and he also won the National Innovation Foundation’s Innovator of the Year award in 2018. He has communicated his methods by writing more than 500 newspaper articles and blogs, as well as participating in television discussions on educational topics.

Disale spends a lot of time with fellow teachers to keep himself motivated. He believes in sharing his methods of teaching and also appreciates critical feedback on them to improve every day.

Call for action

From sharing knowledge and skills to contributing to the school’s infrastructure, and contributing to children’s resources like bicycles, mobile devices, or stationary, Disale’s school accepts donations in both, cash and kind. Whether you would like to support them or become a volunteer, we would urge the readers to visit their website and reach out to the members to contribute and engage in this cause for change.

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