Dr. Sultan Ali Ahmed
The news that an unknown Indian primary teacher working in a remote village school in the Solapur district of Maharashtra won the “Global Teacher Award, 2020” has failed to receive much coverage in our media. This young fellow aged only 32 is Ranjitsinh Disale.
Varkey Foundation of London, working strenuously to improve the quality of education globally, instituted the prize in 2014. For the first time, a teacher from India has won this one million dollar prize. Disale was chosen from 10 finalists shortlisted from about 12,000 nominations received from 140 countries. He was chosen for the prize because his teaching interventions have brought about unimaginable radical changes in the field of education and society both at the local and the global level.
His achievement is not only extraordinary in terms of its huge impact on the world but also the most inspiring example for those who are in the teaching profession. His dedication, commitment and innovative service as a teacher has fetched a new glory and prestige to the entire teaching community of India. The unique example of him has simply demonstrated that even a single teacher has immense power to usher in the most desirable changes in society that could only be imagined.
Disale, who could not complete an IT engineering course for losing interest in it, undertook a Teachers’ Training Programme on his father’s advice. In 2009, he got the job of a teacher in Paritewadi Zilla Parishad Primary School in Solapur, Maharashtra. It may appear like a fairy tale now, because, when he went to join in that remote village school he found that the school was non-existent.
It was an area inhabited by tribal people who were also economically backward and socially disadvantaged. Therefore, the pupils’ attendance in school was so abysmally poor that it led to the conversion of the school house into a cowshed in one part and a storeroom in another. However, this pathetic picture could not dampen the indomitable spirit of this young teacher who made a vigorous effort to re-open the school, raise the enrollment and the attendance of pupils by applying various methods and involving local elders.
The prevalence of the teenage marriage system and the non-availability of textbooks in their own local language (Kannada) were two other factors behind the poor enrollment. Ranjitsinh Disale was quick to learn the local language and also applied a unique method to arouse the interests of the pupils in the otherwise dull school life.
For the first six months, he did not tell the pupils anything about textbooks but showed to them some funny stories and strange facts from his laptop and mobile phone which opened the doors of a new world to them. This innovation had a magical effect on the local children who discovered the joyous aspect of school life.
His untiring efforts brought in very positive results particularly in the field of female education as the enrollment of girls in the school went up from a mere 2 percent to 100 percent within a very short span of time. This school was adjudged the best school in the district as 85 percent of students were able to obtain “A” grade in the annual examinations.
The problems like illiteracy, teenage marriage and other related social evils got substantially reduced with the spread of education in that backward region. Of late, one female student from that school has become a university graduate which was quite unimaginable until recently.
However, this miracle of Ranjitsinh was possible also because of his intelligent use of modern technology in teaching. He is the originator and inventor of the use of QR-Code (Quick Response Code) in the textbooks to make them much more interesting for the pupils. The application of QR-Code created easy access for students to pictures, audios, videos, etc which could boost up the understanding of the textbooks for even an average learner.
He did it first for his own students in his school and made it more and more student-friendly keeping in mind the specific needs of students of different categories in terms of their levels of understanding. This QR-Code system was such a stunning success that it was later adopted by the Maharashtra government for the entire state, and subsequently, the NCERT too prepared textbooks with QR-Code in 2018 on the advice of the then HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar.
The greatness of this young teacher lies in the fact that he voluntarily arranged training programmes for several hundred teachers of Maharashtra to increase their capabilities in the effective and innovative use of technology in teaching. He has now become a global leader in innovative teaching as his online training has now spread to many parts of the world.
His another unique initiative is the ‘peace mission’ that he has begun through the mixing of students from countries which are in mutual conflicts, such as India-Pakistan, USA-North Korea, Israel-Palestine, etc.
It is believed that a great person is also born with a great heart and this is unmistakably true in case of Ranjitsinh Disale who has decided to share equally the one million dollar prize amount with the other 9 finalists. This is something unprecedented as none of the earlier recipients had done so.
This wonderful personality will definitely go down in human history as the creator of a new saga in the field of teaching. In India, the best talents of the country usually do not want to come to teaching. Now this example of Disale may be inspiring for many.
It goes without saying that the rapid development of a country depends on a strong educational base at the lower level. The fact that a very talented and innovative teacher, especially at the lower level where pupils are at their growing stage, can tremendously impact society is proved from the example of Ranjitsinh Disale.
To conclude, another teaching-related incident of Assam may be cited here. Mukesh Sahai, former DGP of Assam, on the very next day after his retirement, went straight to a government school in Guwahati to teach mathematics to the students of class nine. What message does it carry? Can we interpret that, through this noble gesture, Mukesh Sahai probably gave a message to the society that the greatest pleasure of life is found not in being in power but in the enchanting world of teaching and in the exciting intellectual engagement with the young minds at their formative stage?