Shyamala rose to go to the podium amidst thunderous applause from the audience gathered at Raj Bhavan, New Delhi for the award ceremony, organized for felicitating ‘The Best Teachers’ across India on the occasion of Teacher’s Day 2021.
As she received the award for ‘The Best Teacher for Technological Inclusion’, she was amazed at the loud claps she heard from a section of the audience which comprised of the Village Pradhan, Mr. Basak, the Headmaster, Mr. Chatterjee, and others. It was indeed a Eureka moment for her!
She then realized, “Adulation from unexpected avenues could bring back zest like magic.”
Her thoughts went back to the time she joined the Govt. Secondary school in Seluah village, Uttarpara district, West Bengal five years ago…
“You, a teacher?” asked the villagers sarcastically, whenever she met up with them.
Her attire- mostly jeans and short tops – added bitterness to the aversion they had developed for this free-spirited lady.
This did not bother Shyamala. She had all along wanted to be a Govt. school teacher. She wanted to nurture students, especially first-generation learners and promote holistic development that would give them the confidence to face the world.
“Good morning, miss”, a few voices greeted her as she entered the classroom on the first day of her job.
“Good morning”, she mouthed quietly but her heart sank at the dilapidated condition of the class. The discordant atmosphere threatened to destroy her resolve of teaching there.
“Sir, please understand, it is very difficult for the students to learn anything in such conditions. We must equip the students well, to take on the challenges that could face when they walk out of this school and village,” said she to the headmaster, a month after she had joined.
“Madam, what can we do? We get a petty sum from the government to run the school. The parents send these children only to avail free education and midday meals.”
“Sir, if you allow me, I can get some funding from known sources and set up Smart Boards with an internet connection in the classroom. We can set up a computer lab with basic computers. We can get qualified teachers to help, who can work on a minimum salary for a year or so. If this works, we can apply for grants or funds later.”
Her persistence enlisted a promise from him to speak to the Panchayat in this regard. But, the stumbling blocks in this endeavour were way too many!
Six months later, the first Smartboards appeared in the ninth and tenth classes of school, much to the joy and excitement of all students.
And then, started a tedious process of training youngsters for Shyamala and her colleagues!
“Miss! This is for you.”
She took a sweet offered by a student who had just secured admission to an engineering college in the city.
The contentment reflected through the tears of the parents and students fueled her determination to create many such success stories in Seluah.
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