An inspired teacher seeks to not just educate his students, but to teach them to be the best version of themselves. Here are the stories of five teachers who are making a difference to their students' lives beyond the classroom.
Robin Chaurasiya: Turning children of sex workers to leaders
Robin Chaurasiya, a former lieutenant in the US Air Force, started Kranti in 2011. Kranti doubles up as a school and haven for children of sex-workers. The daughters of sex-workers were expected to end up like their mothers, many of the children in Kranti having gone through harrassment and sexual abuse.
At Kranti, the girls follow a curriculum enriched by singing, dancing, writing, meditation, travel, TED talks, theatre and pop-culture. Robin crowdfunds to make sure the girls have a home and so they can attend study programmes abroad where they can learn and study as equals.
“Education should teach people how to be happy and make others happy. Finding things you enjoy, relationships, compassion and being good people. That is going to create happiness"
Early this year, Robin was nominated for the Varkey's Global Teacher Prize. The idea, Robin says, is to teach the children to be loving, compassionate beings. When the children are happy and joyful, they will want tomake the world around them a better place.
Sonalee Shyamsunder: Teaching children with special needs
Sonalee became a teacher for children with disabilities after successful career as a print journalist. A trip to Sri Lanka, where children with special needs are treated as a unique opportunity to serve selflessly, sowed a seed in her mind. She came back and started Urmi Foundation to help disabled children also enrich their minds with education.
Through Urmi Foundation, Sonalee works with children with special needs in economically backward localities of Mumbai. Parents in these areas are not aware that their child's life can be made better by teaching them life skills. Instead, they are often kept locked away for their own safety.
“Special education is a long process. Many times it takes years, but at the end when we see our student reach a milestone – that happiness has no match.”
Urmi Foundation works with these parents to educate the child by using ideas and concepts from their lives. Art is also an important tool in teaching motor skills.
Srini Swaminathan: Helping committed teachers do their job
Srini Swaminathan isa teacher and an avid cyclist and marathoner. He is also ex-director of Teach For India – Chennai. Having taught in classrooms in Dharavi, Mumbai, Srini understands the importance of passionate, committed teachers who won't give up on their students. Sometimes, these teachers can be all that stands between their students and the chaos of poverty.
“Running a marathon is tough on your body. I motivate myself to continue by remembering that the pain is temporary, but what those children need to face – fear and poverty is much more difficult.”
Srini is raising funds through a marathon to help one such a teacher in Haji Public School (HPS), Breswana, Kashmir. HPS was started by the Bangalore-educated Sabbah Haji in an inaccessible part of Kashmir, where education was not a priority. In her small way, Sabbah is bringing a change to the community through opening up the minds of children here.
It is the first school in the area and over eight years, 350 interested students from remote villages nearby attend every day. The funds Srini raised will be used to provide warm clothes to the students in the school.
Ashita Nath: Good Harvest School: India's first school for agriculture for girls
Ashita became interested in teaching after college, when she helped a student from her school pass. She decided to become teacher and follow in the footsteps of some of her own brilliant teachers. In time, she and her husband decided to quit working in Delhi and work on their own farm in Pashchim Gaon, 50 kms from Lucknow.
Most families in Pashchim Gaon are small, marginal farmers. The couple began helping farmers make small changes in their practices for better output. That is when they realised, that what the village needed most was a school that could teach them what they needed to learn.
“The girls here really want to study. They come to school, ask questions and are invested in their own education. Education is a gift I recieved that I want to pass on to the girls here.”
Good Harvest School was started with the idea that the students take pride in their agricultural background and have a fresh, modern approach to it. Sothe existing curriculum is supplemented with classes about agriculture and other topics that are relevant to girls in the village.
Ashwin DS: Making sure his students were safe in a crisis
Aswin DS was a TFI fellow when floods hit Chennai. He taught in a the government school in Choolaipalam region which was inundated during the floods.
As soon as the rains stopped, he went to the school and used the school mike to begin looking for his students in the area. He started taking attendance and over the next few days located all 90 of them, even those who had left town seeking safety. Once they were found, he made sure they had essential things like water, food and clothing.
As the floods subsided, he organised a medical camp in the school for all children, most of whom had a fever and allergic reactions to the polluted water. After the floods he worked locally, helping in rebuilding efforts. He raised funds to help restock his class with benches, bags and books. Being able to make sure that at least all children of class 3 (his class) were all right was a source of relief to Ashwin.
“When my children heard I was going to look for their classmates they volunteered information and help. To see them being selfless and proactive was an emotional moment for me. This is what I had been trying to teach them all along.”