“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge” – Albert Einstein
Indian Express reported in today’s newspaper about a “sweet lesson” that is being taught to the teachers of the government schools in Vadodara by the district primary education officer of the area. This “sweet lesson” is a punishment he started to increase the attendance of the teachers of the schools. The punishment involves treating all the students in the school to a nutritious snack if the teacher is late or skips school without any valid reason.
After reading this, the first thought that struck my mind was that isn’t this happening the other way round? Growing up, I had heard stories in my school days of how there is no proper education happening in government schools, of how teachers are never there, and that many teachers take naps during the classes.
While in college at Delhi University, I became a National Social Service Volunteer for a year. There I taught government school students after their classes and I got to hear first hand stories of what was going on. Whenever I would ask the students what the teachers had taught them that day, the responses would be more or less the same. I was told that, at times, the teacher did not come and at other times I was told that they spent the whole day just teaching mathematics. I learnt more about the actual effects of the teachers teaching when I sat down to teach the children. The two students of class five that I taught could read English quite well. They pronunciation was bad but at least they could read English. Sadly though, they had no idea what it was that they were reading out loud and this shocked me very much. I did not expect them to understand the language very well but I did expect them to understand what they were reading. They could answer every question after I translated them, which showed that they were intelligent but they could not answer in English.
The two boys I taught were extremely smart from the start. They were very eager to learn and one always tried to answer faster than the other to show off his brilliance. Their books were good too. It had all the material that one needed to teach them but the only thing lacking was a teacher.
A country that follows the tradition of revering a teacher- the ancient guru- shishya parampara has, now, lost its way. I don’t think that the students from these schools would ever want to give guru dakshina to their teachers anymore. A 2004 World Bank study found the teacher absentee rate to be 25 per cent in India. If you go to the villages, you will hear stories of teachers who take bribes. These are same people who have paid bribes in order to get hold of their degrees. India is responsible for 36.7 per cent of illiterates in the world. The condition of government schools is dire. Many don’t have proper toilets, electricity is erratic and their funding vanishes into the pockets of administrators.
The government has done and is trying to do a lot to better education in India but its officials function as obstacles by the virtue of their corrupt nature. But in this mess, it is the teachers that can make an actual difference in the lives of the students. And all that they need to do is be present and do their jobs. Their presence in the lives of the students is necessary because there is a high chance that the parents of the students are illiterate and hence can’t help much with the education of their children.
Teachers can light the lamp of knowledge in the mind of these students and help sustain it. A compliment from a teacher can go a long way in inspiring us to work harder and often, we choose a career path because our high school teacher believed that we were capable of doing it. Teachers who have the power to mold young minds should not take their jobs lightly.
Image Source: The Viewspaper