This year on Teacher’s Day, we decided to celebrate teachers who have been teaching against all odds.
Working under harsh conditions, either political, geographical or social, these teachers have defied challenges and hurdles that came their way.
Here are some of their stories.
Taking Classes in Kashmir’s Makeshift Schools
Wedding halls and prayer rooms have been turned into makeshift ‘curfew schools’ in Kashmir as families struggle to provide children with a normal life after clashes erupted in the Valley following the killing of Burhan Wani on 8 July.
But the lack of desks, books or electricity has not deterred volunteer teachers in the Valley, who have been taking classes inside houses too.
Mohammed Sakib said about one such improvised school.
We did not want the children’s education to suffer because of what is happening here. We are all students ourselves, but we decided to step up and take classes. Schools have remained shut for weeks now, but we wanted to keep their education going
Watching children becoming increasingly restless cooped up at home, Ghulam Rasool Kambay, a teacher in the Valley, opened a tutorial centre.
The response is good. We have about 800 students in these centres. Parents are eager to send their children as they have no option right now.
For the Valley’s children, this is the only way to meet friends and study. In the ensuing violence in the state, these makeshift camps have become one of the ways to ensure some peace, even if only temporarily.
Teaching in the Naxal-Hit Gadchiroli
In the deep forests of Gadchiroli, an area affected by Naxalite insurgency, a lone teacher has been tackling bias and language barriers to educate children of this tribal village.
Mauja Dholdongari, which lies 40 kilometres away from Kurkheda block in Gadchiroli district now has a fully fledged primary school thanks to the efforts of Dhanraj Haribhau Dudhkuwar.
I have been teaching here since 2004 and initially I used to be scared of the forests, also because there would be Naxal attacks. But I always knew that I wanted to change the lives of these children and hence started coming. I travel everyday for three kilometers, as there isn’t a proper road leading up to the school.
Since the village had no transportable road or any facility for lodging, Dudhkuwar stayed at neighbouring Mauja Navejhari village located four kilometres away to continue his work. Initially, he would teach students without the basic facility of a building.
In many cases, Dudhkuwar himself, used to go to each house near the village and bring the children to school. He was also instrumental in getting the Gram Panchayat and the village community to construct a school building.
Due to his efforts, there are around 19 children attending the school now.
Braving Assam Floods
The Tinsukia district in Assam braved a terror attack only a few weeks ago. It’s also an area which gets easily inundated during the monsoon or floods.
Despite these challenges, Sukhdeo Pradhan travels seven kilometers everyday, on a road that vanishes during the rains, to teach children in a school near the district.
Sukhdeo Pradhan said:
The road leading to the school is a huge problem. There’s water and muck all around. There’s a lot of difficult but I come here because I want to help these children with their careers.
These stories are inspiring, yet compelling. Heartwarming, yet surreal.
What they do, though, is deepen our faith in the power of teaching.