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Of Blackboards and Books
This story appears in the September 2018 issue of School LIVE.
It is often said that in the hand of the teacher lies the fate of the future. They mould the thought and shape the minds of generations to come. In a country fighting acute shortage of teachers, there also are people who set the bar very high for the profession. Not only with the work that they are pursuing but also with HOW they are pursuing the same! The teachers on our list here may or may not be conventional in the modes they pursue to spread their work, but they definitely are doing their bit to take it far and wide.

Uttam Teron


source: ScooNews


Uttam Teron was a person full of surprises for his entire neighbourhood. Born to a train-driver father and a homemaker mother, Uttam hails from Pamohi, a village 20 kms from Guwahati. One of the few people in his village to ever get a college degree, he returned to his roots soon after. He gave tuitions to earn a living but he witnessed the childhoods of numerous children being sacrificed for alcoholism and lack of education. He decided if the children had any chance at a better future he needed to act. In 2003, with his savings of Rs 800 he set up a school in a cowshed, Parijat Academy for the young and underprivileged children.


source: YouTube

Over the years, this cowshed turned into a regular school and Uttam started teaching children from 11 neighbourhood villages. From 14 children, the school has housed over 500 children studying without having to worry about any fees. The school provides uniforms and books to students who can’t afford it. It even provides a hostel facility for girls who come from far flung villages.

Uttam also believes in making specially-abled children self-sufficient in life. The school provides skill development to these children. Uttam hopes to launch a computer learning centre soon at a nominal fees to equip more children. Finances haven’t been able to sort themselves out in all these years, but the school gets a lot of volunteers from all over. This could seem like a small change for many of us but to him and people from the villages it is a big ray of hope.


Vimla Kaul

source: WordPress


Vimla Kaul with her husband, Prof Hari Mohan Kaul retired to Delhi in the year 1993. As people who had been active all their lives, they decided to visit the nearby village of Madanpur Khadar in Delhi. They would speak to the elders in the village and sit at the chaupal for hours at end.

One day as part of the Rotary club, the couple was distributing biscuits in the village. At the chaupal, one villager said to her, “मैडमजी आप बिस्कुट दे रही है वह बहुत अच्छा है । लेकिन कुछ ऐसा काम करिए जिससे बच्चे अपने पैरों पर खड़े होकर बिस्कुट कमा सकें।” That just stayed with Vimla. She realised these children whiling away time on the streets would not find easy acceptance in a government school. A retired English teacher, Vimla decided to teach these children and enable them to enter mainstream schools.

In 1995, with grit and determination they cajoled the elders in the village into starting a school. With one teacher and 5 students, the school -- Guldasta was finally open! Starting with children aged 4 to 8, Vimla worked on basic subjects and extra circulars that would go a long way in helping children sustain in life. From basic Maths, English and Hindi, to dance, mehndi making and sewing, Vimla took care to make sure the children developed strong foundations.


source: ScooNews

After only a short duration, Guldasta had to shift base to Sarita Vihar, but the people around did no allow them to operate. The school kept shifting from park to park, till they found solace in an MCD park from where they functioned. Finally in 2013, Malviya Trust started financing the school and took care of the basic expenses incurred, including rent of the school, and they could the school into a rented house. With the skills picked here, the same children later moved to a regular school, were able to cope and not drop out. The mehndi lessons the girls picked up at the school have made them local celebrities.


They might have faced lack of funds, or lack of space, but nothing stopped the 81 year Vimla in forging on in her journey. She may have retired to the world a long time ago, but the teacher in her never did.


Arvind Gupta


source: Ted Talks

Ask anyone around you who grew up in the 80s and 90s, and they would remember a familiar TV show, “Tarang”, that aired every Sunday on Doordarshan. Children and adults thronged in front of the television to learn news and alternative ways to knowledge.

Coming from a background where books were a luxury, Arvind’s mother sold her jewelry to send him to the best school in town. Education was the best ticket to a good future. While at IIT Kanpur, Arvind would teach the children of mess workers and students from adjoining villages. He knew education was his life’s pursuit.

Arvind worked with TATA Engineering and Locomotive Company (TELCO) for two years, but he was so dissatisfied he took a break from his job. His mentor from IIT Kanpur asked him to help create science activity programmes for Doordarshan, Tarang. Arvind has never looked back since. He found his passion for bringing science and education to every child, even in the far flung villages. He found teachers from lore teaching subjects they did not understand themselves. He took the principles of science and put them to use in toys made from everyday items. Children loved them and learnt more with them.


source: YourStory


Arvind believes that children learn only when they are having fun. He lays stress on children comprehending a concept through the little toys he teaches them to create. Arvind is still doing what he loves, teaching kids to make toys, and helping them learn science and maths through it. The TV show might have ended a long time ago, but it was dubbed in 7 regional languages, and reached innumerable kids.

He states just because a child is sent to an expensive school does not ensure them good education. Education is required most by the poor schools. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2018.


Anand Kumar

source: YourStory

Born in Patna, Anand Kumar developed a fascination for the mathematics at the Hindi medium school he attended. While doing his graduation at the Patna Science College in 1992, Anand formed the ‘Ramanujam School of Mathematics’, where he started a free training programme for anyone interested in pursuing this science. His love for mathematics secured him the admission at the Cambridge University in the year 1994, but he could not join the course owing to poor financial state.

It was with this pang of poverty that he started a new chapter of the ‘Ramanujam School of Mathematics.’ He started training a small group of students for various competitive exams for a nominal fee. For those coming from very poor households, he charged nothing.


A few years on in 2002, Anand decided to shape the programme specifically for the meritorious but poor students. He called his brother down from Mumbai to help him out and this was the beginning of Anand’s Super 30 programme. They decided to provide free lodging, food and coaching to 30 students from financially weak backgrounds from all over Bihar. His mother would do the cooking for these students.

In an age where coaching centres never fall short of exploiting any candidate, Anand believes that talent knows no boundaries. To choose the 30 students, they designed an entrance test which not only tested knowledge of the students but also their thinking capabilities.

source: PatnaBeats

The objective with which Super 30 programme began was (and continues to be) to track a talented group of students from the economically impoverished sections and mould their skills in a conducive environment. Super 30 gave them an avenue to channel their skills and not be bounded by the financial constraints of their families. It is with this hope that they also seek to uplift their families from their poor backgrounds.

Today, Super 30 stands as a unique programme that has helped hundreds get into the IITs. Anand teaches his students that not every problem can be solved with the same formula, every problem, every situation requires an innovative, creative solution. Herein lies his genius as a teacher, for transforming his individual financial failure into a dream come true to thousands others.


An avid book reader travels the world sitting on her armchair.



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