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From selling newspapers to reviving lake: Tale of two Indian teachers shortlisted for Global Teacher Prize 2021

If Satyam Mishra wins, he would distribute 80 per cent of his prize money among the other 49 finalists and start a literacy project with Bihar’s Musahar community. On the other hand, Meghana Musunuri would work towards establishing a happiness clinic.

Meghana Musunuri from Telangana and Satyam Mishra from Bhagalpur in Bihar have been shortlisted for this year’s Global Teacher Prize. (Photo: File.)

Two teachers from India have made it to the list of 50 candidates nominated for this year’s Global Teacher Prize – a $1-million award ‘set up to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society’.

Satyam Mishra, a mathematics teacher from Bhagalpur in Bihar, and Hyderabad’s Meghana Musunuri, who teaches social studies, English and math, have made it to the list.

Satyam, 31, went to Mount Assisi School, Bhagalpur, and completed his engineering from Manipal Institute of Technology in 2014. He dived deep into the social sector through Teach for India (TFI) fellowship in 2015 in Pune.

He says that teaching comes naturally to him. “My grandmother was illiterate, she would find it difficult to read text or numbers. She often asked for my help in reading invitation cards or bills. Initially, I started teaching her what I learned in school. With time, she was able to read and write,” Satyam told indianexpress.com.

During his TFI journey, Satyam transformed the school in Pune’s Ganjpeth. He also underwent an internship at IIM Ahmedabad where he studied different pedagogical methods.

With an aim of driving change in warzones, Satyam submitted his insightful research paper based on his TFI journey to Malala Yousafzai’s school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon.

“Education should not stop in a war zone. I resonated with Malala’s motto and that allowed me to put my skills to the right use. Till today, I have taught my students for free,” says Satyam.

He believes that a teacher’s job is not limited to just teaching. One of his students in TFI, Aawez Sheikh used to distribute newspapers to support his family and often used to get late.

Satyam teaching in a classroom. (Photo: Satyam Mishra)

“I distribute newspapers in his place so that he can come to school on time. One student’s father used to sell fast food and he fell ill suddenly. He then started setting up the stall in his father’s place to earn a living. I have sold fast food so that my students can attend classes. A teacher has to not just teach but create solutions for students to be able to have access to classes,” added Satyam, who is also a recipient of Teach for All Global Education Fellowship.

In April 2020, Satyam was selected as network coordinator at Teach for All and he virtually trained more than 100 teachers in Nigeria. He currently works as a curriculum developer for Teach for Armenia, a STEM coach at Teach for Slovakia and a teacher at Mount Assisi School in Bihar.

Meghana Musunuri, the other teacher in the list, was brought up in Telangana and completed her undergraduate in computer science in 1999. She then moved to London in 2000 after getting married. But, she always felt the need to learn more about education and pursued a specialised course in child psychology from Mark Education in the UK.

Belonging to a family of freedom fighters, she wanted to be back in India and “wanted to work towards the development of her home country”. In 2007, she sold her house in London and used that money to establish her school here — Fountainhead Global School & Junior College. Instead of convincing other parents to admit their children to her school, she took her kids as her first students in kindergarten.

Meghana Musunuri with her students in a class before the pandemic. (Photo: Meghana)

“I have always been passionate about teaching, which is why I took up a B.Ed course in 2009 and started teaching English and math. I love using blending learning methodologies and adopted them 10 years ago. We use blended learning across subjects and age groups,” says Meghana, who advocates for online learning and has been the Hyderabad Champion for Google’s Women Entrepreneurs on the Web (WEOW) for guiding women entrepreneurs in establishing their online presence.

To take her school completely online, she contacted Google if they could help them create something similar to Google Hangouts. Later, her school was the first from India to be mentioned under the Google for Education programme.

Long before the pandemic hit and learning moved to online, Meghana was training teachers to adopt digital technologies for education. “As soon as the pandemic happened, schools did not know what to do with online learning. Many of the schools that approached me were spending around Rs 16 lakh and then we taught them to use these free tools for education and started utilising tech for free,” said Meghana.

Before and after pictures of the lake. (Photo: Meghana)

Along with academic learning, Meghana’s school also focuses on developing life skills. As part of one of the activities, the school children were able to collectively revive the Meedikunta Lake in Hyderabad. From submitting letters to government offices for permissions to crowdfunding, kids were able to learn different aspects of real life.

“There needs to be an overall transformation of the education system as there should be more focus on life skills that will help students succeed in real life. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is a relevant futuristic step in the right direction. But, so was CCE. We need to carefully implement the new policy so that it does not meet the same fate as CCE,” said Meghana, who also has plans to develop a biodiversity lab near the Meedikunta Lake.

About the prize money, Satyam says he would distribute 80 per cent of the amount among the other 49 finalists and start a literacy project with Bihar’s Musahar community where the literacy rate is still very low. On the other hand, Meghana would work towards establishing a happiness clinic.

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