Bihar’s Sant Kumar Sahani and Gujarat’s Sudha Joshi have won this year’s National Teachers Award under the ‘special category’. While Sahani was awarded for delivering one of the best results in the state from a school which was once deserted, Joshi was chosen for bringing visually-impaired students to the mainstream schooling system. On Teacher’s Day, they share their inspiring stories.
Sant Kumar Sahani’s journey from low enrolment to a new school building
When Sahani, who suffers from low-vision, joined the village high school in Kharmaul, a remote area in Bihar’s Begusarai district in 2004, only 123 students were enrolled at the school. To overcome this, he went door-to-door on his cycle to convince parents to send their children to school.
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“Apart from going door-to-door, I also organised events at school, and parents used to come to see their children’s performance. These people depend on animal husbandry for their livelihood. Slowly, people started associating themselves with the school. They donated a liter of milk, someone gave us one kilogram of rice. We used to pitch in and started hosting food which attracted more people to such events. I used to organise experts to talk about the importance of education. Slowly people used to look up to these events. In 2019, the villagers donated their land to the school on which now we conduct classes for high school students,” Sahani told indianexpress.com.
Later, he started a 1-1 project, under which two students from the same locality would study together, listen to each other and practice together. This practice, claims Sahani, has come handy during the lockdown as students not only share a single phone but also help each other when schools are closed.
Sahni has developed a new pedagogy, which he claims, has the capability to train at least 10 students. “ASER survey shows that less than 50 per cent of class 5 students can read a class 2 level text. While the survey is from across the country, in Bihar, the situation is worse. Students tend to find it difficult to associate a sound with a letter or form an image of an object in their mind when you say the name of an object. My pedagogy deals with these basic issues,” he told indianexpress.com. He is also working on a ‘Kalidas pedagogy’ where a student is inspired before he is taught.
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His innovative techniques have put the once deserted school among the best in the state. The school has been recording an average of 92 per cent pass percentage in state board exams. It had also recorded 100 per cent pass percentage in 2015. Sahani was asked by the state government to train over 2,000 teachers. The state government has also awarded him for making a change in the school.
Sahni holds three Master’s degrees – in economics, education, and psychology- and has also cleared the UGC NET exam.
Sudha Joshi: Bringing visually-impaired students back to mainstream
Sudha Joshi joined a school for the differently-abled students with low resources at a young age in Vastrapur, Gujarat. Thirty-two years later, she is still associated with the same school.
“One has to put extra time and effort than usual with these kids, especially in my subjects – mathematics and science. These students need to be explained everything by touching and feeling as they cannot see diagrams. I use board tables and explain orally in as much detail as I can. I also make students live these experiences by making them enact certain models like a solar system etc for better understanding,” she told indianexpress.com.
“Some of our students are left by their parents and some parents do not have the support or means to raise their children. We have to become their parents,” she said.
For her students, Joshi tries to raise equal opportunities in all fields, “I make sure my students participate in all competitions from singing to dancing. They have performed in Rashtrapati Bahvan, Sansad Bhavan, and many national and even international levels. One of our students’ performance was in front of Prime Minister Narendra Modi too,” she said. She, however, makes sure that these kids participate in mainstream events and not just programmes for special children.
Joshi had also flown her students on international educational trips to America as well. For such trips they get sponsorship and crowdfunding, she said.
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