A marine biologist from Punjab, a sociologist from Shillong and a linguistics professor from Aligarh are among 31 teachers who have spent a week in Rashtrapati Bhavan as part of the first-ever “in-residence programme” for “Inspired Teachers.”
The teachers, nominated by their respective universities, spent a week in the President’s Estate and met a host of senior government functionaries, including the chairman of NITI Aayog, University Grants Commission and SEBI and HRD Minister Smriti Irani.
Overwhelmed by the experience of attending Presidential functions — the teachers attended the swearing in ceremony of the CVC and CIC — they spoke highly of how at an age when it is often the lesser half of a class that chooses academics as career, programmes such as this would motivate more young people to take up teaching. PA Sinu from Central University of Kerala talked about how it is only the “bottom cream of the class that chooses to become teachers. This programme will motivate more young people to come to teaching.”
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In his interaction with the teachers on Thursday ahead of travelling to Shimla for his annual retreat, President Mukherjee said: “An ‘Inspired Teacher’ links the individual goals of the students to the societal and national goals.” He quoted Greek writer and philosopher Nikos Kazantzakis to outline his vision of a teacher’s role.
While the teachers had many discussions on higher education and the need to align syllabi with the needs of the society and economy, the sheer scale of things at the residence of the first citizen left many of them in awe.
Felix Bast, a marine biologist from the Central University of Punjab talked about how there was a concierge waiting for him at the railway station and he was driven to the estate in a Toyota Landcruiser. “It was amazing that even before we had arrived, invitations for official functions were being sent to us. I have stayed in luxury hotels but was never prepared for this kind of austerity in Rashtrapati Bhawan. But as an experience I would give this place 100 stars,” he said.
The teachers met Amitabh Bachchan when he came to Rashtrapati Bhavan for a special screening of Piku and also singer Parveen Sultana when she came to perform. Imtiaz Hasnain, a professor of linguistics from Aligarh Muslim University said that meetings with bankers and corporates had opened unexplored vistas for him. “I am aware of the government schemes for minorities but I did not know about the schemes from private banks. This was an eye-opener. Also meetings with IBM officials etc has given me an idea about the kind of work being done which I can go back and share with my colleagues in Aligarh.”
Professor Aurelius Kyrham Nongkynrih, who teaches sociology in North Eastern Hill University said he wanted to have an interaction with students of Central universities in Delhi like DU, JNU and Jamia Millia Islamia, but couldn’t.