All the media attention from across the world, congratulatory messages from the Dalai Lama, actors and ministers has left Ranjitsinh Disale, a teacher at the Zilla Parishad Primary School, Paritewadi, Solapur in Maharashtra quite stunned.
This recipient of the US$ one million ‘The Global Teacher Prize’ (established by the Varkey Foundation, it is the largest prize of its kind in the world) that was announced recently, smiles, “Once this attention ceases, and things become normal, actual work will begin. I understand this spotlight is not permanent.”
Selected from over 12,000 nominations and applications from over 140 countries around the world, Disale, who shared half the prize money with his fellow Top 10 finalists, resulting in the other nine finalists receiving just over US$55,000 each, says that teachers work for outcomes, not income.
“Being the winner doesn’t mean I am the best, just that I am the first among the equals. By sharing the prize money, I have respected the innovations, voice and plans of other teachers. It is important to look at education as a problem solving sector and I alone cannot solve all of them, right? However, when a large group of teachers come together, things become easier. Unity and collaborative efforts will help many needy students access quality education. I did not donate, I shared. Sharing is growing, and for me, it makes sense to grow together.”
For someone who wanted to be an IT engineer but chose to quit the engineering college, it was on his father’s suggestion that he joined a teacher’s training institute.
“The teachers there changed my life completely. I used to be shy and introvert, only to discover so many news facets of mine in just a few months. That is when I decided to be a graduate teacher. I wanted to change the life of students, just the way my teachers changed mine.”
Believing that it is important to constantly evolve teaching practices and adopt the best ones from across the world, Disale, who has to his credit the introduction of QR codes on textbooks adds, “It is used to access digital content at home. Earlier, I used to transfer data through a computer to the parents’ smartphones. But this was not very reliable as sometimes the files would get corrupted, while some phones were not compatible. One day, I saw a shopkeeper using a barcode. I did my research at home and found that QR codes would work the best. I created 27 dynamic codes on sticker paper to put on students’ textbooks.”
Admitting that while government schools in India may not be perfect, this teacher however feels that it is important to focus on solutions rather than problems.
“I am willing to work with the government and teachers to do my bit. I have always believed that when teachers and the government work in unison to improve schools, one can expect a revolution in education. When the government listens to the teachers, and the latter’s voice is respected, one can expect great results.”
Disale, who for several years has also been involved in a sustained campaign for girls’ education and discouraging teenage marriages in his village admits that it was not very easy to educate the village folk. “But I never threw solutions at them, instead shifted to the village in order to understand the social structure and get deep within their minds. Gradually, I started putting my points across. They started seeing me as a friend, something that was very important. I have been counselling them that merely enrolling girls in schools won’t do. It is important that they are empowered so that they can contribute positively to society.”