Teachers’ Day: Our Tribute to the Nation Builders

On May 13, 1962, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan – the first Vice President of India and a teacher par excellence – became the second President of the country. On September 5th that year, some of his friends and students asked for his permission to celebrate his 74th birth anniversary. He replied, “instead of celebrating my birthday separately, it would be my proud privilege if fifth September is celebrated as Teachers’ Day.”

Since then, the date is observed as Teachers’ Day to honour his legacy as well as all the teachers across the country. This year, however, has been unusual for teachers across the globe. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the shutdown of all educational institutions and badly affected the education sector. Many state governments have ordered schools not to collect fees during the shutdown, which resulted in non-payment of salaries of many teachers in private institutions.

A preliminary investigative report by the Central Square Foundation, which surveyed about 90 private schools, found that almost 50% teachers engaged in the institutions were not paid salaries for March. Another survey by Mumbai-based non-profit School Leaders Network Global Network found that 45.5% of teachers surveyed are yet to receive their salaries for April, while 16.4% were paid a reduced salary.

Despite these challenges, however, teachers are taking online classes and going beyond their call of duty. On this day, we celebrate the contributions of some extraordinary teachers in the state who have set great examples for aspiring teachers.

Before Corona, Ms. Madhusmita Nayaka maths teacher at a girls’ high school in Jagatsinghpur, used to start her day by teaching the subject to class VII-X students. She also teaches physics and computer science to class VIII and IX students. In April second week, her daily routine underwent a drastic change and her work moved beyond the classroom. She got engaged in COVID duty in a local containment zone and began undertaking a host of services. She is among nearly 62,000 teachers in the state who are engaged in COVID-19 duty. Apart from the COVID duty, she also takes online classes, delivers textbooks to the homes of students, and clears their doubts.

After the schools and colleges were closed, teachers resorted to online teaching and started taking classes via video conferencing. However, not all enjoy good internet connection, especially the teachers who stay in the remote parts of the state. But a poor network is not a deterrent for the dedicated ones. Mr. Prasanta Bhuyan is a science teacher in Krushnapur village, whose training session for online education started on August 1. To attend the online training, he has been traveling 40 kms from his village to the Panchagochhia hill every day.

Dr Anupama Mishra, the Sanskrit teacher at BB High School in Dhenkanal town, has been reaching out to students staying within three km radius of the school. After the implementation of the first phase, she asked her pupils to call her if they have doubts in the subject. After the first phase lockdown ended, she started calling up five children a day, gave them assignments and asked for doubts. After interacting with her students over the phone in the morning, she sets out to their houses to clear doubts and evaluate their assignments.

Like Dr Mishra, Ms. Rekha Sahu, who is the headmaster of Government Primary School at Paikadahikore, visits children residing in the village daily to teach them. She does this because conducting online classes there is not feasible as many students do not have smartphones and they are used to classroom teaching. She travels 10 km from Dhenkanal town to Paikadahikore daily on a two-wheeler and in one week she covers all her students.

Ms. Jyotirani Lenka, an English teacher in a private school in Cuttack, has not received her salary for the last three months. While on the other hand, she now puts extra effort to conduct online classes, doubt clearing sessions, and online weekly tests to assess the learning outcomes. Like her, many teachers in private schools in the state have not received their salaries for one month or more. Despite their financial woes, they continue with their teachings and administrative duties, like before, in a dutiful and dedicated manner.

On Teachers’ Day, we salute the great teacher Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and all teachers in the country who have played, and are playing, a key role in building the nation.

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