A teacher is someone who leaves a mark that is unparalleled in most of our lives. We still think of our teachers when we trace back our favourite subjects that became career choices. A day to celebrate them can never be enough, it would take an entire lifetime!
But there are millions of children around the country whose stories are different. They would never even have a school to attend or the choice of an education was it not for some exemplary teachers.
On this Teachers’ Day, we celebrate a few stalwarts in the field of education who have made learning accessible for different communities across India.
Education on the foothills of the Himalayas – G. K. Swami and Chinni
Swami was an Economist based in Mumbai in the 1990s. A series of incidents led him and his wife, Chinni to Purkal, a small town on the foothills of the Himalayas. Here, they began to teach poor kids. Their first batch had 9 children visiting their small rented home. Swami would teach them and Chinni would cook for them. By the second batch, she began teaching as well.
What began as after-school help for poor kids from rural communities grew larger by the year. By 2014, Purkal Youth Development Society became a full-fledged CBSE school with over 200 children, about 90 of whom live on campus. This little act of service started by Swami and Chinni educates hundreds of students today.
Innovating learning for the hearing impaired – D. P. K. Babu
Babu had a brother who was hearing impaired. Growing up, he saw the challenges his brother faced and wanted to do something for others like him. This was the driving force which pushed him to set up the organisation Ashray Akruti.
What started in 1996 as classes for five hearing-impaired children in a small shed in Hyderabad, kept growing over the years. Today, Ashray Akruti has over 350 hearing impaired students. They learn using innovative methods that Babu propagates such as Oral Aural teaching and Auditory Verbal Method. His efforts have helped many hearing impaired students mainstream into regular schools. He has even made way for inclusive education in a couple of regular schools.
He has also encouraged mothers of poor hearing-impaired children to enrol in special education courses. He gives them a chance to teach in their schools and earn a living!
Educating children from the streets of Goa – Matthew Kurian
A young and confused Matthew Kurian was drawn to drugs and other forms of substance abuse at a low point in his life. When he realized that his life was on the verge of falling apart, he decided to get into rehabilitation. In rehab, he found solace in the gospel as he began to heal.
In 1994, he moved from Kerala to Goa to do ministry work amongst one of the most downtrodden tribal communities. He wanted to educate them and be able to create better lives for them. In 1996, he met a UK national Anita Edgar who shared his vision. Together, they started El Shaddai Charitable Trust to care for homeless and destitute children.
Today, El Shaddai has over seven homes in Goa, including one for children of sex workers. Kurian’s efforts have gone a long way toward providing education, shelter and a chance at a better life for 3500 children across Goa.
Spreading the light of learning across Tribal Orissa – Achyuta Samanta
Professor Achyuta Samanta is the one-man revolution that brought education to over 27,000 tribal children in Orissa. When he was four, his father died in a train accident. This left his mother alone with seven children in a remote village in Cuttack.
His harsh circumstances pushed him to study with all he had. He worked hard to get a degree and post graduation in chemistry. To afford his classes, he took private tuition and mentored other students. This opened him up to the world of being a teacher.
Years later, he went on to begin Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences. Here, tribal students from 1st grade to post-graduation are provided education, shelter and food for free. Many of their students have gone on to set up their own successful enterprises and even take part in the Olympics. He believes not only in educating these children but in transforming their lives on every level. He does not want another generation to live in poverty again.
Creating a country that empathises with autistic kids – Merry Barua
Merry Barua is a journalist from Calcutta who has been paving way for awareness around autism in India. It began when she had a son who was autistic. Unfortunately, no one knew about the condition or what it was. He was misdiagnosed in one premier disability organization after the other.
Over the course of his childhood, Merry had a tough time figuring out what made him the way he was. It was even harder to educate other people about it. She began doing whatever she could to gain knowledge about autism and spread it. She started writing about it and counselling families. She even taught a few children with autism along with her son. All the work she put in led to forming the organisation Action for Autism.
Today, the organisation trains hundreds of children with autism, along with their parents. Merry’s aim is to create a world where people understand and empathise with those who have autism. She also believes in working towards a future where autistic people know how to work and lead meaningful lives.
You can support the efforts towards education made by incredible people like these with a small monthly donation. Click here to discover a program and organisation that you would like to give to.