These eight teachers are transforming the nation, one student a time

‘Of all the hard jobs around, one of the hardest is being a good teacher.’ The saying holds true if you are looking at teaching as a profession. But, for those noble people out there who consider teaching to be their life goal and overcome great difficulties and challenges to ensure that they impart knowledge and education to their children, teaching is not just any profession.

These teachers do not have the luxury of air-conditioned classrooms, whiteboards and other great teaching tools, let alone decent salaries. Yet, they brave nature and social barriers so that they can enlighten their students. This Teacher’s Day, we salute eight inspiring teachers from across India who are transforming the country, one student a time:

Aditya Kumar: Known as the ‘cycle guru’, Aditya Kumar travels 65 kms on his bicycle every day so that he can reach his students who live in the slums of Lucknow. Born to a labourer father who wanted him to start earning as a child, Kumar ran away from his home in the village of Salempur, UP, to study in Lucknow. He was fortunate to find a teacher who helped him complete his studies and graduate. This instilled in him the desire to teach others like him and spread the message of the need for education. In 2015, Kumar set out on his countrywide cycle journey and has peddled across the country for over two years to inspire children to go to school.

Abdul Malik: This dedicated teacher from Kerala’s Malappuram district has to cross a real hurdle to reach his school. The 12-kilometre distance from his home to school takes around three hours one way by bus. However, Abdul Malik has figured out a better route so that he can reach his school on time. Instead of taking the road, Malik swims across a muddy river every day, carrying his lunch box, books, clothes and shoes, so that he can reach his school in 15 minutes. Now, that is called dedication.

Babar Ali: Called the ‘youngest headmaster in the world’ by BBC in 2009, Babar Ali from Murshidabad, West Bengal started his own makeshift school at an age where most kids would be busy doing something for themselves – 16. Ali started young, he was all of nine when he saw a few kids working in the fields. That was when he realised that he was lucky to be able to get an education – something that many kids did not have access to.

Ali got together eight children and started to teach them whatever he had learned. He motivated his students to keep learning, used newspapers as reading material, broken pieces of chalk, and terracotta tiles as blackboard as teaching equipment. He would even give some rice to the parents of the children to convince them to send their wards to school. His school, which started under a guava tree in his backyard, now has 800 students and 10 teachers.

Vimla Kaul: At an age where most people enjoy an easier, retired life, 83-year-old Vimla Kaul does not believe in taking it easy. Kaul goes to Guldasta – the school-cum-learning centre for under-privileged she established 23 years ago in Madanpur Khadar Village, New Delhi. The octogenarian set up her school in April 1995, with five students, under a banyan tree.

The journey has had its share of challenges and hurdles, – since they did not have a premise of their own for the school, they had to keep shifting amidst complaints from people. They moved from their housing colony to a park, to a three-room setup. However, this, and other challenges have not deterred her. Kaul continues to impart knowledge and run her school, even after the demise of her husband in 2009.

Barun Biswas: This is the story of a real hero. Barun Biswas, who hailed from Sutia in West Bengal, was a school teacher and a social activist who died to save an entire village and its women from a gang of rapists. Sutia was in the clutches of a local gangster Sushanta Choudhury who ran an extortion racket. Anyone who protested met with death or ran the danger of having their womenfolk gang raped.

This went on for long until Biswas got the villagers together and formed the Pratibadi Mancha to fight the goons. They motivated the victims to seek justice and ensured that the rapists, including kingpin Choudhury, landed behind bars. While the village was rid of the terrorists, Biswas had to pay with his life. In 2012, Biswas was shot dead on the railway tracks by some members of the gang who had secured an early release. The teacher remains a hero for the village and an inspiration for millions everywhere.

Rajesh Kumar Sharma: This teacher has proven that four solid walls and a roof overhead are not requisites to teach students. His ‘Under the bridge School’, which works under a Delhi Metro Bridge, has students from the nearby slums. Sharma who runs a general store teaches at least 30 students every day and organises guest lectures for his students from volunteer teachers and famous personalities.

Sugata Mitra: The educational researcher has a unique way of imparting education – he gets children to teach each other. Sugata Mitra is credited with initiating the ‘Hole in the Wall’ experiment in children’s learning. In 1999, Sugata placed in a kiosk in a wall in the slums of Kalkaji, Delhi. Children were allowed to use it freely and learned how to use it by themselves, without any prior experience.

Mitra calls this Minimally Invasive Education, which aims at proving that children have the capacity of teaching themselves and each other if they are placed in a free, unstructured environment. In his TED talks, he offered to help design a future of learning where children tap their innate sense of wonder and learn through exploration, called ‘School in the Clouds.’ Mitra was awarded the TED prize in 2013.

Roshni Mukherjee: The founder-educator of the Free Education platform, & Exam Fear Education, teaches students science and maths through her Youtube channel. has close to 6 lakh subscribers who have access to the simple tips, tricks and experiments that Mukherjee has designed which make learning concepts much easier for her students. In 2016, The Ministry of Women & Child development recognised Mukherjee as one of the 100 Women Achievers of India.