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Meet Ranjitsinh Disale, The Teacher From Maharashtra Who Won ‘Global Teacher Prize’

“Teachers work for ‘outcome’, not for ‘income’. Teachers devote their lives to students. So this amount can be used for students not only in our country but across the world,” said Mr Disale on sharing the prize money with others. 

Considering the volatile political nature of the micro-blogging website, Thursday morning was absolutely pleasant and exceptional on Indian Twitter, especially Marathi Twitter. The reason for that was this 32-year-old government school teacher from Paritewadi, Maharashtra, who had made history by winning the Global Teacher Prize, an award worth US $1 by the Varkey Foundation.

The award was presented in a virtual ceremony by renowned English actor Stephan Fry. The video of the announcement by MR Fry and the emotional scenes that followed in Disale family, made rounds on Twitter. From celebrities, politicians to commoners, everyone was rejoiced by the feat achieved by Mr Disale. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was quick to dial Mr Disale to congratulate him on the prize.

However, the high praises Mr Disale is subjected to are not because he won the 1 million USD Global Teacher Prize 2020 which brings incredible honour and glory in itself, but because in a never-before-seen instance, he decided to share half of his Rs 7.4 crore winnings with the rest of the nine finalists for the Global Teacher Prize to support the “incredible work” of the “change makers”.

In a brief conversation with HW News, Mr Disale talked about the procedure and scrutiny one has to go through to receive the award, the emotional scenes in his family after the announcement, importance of positivity while working and his decision to share his prize money with other top 10 contenders.

“This prize is considered as Nobel of the education field. Around $1 Mn is given to the teacher who bags the prize, and hence there are various criteria and eligibilities that the candidates have to fulfil,” explained Mr Disale about the ‘Global Teacher Prize’ by Varkey Foundation.

“The process to get through is difficult. As a teacher, you can nominate yourself or someone else can do it. You need to apply for it and face the questions they ask. You need to answer those questions, with attached proofs as required. They verify the information provided to them. After that, you face an interview with them. Top 50 teachers are selected after the interview from the entire world. Just to give you a context, there were already 12,000 applications from 140 countries when I had applied. You can imagine how difficult it can be to select the top 50 candidates from 12,000,” Mr Disale further added.

“The scrutiny doesn’t end right there. It only gets tougher after that. PricewaterhouseCoopers observes the entire marking system of this process.  It’s a popular global agency and the entire responsibility of marking and selecting for this process is on them. After the intense scrutiny, top 10 candidates are selected from the top 50. The guys are understandably the best teachers in the world. The innovations in their classrooms, their teaching methodology are very unique and helpful to replicate in even your classrooms. This entire process goes on for about a year,” Mr Disale said.

When asked about the emotional video of his parents doing rounds on the internet, which has received a very warm response, Mr Disale said: “That video has really gone viral. Everyone seemed to have loved the particular video. The reason is quite visible..” Mr Disale said.

“I come from a very common family. So when such family sees that their son getting a global prize and recognition, I think it is very natural to happen. A mother has seen her child reaching to this point and she is overwhelmed by what he has achieved while she hugs him. I guess this touched everyone. But it is a very natural thing to occur, nothing surprising there.

Mr Disale, when asked about the lack of willingness and creativity on the parts of both students and teachers from Zila Parishad (ZP) school, says no system is completely perfect. There are some traits as well as drawbacks of the system. But we often get impacted by the negativity around it. It is when we start thinking that the system is not doing anything constructive. This is why people usually think that teachers prof ZP schools cannot do such things.”

“The work or innovation that I’ve done is out of positivity. When I first went to the school I teach in, the condition of the classroom was such that it could have been used as a cowshed. If I had thought why should I do innovation in such a place, today’s feat could not have been achieved,” says Mr Disale while stressing the importance of ‘positivity’.

Mr Disale took on the charge of turning things around at the school, ensuring the textbooks were available in the local language for the pupils and not only translated the class textbooks into his pupils’ mother tongue but also embedded them with unique QR codes to give students access to audio poems, video lectures, stories and assignments.

No reported teenage marriages in the village and 100 per cent attendance of girls at the school are some of the gains achieved by his intervention and innovation.

When asked about the ‘generosity’ he has shown by giving half of the prize money to other contenders in top 10, Mr Disale chuckled and said: “I am not generous and I also do not consider the other teachers in top 10 as my competition. We are really good friends with each other. It was the jury’s decision to select one of us. But if you look at the other leaders, every one of them has something unique to show. I have got to learn so many new things from them.”

While shedding more light on his decision, he further added: “Every afternoon, we share tiffins in the classroom and use a popular saying “Deto to dev, rakhto to rakshas” (the one who shares is God, the one who keeps to himself is evil). My decision came out of that feeling. If this organisation and UNESCO feels that teachers should get this recognition, they why should teachers keep that only to themselves.”

“Teachers work for ‘outcome’, not for ‘income’. Teachers devote their lives to students. So this amount can be used for students not only in our country but across the world. These teachers have some amazing innovations and all we can do is to help them continue doing that. This can benefit the entire world of education. It was out of this feeling that I took the decision to share the prize money with other 9 colleagues nominated with me,” Mr Disale said.




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