“ The truest wisdom is a resolute determination “ – Napoleon Bonaparte.
Ranjitsinh Disale, winner of Global Teacher Prize 2020 believed in his resolute determination and laid the firm foundation stone of education and knowledge in a village of Maharashtra, India. Today, he has achieved what seemed to be next to impossible. But his undying determination has paved the way to imparting education by making optimum use of technology in an economical backward village of Maharashtra.
In 2005, Disale finished his schooling and was keen to pursue his education in engineering. His love for Mathematics was very strong and he surely wanted to pursue the engineering career. But things didn’t fit for him when he started with it. Disappointed he returned to his home to Barshi. His doting father wanted his son to divert his disappointment to something worthwhile. He suggested that Disale should enroll in a nearby teachers teaching programme for the time being and then slowly figure out his career path ahead. What began with just a six month course slowly stretched to doing a full two-and-a-half year course.
Ranjitsinh’s first posting through the Zilla Parishad was to a village called Paritewadi, district Solhapur in the state of Maharashtra, India. The village always witnessed unpredictable weather patterns. The villagers depended largely on farming. They believed that this way of living with limited means and dependency on erratic nature was usual and irreversible. Their children were never encouraged to go to school. Instead they were used as extra hands to work on the fields. The little girls of the families were expected to take care of their young siblings and lend a helping hand to the household chores. This was definitely not an encouraging scenario for Disale. He reached the school to see the classrooms and he was utterly shocked to see that the classroom was nothing but a cowshed which occupied the cows, buffaloes and merely two students.
Ranjitsinh Disale decided to pull up his socks and thought of first adapting and empathizing with the villagers so that he could convey his message of “Right to Education” to the village. He started holding meetings with the villagers and involved himself in their social gatherings. Due to which the villagers too started acknowledging his presence. Step by step he started asking the locals to send their children to school. He bought himself a laptop and started showing movies on it during the school hours. Initial few months there was no study, only watching movies, primarily Disale was just trying to attract the children to school. Kids started flocking to see the movies because the prospect of watching a movie was far better than toiling in the farm for the little hands.
After he had garnered a specific number of children, including girls, he started teaching lessons through the “video learning” process. He would make videos and would show it to the children. This new aged learning attracted the kids and they were happy with the fun learning method. The “Disale model “of education started sprouting new means of learning. He started teaching the “multi grade classroom” method where one set of his students would learn with the help of the video while the others would see him teaching personally. This helped him to solve their understanding issues too. Subjects where he was not an expert he would engage with the other school teachers across Maharashtra. He would resort to video calling methods where these teachers would impart offline teaching to their children and online teaching to Disale’s students at the same time. It certainly was an amazing way to help the children learn and spread their wings of knowledge.
Gradually, Disale started one more creative way of teaching. He fixed an alarm on the school which would ring at 7.00 pm sharp and remind the parents that they have to engage with their children in studying. It is what he calls now as the “Hour of life”. When he started this practice it was called as “Alarm on, TV Off”. At 7.00 pm the alarm siren would remind the parents to get involved in their children’s studies. It was more of an engaging activity in every household. Disale slowly tried to strengthen this involvement more. He took to texting parents in the afternoon helping them with questions they could ask their kids. Knowing that every family had at least one smartphone, he started the “QR coded” approach of teaching. He would place a QR codes in the books, he would encourage the children to scan the QR code and get a deeper understanding in the subject.
The QR coded initiative is now successfully adopted by the Maharashtra government and then by the Central government too. The children now in full attendance and strength were attending their school, were studying in the most innovative way of learning. They were more focused to achieve education which their parents knew would reverse their standard of living. Child marriages which were prevalent in the village were slashed to zero after Disale started his school.
The 12 year journey of Ranjitsinh Disale from a cowshed to a full attendance classroom is worth an encouragement to the belief that one should never give up come what may be. It all starts with small steps and then when you achieve, the sky is the limit. Today he has implemented many more initiatives like the “Virtual field trip of science” where he shows his scientific experiments and learnings across the world. This initiative has been a great success and there is no stopping for Ranjitsinh Disale. In pandemic times too Disale’s efforts did not hamper the teaching process, he would engage the children to learn the practical way like checking the daily temperature, parameters impacting the temperature and other varied subjects which he would easily share with his unique online teaching methods.
Disale believes in the principle of “Sharing and growing “and hence he decided to share half of his Global Teacher Prize money with his nine fellow finalists. He says that sharing the prize money will help their initiatives too and they too will have more incentive to follow their passion.
Storyyogi salutes the spirit of Ranjitsinh Disale and many such other passionate achievers who are making this world a better place and keeping our spirits high.