This is a story of a teacher. A teacher who tries to shrink the disparity in educational development of people in her village. ‘Young and old, education is for all’ is her motto.
With a school bag hanging loosely on her shoulders, a six-year-old Bojamma casually asked her friend if she would join her in the school. “I want to but I cannot, I have to go to the field for work”, her friend replied.
Twenty years later, sitting on a rusted iron chair inside a classroom, she now teaches that same friend and many like her who were left on the fields to toil.
Born in a poor family of six in Yerigeri village of Adoni region in Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool district, Bojamma is now an RDT librarian-teacher in the same village. Her father was a daily wage labourer who spent extra hours on agricultural field to earn more for his children’s education.
“When I was growing up, it was normal for children to go to fields to pluck cotton and contribute to family income”, says Bojamma while arranging the books in her RDT library classroom. “But my father was adamant to send us to school, to get us educated so that we live a dignified life”, she continues as she seems satisfied with the arrangement of the bookshelf.
Bojamma’s day starts at 7 am in the library. The first batch of students, mainly school going children visit the library to seek her help in school projects. She not only helps them but also makes sure that they put their creative skills to use by giving them some extra-curricular tasks and resources for the same. During the afternoons, she executes learning activities for the elder people who did not get the opportunity to learn in the past. It is during the late evenings, around 8 pm and 9 pm that she teaches the adults who return from fields after a day’s hard work. She applies Montessori method while teaching her adult students. “I teach my students to write on sand or form alphabets with stones or cardboard cut-outs before they pick a pen. This method is helpful especially with the adults as after 30 or 40 years of their lives they start raw” she explains.
In a candid conversation with Bojamma, who is one of the youngest RDT’s village librarian-teacher of 32 village libraries across Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh, she shares her experience of being a teacher, an instrument to bring a social change in the society.
You mentioned that you now teach your friends who lost the opportunity to study in their childhoods. How would you describe this experience?
I remember going to my friends’ parents and asking for permission to go to school on their behalf. However, they used to counsel me instead and make statements like children who go to school and those who do not are equal. Back in those days, I did not know how to explain the importance of education. But now after almost two decades, call it a fate’s game or not, I not only teach my friends but I also teach some of their parents! To be able to see them hold a pen and write basic words with pride is an experience of a lifetime for me!
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
The happiness of my students motivates me to continue pursuing my profession. Especially with women, as most of them never got the opportunity to go to school, they have spent their lives taking care of their families so when they learn how to pick a pen and write their names, they do it for themselves. When I teach a woman, I teach an entire family!
If you can describe your job in a few words, how would it be?
I will describe my profession in just three words- Compassion, understanding and patience. These three qualities can help teachers decipher the needs of students, especially about their background, their struggles and their abilities. This helps us to invest in our students for their holistic development.
What has been the most memorable moment in your career?
Honestly, I believe every day is different and memorable in its way. Whenever my students clear their exams and move forward to their next class, we celebrate their achievement with some snacks and songs!
Text: Dyuti Khulbe/RDT