“Education is a fundamental right and the powerhouse of development,” states Theresa when asked about the importance of it.
It is 6 PM and all the residents of P.Yaleru have come together for the monthly meeting of the village. The meeting is taking place in the same building where Theresa taught for more than thirty years. As soon as she comes in, silence falls. Not out of fear but out of respect for the woman that inspired them to become who they are today.
Theresa (62) retired a few years ago but for the inhabitants of P.Yaleru she is and always will be ‘The Teacher’. She was the first in the village who believed in the power of education and committed all her life to make it a reality for all. The youngest of six in a well-to-do family, Theresa felt the need to help the more disadvantaged since a very young age. Teaching for more than 30 years in the community school has been her contribution.
She vividly remembers her first day as a teacher. “The curious eyes of 60 kids who never heard the word ‘school´ before were staring at me, impatient and nervous to know what all this was about.” The first school was a rudimentary hut. The situation was very precarious and the parents brought their children to school not for the sake of learning but to ensure one warm meal per day.
Changing the mindset
“No one really knew what it meant to have education. Most of the parents worked in the field from dawn to dusk for a meagre daily wage. Some kids came to school untidy and unkempt. The first thing of the day was to give them a bath,” she explains.
“It was only in the 80’s when RDT Education sector started that the real transformation of P.Yaleru began,” reminisces Theresa. RDT provided two uniforms and school material to every kid to encourage them to attend school and erase the differences among the different communities. Everyone was equal at school.
Few years later RDT built a concrete building which with Theresa’s care and passion for education turned into a safe place to grow and learn for all children. “Education is not just about learning to write but also inculcate values, enhance self esteem and be motivated to work hard to fulfill your dreams. That was always an essential part of my teaching,” she remarks.
Although nowadays Theresa’s mobility has been severely affected due to a joint problem she confesses that she is still in touch with many of her former students and is actively involved in the decision making of the village. “Every time a former student comes back to the village they visit see me and invite me for their family celebrations. It makes me feel like a ‘special mother’ to all of them,” concludes Theresa with a wide smile.
The meeting starts and seated in a corner Theresa smiles while observing how those who earlier were coming to school in ragged clothes have become the leaders of the community today.
Text: Fátima Yráyzoz Aranda, Aina Valldaura