Story of an exemplary teacher

A government school teacher employs teachers in a remote government high school and pays their salary from his own pocket

INSPIRATION

MAJID MAQBOOL

In a remote government high school in Poshkreeri, zone Mattan, Anantnag, around 60kms from Srinagar, Ghulam Muhammad Sheikh, 47, attends to his duty an hour before the school starts. And he is the last one to leave for home. Teaching in a high school which looks more like a primary school, without infrastructure and short of teaching staff, Sheikh took an unprecedented step for the welfare of students: he ‘employed’ two teachers in this school and pays them a monthly salary of six thousand – all from his own pocket.
“I make them feel that they are properly employed like other teachers in this school,” Sheikh says, “and I have told the headmaster to direct them so that they don’t feel they are working under me.”
After completing his BA, B.Ed from Anantnag Degree College, Sheikh was recruited as a clerk in SKAUST, but he declined to take up the job. “I chose teaching profession because I always wanted to be a teacher,” he says.
Sheikh Sir, as he is lovingly called by his students, is not an ordinary government school teacher. Every day he attends to eight classes in his school. This year he quietly financed the education of 15 kids belonging to poor families. He arranged shoes for 25 kids and school uniforms for many more who could not afford it. Helping poor kids to continue their school education has become his habit. When some students remain absent from school, he takes packets of biscuits in his pocket, and goes searching for them to their homes. And he does not come back alone to the school. Seeing their teacher taking personal interest in their studies, the kids cheerfully come back to attend the school.
“It makes me feel happy when I see kids especially from poor families doing well and attending their school regularly,” says Sheikh who has been a government teacher since 1989. “I can do anything for them.”  And that includes buying books for poor kids, arranging stationary, school uniforms, and even wiping their noses when required.
The government high school in Poshkreeri village, with over 100 students on roll, has only eight teachers. The school building is without fencing. There are no heating arrangements for winter in this school. The school is without a proper playground, there is no latrine. The students are crammed in a few small rooms. For 8th, 9th and 10th class students, there are only a couple of rooms where they can sit. Sometimes two teachers have to teach in one classroom. It works this way: one teacher remains silent while another one delivers his lessons. The school is without class fourth employees. There is no clerk and no sweeper in this school. There is no support from the local populace either, who are uncooperative, the teachers say. Cow dung heaps can be seen near the school building. The stench reaches the classrooms.
When the teachers approached the concerned ZEO and told them they are short of teaching staff in their high school, they were told that there is no quota yet to employee more teachers. Now they don’t approach the concerned authorities. The teachers themselves do the clerical job in this school. Sometimes they pick up the broom to sweep the classrooms.  “We don’t waste our time in these meetings because we don’t want children here to miss their classes,” says Sheikh.
In his 22 years of service Sheikh has earned a respectable name by teaching and helping poor students in far off villages in south Kashmir. Wherever he was posted, he left a deep imprint on his students.
Before being posted in this school, Sheikh served for five years in a government school, GMS Larnoo, in a far flung area in Wailoo, about 60kms from Bijbehara. That school, too, faced the problem of more students and less teachings staff. Sheikh recruited two teachers there as well and paid them a monthly salary, two thousand each, from his own salary. He didn’t want the students to suffer for want of teachers.
“It makes me feel happy when I help these kids whose parents are unable to send them to school because of their poverty,” he says. They are talented and want to study, he emphasizes. “All they need is a bit of help and encouragement from teachers,” he says.
Sitting in a small classroom surrounded by his students, Sheikh says sometimes he asks his family and friends to donate some money to finance the studies of poor students. “See I am wearing my brother’s sweater,” he pulls at one end of his sweater, “this trouser belongs to my father,” he smiles. The shoe he is wearing is worn out. “I don’t care for myself,” he says, “I am happy when these kids regularly attend school and do well in their studies.”
Years back, while working in a government school in Wailoo, Sheikh remembers a day when he saw a neglected school kid wearing ragged clothes. He was shivering in cold. Sheikh pulled out his sweater and gave it to the child. “That affected me personally and I thought of helping these kids from poor families who are neglected and unable to attend schools,” he says.
Last year, when he found an 8th standard student absent from his class, he walked to his home two kilometers away from the school. There he saw him working in the field along with his father. His parents no longer wanted to send him to school. “His parents had no resources to afford his school education,” he recalls, “his father is an auto driver.” Sheikh met his father and persuaded him to send his son to school.  He gave him school uniform, shoes and paid some money to his father. “I told him that I will take care of his studies and finance his education,” he recalls. Today that boy is studying in 10th standard in this school. He is doing well, Sheikh says with a smile, and regularly attends his classes.
Sheikh’s efforts and dedication towards teaching has attracted many students from adjoining private schools to this government high school. There has been a 90 percent improvement in pass percentage since Sheikh joined this school two years back. “Around 12 students came from private school this year to this school seeing his dedication towards teaching,” says the headmaster of the high school.
“We don’t use any punishment methods in this school,” Sheikh points out. “No one picks up a stick in this school,” he says with pride. “I make their concepts clear and teach kids in a play-way method which they like.” A teacher, he says, should be in love with the idea of teaching. “A teacher should put his heart and soul in teaching,” he says.
When the day ends in this school, Sheikh is the last teacher to leave for his home twenty kilometers away in Bijbehara. Sometimes, when there is a strike call for the next day, he stays back for the night in the school premises. Next day, when he gets up, he starts calling students on phone, asking them to attend the school.

Feedback at maqbool.majid@gmail.com

Lastupdate on : Thu, 22 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 22 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 23 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST




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