Jammu: Change comes with a thought and its realisation with a resolute determination and innovation. Ostensibly this simple blueprint is a hard task to achieve but “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”.
This was the moving spirit behind Sanjeev Kumar Sharma, who transformed a government primary school in a sleepy hamlet of Ikhani in hilly and treacherous Pouni zone of Reasi district.
Change was unbelievable - from a decrepit usual rural area school, the institution now wears a bright, colourful, happy-look bustling with the activities of exuberant young students. On a daily basis, he traverses 20 km on foot to reach school.
Not only this, Sharma also revolutionised the mode of teaching from a dreary exercise for both the teachers as well as the taught to a fun-infused learning experience in the entire Pouni zone. This resulted in a four-fold increase in enrolment from 13 to 70 students in just two years - an unimaginable feat in times of pandemic.
Above all, with his unflinching belief in the ‘superiority’ of government educational institutions over their private counterparts, he made it happen to the surprise and appreciation of his superiors as well as the indifferent villagers who were initially skeptic of his ‘efforts and assertions’.
Significantly, his all moves were bordered by his conviction in the ‘genuine astounding strength of daughters’ in all spheres of life, including sports and he convinced one and all when his two girl students Irfana and Zahida won laurels at the national level wrestling championship. No wonder, these selfless acts of dedication with a dash of innovation that too during challenging times of Covid-19 proved rewarding for Sharma and deservingly earned him prestigious ‘National Award to Teachers 2021’. Hailing from Sungal village of Reasi district, Sharma shares few milestones of his journey,
“I tried my best to improve the standard of Mid-Day Meal scheme in all the schools where I served. Particularly during lockdown, I took it as a challenge to distribute door-to-door dry ration and books. Successfully I enhanced the enrollment from 13 to 70 by creating awareness among the rural society. Though initially it was a bit challenging for me to convince cynical parents to send their wards to schools, success did not elude me for long. To transform the face of the school, both my seniors in the Education department and villagers equally contributed once they were convinced of my sincerity,” he said.
Among his other notable contributions were mobilisation of society for school infrastructure and creating social awareness among his students. As a part of mission ‘Talash’, he visited far-flung areas to bring specially-abled children to schools on wheelchairs.
“Right from the beginning, I’ve emphasised upon inculcating scientific attitude among my students besides making them inclined towards sports and other activities. To engage our daughters in sports activities through ‘Khelo India’ besides academic pursuits has always remained my priority,” said Shamra.
“I promoted ‘Art Integrated Learning’ as a master trainer, while working in Middle School Lehar thus making the studies a joyful experience. After getting training by an NCERT team, I trained around 500 teachers of the zone and now this is a mode of teaching in the entire zone,” he avers. ‘National award to teachers 2021’ is given every year by the Ministry of Education, Government of India on the Teachers’ Day on September 5. Sharma is the only teacher from J&K who has been selected for this prestigious award.
His name figured in the list of 44 teachers selected for this national award for the year 2021. The list was issued by the Ministry of Education, Government of India on August 18. He came to know about his award as he received an email at his personal account on Wednesday evening.
Sanjeev, in particular, won acclaim for his exemplary work during Covid period. He went from door to door to be in touch with his students, guiding them about ways and means to continue their studies besides creating awareness about the pandemic.
While asserting that he is an ardent supporter of ‘government schooling’, Sanjeev takes pride in flaunting that he’s a “teacher by choice and not by chance.” “I’ve demonstrated what I preach and this fills me with a sense of pride and satisfaction. I live by example so when I resolutely advocate the cause of education in government schools, I address my target audience, the villagers in hilly terrains of Pouni with conviction. They judge me by my actions. Both my children are studying in government schools. My daughter is in 9th standard and son is in 4th standard,” he avers while sharing as to how he was able to win the confidence of villagers to send their children to school and allow their daughters to be part of his “Art integrated learning”, sports and other co-curricular activities. Sanjeev, himself, is a gold medallist in wrestling.
He made a foray in teaching profession in 2009 when he got his first posting at the Government High School Kund Khanyari, where he served for six years. His teaching journey continued as he served in Government Middle School Lehar (2015-17), Government High School Pouni (2017-19) and Government Primary School Ikhani (2019 and onwards)- all far-off hamlets located in difficult hilly terrains of Reasi district.
While signing off, Sanjeev dedicates his award to all the teachers of J&K as he maintains, “I’m feeling very proud for having won this honour in the form of ‘National Award to Teachers-2021.’ I greatly value and appreciate the contribution and cooperation of my fellow teachers behind this achievement. I’m also a part of that fraternity. Thus I dedicate my award to the entire teaching fraternity of J&K which toiled hard during the pandemic and is still working in very challenging circumstances. I feel proud that I’m representing my fraternity and our J&K at the national level.”