“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops ~ Henry Adams”
We cannot ignore the role of teachers in nation building. It is they who influence the immature minds of the youth and try to mould the living beings into various forms. The future of the nation depends on teachers, who are an integral part of society. Historically, the kings and the emperors revered teachers. With changing times, they lost the dignity associated with the profession, and yet they are considered to be the backbone of the nation.
I have lived with a teacher almost all my life. My father, Shahnawaz Ahmed Siddiqui, has been a teacher in a village school for almost three decades. The government-run +2 High School in Balapur village in Bihar’s Gaya district is home to almost 400 students. My father teaches English in this school that lies in the foothills of the scenic Barabar Caves. You may have seen the mountain range in Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s film, ‘Manjhi’.
I studied in the same school and every day I bore witness to him trudging 6 km by foot to reach the school. 6 km means nothing to an urban inhabitant, but in a remote village, especially those many years ago, 6 km was a long way to travel on foot. There was no road connectivity in those days, and one couldn’t even cycle to school, which was the only high school in the 10 km radius. Back-to-back classes followed the long, strenuous walk. After spending 7 hours in school, it would be time for my father to make the long journey back home. Everyday, I watched my father religiously follow this schedule.
Teaching is not just a job; it nurtures the future of a generation. And teachers do it despite poor infrastructure in schools, low pay and tremendous workload of all other responsibilities along with teaching. For every government initiative, teachers are roped in to drive it. Be it counting of the population or census, voter registration etc. I saw my dad taking care of all these duties in the face of challenges and sometimes, even monotony. But he got his share of excitement around 15 years ago when during election duty in Imamganj area, he was injured in a Naxal attack.
Now that roads have been built and electricity is no more just a dream in the villages, it has made the job easier. My father’s school has two new buildings, earlier it used to be a shed. During my last visit to the school, I saw that there was a computer lab as well and they don’t need to go to the nearest town of Gaya, 30 km away, to get the question papers printed. Technology has reached the far-flung areas as well. This has made the teacher’s work more difficult, as most are not tech-savvy. Teaching as a profession is probably one of the most challenging because it combines all the other professions in order to help a child grow. Teachers deserve our respect. It’s time to reinstate them to their former glory.