By Quaid Najmi
Solapur (Maharashtra): In a significant achievement, a Maharashtra government village school academician, Ranjitsingh Disale, from Solapur has bagged the Varkey Foundation-UNESCO’s top ‘Global Teacher Prize-2020′ worth $1 million (Rs 7.40 crore), according to an official announcement made in London..
Disale, 32, a teacher for 11 years at the Zilla Parishad School in Paritewadi, Solapur district, is credited with transforming education by using QR codes and other innovations to impart lessons which helped drastically reduce dropout rates, especially among the girl students.
“I am very happy. This is a great honour for all the teachers in the country, especially those in the rural areas. With this award, people will view government schools differently,” Disale told IANS in a brief interaction.
Disale also said that he would fulfil his earlier commitment of “distributing half the prize money among the other nine finalist-teachers from all over the world”. He won the prize after beating 12,000 candidates from over 140 countries.
“I believe teachers all over must progress together as they are the real changemakers in the world who are doing an excellent work in their respective countries,” Disale added, shortly after being conferred the prize in a virtual ceremony held at the Natural History Museum, London, on Thursday evening.
Starting his academic career in a ramshackle building in a remote tribal-dominated village, Disale was among 10 global teachers shortlisted in October for the top global honour and was proclaimed the winner on Wednesday evening.
“The impact of Ranjitsinh (Disale’s) interventions has been extraordinary: There are now no teenage marriages in the village and 100 per cent attendance by girls at the school. The school was also recently awarded the best school in the district with 85 per cent of his students achieving A grades in annual exams. One girl from the village has now graduated from University, something seen as an impossible dream before Ranjitsinh arrived,” said the official citation on the GTP website.
In an earlier statement, Disale had explained that after the school implemented QR coded textbooks in 2016, the Maharashtra government sent a proposal to the Centre about the usefulness of the technology.
A central team visited the school, studied the system, submitted its report in 2018 and finally the National Council of Educational Research & Training (NCERT) decided to adopt the QR codes in its textbooks.
A majority of the girl students were from tribal backgrounds which did not prioritise education and teenage marriages were a common practice in the region.
Moreover, the Marathi-medium school had multi-language courses in Kannada or Telugu owing to which many students were not able to perform well.
With great pains, Disale decided to learn Kannada himself (the state language of adjoining Karnataka) after which he redesigned all the textbooks of primary school from Class I-IV, for easier understanding of the young students.
Along with unique QR codes, he also embedded audio poems, video lectures, stories and assignments in Kannada which proved to be a boon for the young learners.
Incidentally, Disale once aspired to be an IT engineer, but later followed his father’s advice to consider teaching as a career option, and reluctantly took it up.
He found his stint in a teachers’ training college as ‘life-changing’ and the 2020 Global Teacher Prize proved him correct.
Earlier, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella had recognised Disale’s work in his book, ‘Hit Refresh’, while the Indian government had honured him with the Innovative Researcher of the Year-2016 and the National Innovation Foundation’s Innovator of the Year-2018 awards.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: [email protected])