LONDON: A primary school teacher from a village in Maharashtra has made an entry to the list of top 10 finalists for the USD one million annual Global Teacher Prize 2020, in recognition of his efforts at promoting girls' education and triggering a quick-response (QR) coded textbook revolution in India.
Ranjitsinh Disale, 31, arrived at the Zilla Parishad Primary School in Paritewadi village in Solapur district in 2009 when it was a dilapidated building, sandwiched between a cattleshed and a storeroom.
He took on the task of turning things around and ensuring that the textbooks were available in the local language for the pupils.
Disale not only translated the class textbooks into his pupils' mother tongue, but also embedded them with unique QR codes to give students access to audio poems, video lectures, stories and assignments.
The impact of his interventions has been that there are now no teenage marriages in the village and 100 per cent attendance of girls at the school.
Watch @stephenfry announce Indian teacher Ranjitsinh Disale as a top 10 finalist for The Global Teacher Prize 2020. Ten teachers in ten weeks. Who’s next? Now, more than ever, we must shine a light on the world’s teachers.— Global Teacher Prize (@TeacherPrize) October 21, 2020
Watch more: https://t.co/Ve90cqt6Y5 @ranjitdisale pic.twitter.com/jtElX9QMsd
"It's an incredible achievement to have been chosen from over 12,000 nominations and applications from across the world; and Ranjit you have really taught girls and their families the importance of staying in school," said actor-author Soha Ali Khan, an education campaigner.
"The Global Teacher Prize, which partners with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), shines a light on inspiring teachers like you in every corner of the planet.
"The world is facing some of its greatest challenges today but backing teachers will help light the way for a better future," she said.
Disale's school was the first in Maharashtra to introduce QR codes and after submitting a proposal and successful pilot scheme, the state ministry announced in 2017 that they would introduce QR coded textbooks across the state for all grades.
In 2018, the human resources development ministry announced that all the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) textbooks would have embedded QR codes.
"Having found the curriculum was not in your students' primary tongue of Kannada you chose to learn the language yourself. You also translated textbooks and embedded them with unique QR codes to give pupils access to audio poems, video lectures, stories and assignments," said English comedian, actor, writer and presenter Stephen Fry, who will host this year's virtual awards ceremony scheduled for December.
"And now, your school has been awarded the best school in the district with 100 per cent attendance and many high achieving students. Congratulations Ranjit and thank you for everything you do," said Fry.
Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education at UNESCO, hopes that Disale's story will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and also highlight the incredible work teachers do all over India and throughout the world every day.
"The Global Teacher Prize helps put the teacher voice at the heart of our mission to champion inclusive learning opportunities for children and young people all over the world, especially the most marginalised and disadvantaged, during this sudden and unprecedented disruption to global education, she said.
Disale joins Nigerian teacher Olasunkanmi Opeifa, UK teacher Jamie Frost, Italian teacher Carlo Mazzone, South African teacher Mokhudu Cynthia Machaba, US teacher Leah Juelke and South Korean teacher Yun Jeong-hyun as a top 10 finalist.
The remaining three top 10 finalists will be announced one each week in the run up to the Global Teacher Prize ceremony, which will be virtual for the very first time in its history due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sunny Varkey, the Founder of the Global Teacher Prize, now in its sixth year, said: "The Global Teacher Prize was set up to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society. By unearthing thousands of stories of heroes that have transformed young people's lives, the prize hopes to bring to life the exceptional work of teachers all over the world."
"This year, more than ever, we have seen teachers go above and beyond to keep young people learning throughout the world.
"Teachers everywhere should be applauded for their creativity, compassion and resolve to fulfil every child's right to a good education."