UTTARAKHAND: A good teacher is sometimes equated to a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others. A school teacher in Rishikesh is proving herself to be one such candle. To know her story we have to travel back in time, all the way to 1981.
Newly married Sushila Barthwal had just turned a new page in life when her husband passed away. Only five months into marriage, the young widow was devastated beyond consolation. Sushila’s shaken mind got another jolt when she realised that she was pregnant.
The path ahead looked bleak for the woman and her newborn. From then onwards, Sushila started gathering the courage to restart her life, not only for her own child but also for children who didn’t have the fortune to feel the warmth of parents.
A teacher and warden in the residential school at Nabhahouse near Rishikesh, Sushila, now 60-years-old, says her struggles for self-empowerment helped her realise the importance of supporting children. “I saw many children who had no one to look up to, for feeling love and care. That made me treat them as my own children,” says the teacher, who is often called “mother” even by her grown-up students.
Literally proving the old wisdom that a good teacher should also be a good student, Sushila continued her quest for learning even while raising her child. Besides successfully completing two master degrees – one in political science and other in Hindi – and a B Ed degree, this affable teacher also pursued a law degree. In her career spanning over 26 years, generations of students have found a mother in Sushila. From sponsoring their education to ingraining discipline, the teacher has altered the otherwise uncertain future of many children.
Manish Suyal, her former student who is working as an engineer with the Uttarakhand government, says the teacher was a disciplinarian. “She taught us a lot more than the prescribed subjects,” he says. Due for retirement in July this year, Sushila is hopeful of getting a two-year extension in the service. Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed as the state government honored her with the Shailesh Matiyani Award in 2018.
Sushila’s son, Harish Mohan, who works as a software engineer in a multinational company, says his mother used to treat every student like her own child. Being a teacher who travels on an unconventional path, Sushila makes sure that her ‘children’ are educated in a holistic way. Besides regular lessons, the students are trained in yoga, musical instruments, athletics, singing, etc.
Meanwhile, Sushila is trying to make the best use of her remaining days in the government’s roll. “Now, the residential school has classes only up to Class 8. We have requested the government upgrade the school so that students can study here till Class 12. This will help more children,” she says.