By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, Dec. 4:
A 32 year old primary school teacher from Solapur in Western Maharashtra, was named the winner of the USD one—million annual Global Teacher Prize 2020 in recognition of his efforts to promote girls’ education and trigger a quick-response (QR) coded textbook revolution, by Varkey Foundation, headquartered in London, UK, on Thursday.
The Varkey Foundation, initially the Varkey GEMS Foundation, is a global charitable foundation focused on improving the standards of education for underprivileged children. Nominations of teachers who meet specific criteria are open to the worldwide public, and teachers can also nominate themselves. The Global Teacher Prize is paid out in equal installments over 10 years, with the Varkey Foundation providing winners with financial counselling and support through an ambassadorial role for the profession.
Disale was selected in the final 10 from over 12,000 nominations and applications from over 140 countries, alongside Olasunkanmi Opeifa from Nigeria, Jamie Frost from the UK, Carlo Mazzone from Italy, Mokhudu Cynthia Machaba from South Africa, Leah Juelke from the US, Yun Jeong-hyun from South Korea, Samuel Isaiah from Malaysia, Hà Ánh Phýãng from Vietnam and Doani Emanuela Bertan from Brazil.
The Global Teacher Prize 2020 winner’s announcement was made at a virtual ceremony broadcast from the Natural History Museum in London by British actor-broadcaster Stephen Fry.
On being named the winner for the coveted prize, Disale, announced that he will be sharing 50 per cent of his prize money with his fellow finalists to support their “incredible work”. His generous gesture means the other nine finalists will receive over USD 55,000.
The teacher Ranjitsinh Disale, from Paritewadi village, emerged the winner for the annual prize founded by the Varkey Foundation in 2014 to recognise an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed education and the communities it serves in a multitude of ways. But in this hard time, teachers are giving their best to make sure every student has access to their birthright of a good education,” Disale said.
When Disale arrived at the Zilla Parishad Primary School at Paritewadi in Solapur in 2009, it was a dilapidated building, sandwiched between a cattle shed and a storeroom. He took on the task of turning things around and ensuring the textbooks were available in the local language for the pupils and 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.
Disale’s school went on to become the first in the state of 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.
Disale is equally passionate about building peace between young people across conflict zones and through a “Let’s Cross the Borders” project, he connects young people from India and Pakistan, Palestine and Israel, Iraq and Iran, and the US and North Korea.
Over a six-week programme, students are matched with a peace buddy from other countries with whom they closely interact. So far, Disale has initiated an incredible 19,000 students from eight countries into this programme. Besides, with the use of the Microsoft Educator Community platform, the enterprising teacher spends his weekends taking students from schools around the world with depleted resources on virtual field trips. He is well-known for demonstrating scientific experiments from the science lab he has built in his home.