A young man in a simple grey shirt and grey pants is surrounded by students – all of them crying, hanging on to him, holding him back. G Bhagawan, the beloved English teacher of the Government High School in Veliagaram, Thiruvallur, was given a transfer order, and the students of the school were heartbroken. They created a barrier with their love and affection for the 28-year-old – one student even hugging him from the back, refusing to let him leave. Touched, Bhagawan, too, was crying as much as his students.
The pictures of this emotional moment were published in the media and by news channel Puthiya Thalaimurai, and the students’ gesture moved even the bureaucracy. G Bhagawan was transferred to the Government High School in Arungulam near Tiruttani – but this deployment has now been put on hold for ten days, after which it will be decided if he should stay in Veliagaram school or go to the new school.
Speaking to TNM, Bhagawan said, “This is my first ever job in a school. I was appointed as a graduate teacher in Government High School, Veliagaram in 2014. Actually, if you look at the teacher-student ratio I was a surplus staff. So they decided to put me in another school that was short staffed and I got transferred to Tiruttani.”
Bhagawan teaches English for students from class 6 to class 10. He had participated in the teachers’ transfer counselling that was held from June 12 to June 21, and chose Arungulam as his preferred location.
But as soon as the students got wind of their teacher’s transfer, protests broke out in the school. Parents, too, supported the children who decided that they would not attend school on Tuesday to demonstrate that they were against the government’s decision of transferring Bhagawan.
“They were hugging and crying and clutching my foot refusing to let me go. Watching them, I broke down. Then I took them to the hall and consoled them saying that I’ll be back in a few days,” Bhagawan said.
Speaking to TNM, A Aravind, the headmaster of the Veliagaram School said that the students had fostered a parental bond with Bhagawan and hence expressed their emotions on hearing about his transfer.
“The government conducts these counselling sessions to fulfil the stipulated teacher-student ratio across government schools in Tamil Nadu. Our school had 281 students last year. The junior most teachers are usually picked and transferred to other schools, based on the counselling. Bhagawan, and one other teacher from this school, have been transferred this year,” he said.
Students have been reported as saying that though many teachers have left the school in the past, they have not felt this sad for any of them.
Explaining how he tried to create a personal bond with the students, Bhagawan told TNM, “I have tried my best to interact with students beyond just academics. I used to narrate stories, understand their family background, talk to them about their future, and show them things via the projector. These projector sessions, in particular, were very enthralling for them. They felt like they were sitting in a cinema hall. It’s probably because of all these new things I tried to do that we developed a real bond. More than a teacher, I’m a friend, a brother to them.”