Twenty-three years of service in various government schools and about half a dozen good initiatives has brought the National Award for Teachers to R Sathy’s doorstep. This headmistress from a Panchayat Union Primary School near Coimbatore will receive the coveted award on September 5, 2018, from the Vice President of the country.
Speaking to TNM on receiving the email from the Ministry of Human Resources Development Ministry, R Sathy said she was jubilant to learn about the honour. She is the only applicant from Tamil Nadu who got through the interview and was shortlisted for the award.
Starting her career in 1995 as a teacher in the Sulthanpettai Union School, she did short stints in Vellalore and Bodipalayam schools. She was promoted as a headmistress and posted in Malumichampatti Panchayat Union Primary school in the academic year 2012-13 and has remained there since.
Despite being a postgraduate degree holder in History, she says she handles all the subjects in her school.
“My day at work starts at 8.15 am when I come to school. As the day progresses, I do my rounds, attend to administrative work and teach children. School finishes by 4.30 pm. I stay back and teach Hindi to the children who have opted for it. I teach all subjects since it is a primary school,” she says.
The selection process for the National Award involves the teachers applying, followed by a personal interview in New Delhi if selected.
“I applied online for this. They had given 14 questions about the school and asked for the broad contours of our career. They had asked us to bring the answers as a powerpoint presentation. We were given eight minutes to make the presentation and two minutes for the panel to ask us questions. Candidates who were not confident in interacting in English were given a translator,” she adds.
Becoming a teacher was, however, not Sathy’s dream when she was growing up. She wanted to pursue a course in Medicine, but joined a teacher’s training course on the advice of her father, who was in the Department of Education then.
It was here she discovered her passion for teaching.
Sathy’s initiatives to develop the school gave her a huge advantage in receiving the award, she says. This was even asked during her interview in New Delhi and she was more than happy to explain in detail about the school and her students.
“I told them about the initiatives taken up in the school. For example, the strength in the school when I joined was 140 and this year it is 270. We campaign extensively against children dropping out from school and also for admissions by going door to door in the area. We also have big companies sponsoring us for amenities for our students. For example, books and uniforms are given by the government. The shoes and socks are sponsored by the popular footwear company VKC. Likewise, our school building is sponsored by L&T,” she says.
However, it was the ‘Kutti Commandos’ initiative that put her on the map.
Kutti Commandos was an initiative started by the school in 2017 to address the issue of open defecation in the locality. The initiative saw Class 5 being put in charge of creating awareness about open defecation and how bad it is for the welfare of people in the area.
These students, with support from their parents, do the rounds early in the morning to catch people relieving themselves in the open.
“They note down their names and bring it to me, which I will forward to the panchayat president. Then, after enquiry, the panchayat officials would make arrangements to build a toilet for them or arrange for one. The squad also inspects public toilets in the area to ensure water supply, cleanliness, etc. It is not much, but just a small way to instill civic sense in children and grown-ups,” she says.
She is now busy in putting together a similar team to create awareness on a plastic-free society. Since the government of Tamil Nadu has banned plastics from 2019, she says that the sudden switch from plastics to eco-friendly material could be difficult and that change must be adapted to gradually.
“We will get steel tiffin boxes and bottles for the children as the first step towards a plastic-free locality. Then we will set up a commando team for plastics also, by involving students in it. We will thus bring in a sense of accountability in their minds as well, which will go a long way in them growing up into responsible individuals,” she says.