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Teachers should be angels, says Rameez Sudhan, Fulbright scholar from Kashmir

Nakul Shivani/ New Delhi

In 2016 when Rameez Sudhan, a teacher in a government school in Baramulla reached out to parents of his students and invited them for a Parents Teacher meeting to discuss their wards’ progress, he did not imagine he was pioneering an event that was to change the mindset of teachers and parents in the region.

The differences he was ushering in not only brought about a revolutionary change in the government-run school but also set off a chain of events that led to Sudhan becoming the only Indian to get a FulBright Scholarship in 2023.

During his scholarship stint he interacted with the teaching community from close to fifty different countries from across continents. There, he shared his experiences in Kashmir as a teacher and has brought back experience of teachers in other countries, many of which have not seen conflicts like Kashmir.

The FulBright Scholarship was not something that fell on his lap. Sudhan’s efforts at changing the perception about government schools and counselling students and their parents during the most difficult phase in Kashmir is what made him standout among his peers.

Sudhan with other Fulbright scholars

The idea of a Parent-Teacher meeting coincided with the turmoil Kashmir was witness to. One of the triggers for the youngsters losing out on their years in the region where Sudhan taught was the gunning down of a young terrorist Burhan Wani by security forces. “It disturbed a lot of young people. As a teacher I needed to bring the young minds on the right track,” says Sudhan.

The young teacher apart from teaching his regular subjects, spent time counselling students on mental trauma, school safety and risk reduction. “I could not sit back and see the learnings lost.”

“I was upset by, first the negative image of government schools and second by the affect the turmoil in Kashmir was having on young minds.” Sudhan decided to take ownership. “There was no one ready to take responsibility to connect with the people and reverse the negativity that surrounded people here.”

Sudhan changed the perception by hand-holding children and constantly reaching out to parents. “Doing this was critical in an area where childhood was getting lost because of the political and social turmoil,” Sudhan asserts.

Sudhan with students at the school he teaches

He realized the importance of teachers not falling into narratives, looked upon suspiciously and be “conflict sensitive.”

“The main work is at the primary and middle level,” he says. That’s where he put his mind to. As parents started transferring their children from private schools to the government school Sudhan was teaching in was a tribute to the efforts he was putting in.

“Parental engagement was crucial. Area was known for violence. Childhood was getting lost,” says Sudhan describing his initiatives that led him from one step to the other. “Children in Kashmir were more stressed than their peers in other parts of the country. Schools were shut for long periods of time, children were exposed to violence and uncertainty,” he elaborates.

Such initiatives came naturally to him. “In my school days I taught my juniors. I loved teaching and understanding problems of school kids.”

Parental engagement was critical in Sudhan’s mission to hand-hold students

When the Fulbright Scholarship came, Sudhan says “it came at a time when my motivation was at the lowest level.” Changes were happening, but he wanted things to moves faster in his school. “The system was not motivating me, I wanted a new meaning to my journey as a teacher.”

Sudhan has come back from the two-month long scholarship stint with experiences he wishes to push into the schools in Kashmir. “I learnt a lot from the teachers form other countries.” Teaching in an American school as part of the scholarship programme gave him a wider horizon about how teachers in India and specially the Kashmir valley need to cater to the profession.

He has pledged to dedicate his life to education. “Let’s help all our children be emotionally safe. They should be happy and have a wide horizon,” he says before stressing that more than teachers it is the parents who have a role to play in taking their kids forward. 

ALSO READ: Najeeb Kanthapuram is giving wings to dreams of the poor through education

With the experience Sudhan has brought back from his scholarship stint, parents in Kashmir will do good by reaching out to him. After all, as he puts it, “teachers need to become angels, not merely instructors.”

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