Not long ago, I was witness to a strange sight in Haridwar town of Uttaranchal, when millions assembled there from all over the country on Guru poornima day to pay homage to the ancient teacher, sage Veda Vyasa. From time immemorial, the day is observed as the birthday of the sage. It was not difficult to read from people’s faces that they belonged to different social strata. Nevertheless, they all seemed to have one goal in their minds— that was to express their gratitude to the Guru for all they had received in their lives. At the crack of dawn, they reverentially bathed in the cold waters of the Ganga, stood in queue with utmost discipline; and when their turn came paid respects to the Guru and quietly left the place, may be with a resolve to repeat the exercise next year as well.
Witnessing such a big gathering on Guru poornima was a strange experience for me, having been a witness for over two decades, to Teachers’ Day celebrations in schools. The celebration generally gets confined to a few lectures on the topic or students taking charge of the school to reverse the roles, for a day. Most often, the celebrations are turned into a day of fun and frolic by the students and teachers. However, after completing their school days, not many students care to remember the day..
From the hallowed post of the most respected vocation in the society, if teaching has been reduced to just one of the vocations, the blame should be equally shared by the school management and the teachers. From being the guiding light for students and the society in the ancient times, teaching is now just a profession, where the teachers are confident of getting paid even if they do not teach. Despite the student-teacher ratio being well within the accepted norms, the student hardly has access to the personal care of the teacher. The fact that the student continues to spend more time in the school or at the tuition centre, than with his parents should be sufficient to strengthen the view that the teacher continues to impact the life of the student more than his parents during the most formative years of his life. That the teacher is not able to leave a lasting impression during this time perhaps is the key to the student getting disillusioned with the teacher in the modern times.
Despite all this there still are glowing examples of teachers who continue to work selflessly. They leave lasting impressions on their wards. But that tribe is fast becoming an endangered species to the detriment of both the society on a long run and ones own family in the short run. After all, the modern teacher’s child too is a student of some other teacher!
Let this be a Day of introspection for all involved in the process of education…
The author is an experienced teacher-educator and educational activist, well-known in Arunachal student-circles for his imaginative stories on Reshma, a spirit. He is currently Secretary, Vivekananda Trust, Mysore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.