Maharashtra School Teacher Ranjitsinh Won Hearts along with $1M Global Teacher Prize

Ranjitsinh Disale, the Solapur-based teacher did something incredible which not everyone can do and he won the hearts by doing it. Thirty-two-year-old Ranjitsinh, a primary school teacher didn’t just bag the $1 million Global Teacher Prize 2020, in partnership with UNESCO and brought incredible honour and glory to the country, but decided to share half of his Rs. 7.4 crore (equivalent to $1million) winning amount with the rest of the nine finalists for the Global Teacher Prize to support the ‘incredible work’ of the ‘change-makers’. Isn’t it truly incredible? Now, each of the other Global Teacher Prize finalists will get around Rs. 40.57 lakh. This is truly a never-before-seen instance, and Ranjitsinh crafted history by doing this.

Global Teacher Prize
The Global Teacher Prize is a $1 million award presented annually to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to their profession. The Global Teacher Prize, founded by Indian Education philanthropist Sunny Varkey in 2014, serves to underline the importance of educators and the fact that, throughout the world, their efforts deserve to be recognized and celebrated. It seeks to acknowledge the impacts of the very best teachers – not only on their students but on the communities around them.

For this year, it was Ranjitsinh, who etched his name for the award. Ranjitsinh is renowned for adding QR codes to textbooks of primary classes to provide links to audio poems, video lectures, stories and assignments. Ranjitsinh was also recognized for transforming the lives of young girls at the Zilla Parishad Primary School, Paritewadi, Solapur. Now he made the nation proud by bagging the prize while supporting other finalists to rise and make changes in the nation. His work in the field of education for girls and teaching people about the ill-effects of teenage marriage has been widely recognized.

Ranjitsinh has previously won the 2016 Innovative Researcher of the Year, and in 2018 National Innovation Foundation’s Innovator of the Year award. His success story was also mentioned by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in his book Hit Refresh. He has communicated his methods by writing more than 500 newspaper articles and blogs, as well as participating in television discussions on educational topics.

Ranjitsinh’s Story
Ranjitsinh who initially wanted to become an IT engineer chose to become a teacher as his father suggested him after witnessing that the outcome of engineering didn’t turn out as he had hoped. Initially hesitant, Ranjitsinh’s time in teacher training college was life-changing. After getting into the field and understanding more about teachers, their responsibilities and how they are driving changes in the world, Ranjitsinh decided to become one.

Ranjitsinh started his teachership journey with Zilla Parishad Primary School in Paritewadi village. When he first arrived at Zilla Parishad Primary School the school premises seemed as a dilapidated building, sandwiched between a cattle shed and a storeroom. Ranjitsinh saw that most of the girls were from tribal communities that did not prioritize girls’ education, and the practice of teenage marriage was common. Additionally, the curriculum was not in the students’ primary language (Kannada), which meant that many students were unable to achieve expected learning outcomes. Ranjitsinh decided to take it as a challenge and started learning Kannada to help students teach and impart knowledge. After putting in a great deal of effort, Ranjitsinh learned Kannada and turned the whole scene around and translated the textbooks into the local language to help children study in their mother tongue. He also redesigned all the textbooks of grades 1-4 for better comprehension, along with unique QR codes that embedded audio poems, video lectures, stories and assignments in Kannada. (These QR coded books also benefited many girls when schools were closed for two months due to a terror attack, as they were able to continue learning using the books – and BBC News featured a story about them on 5th September 2019 to celebrate Teachers’ Day). After Ranjitsinh became the first to introduce QR codes in his school’s textbooks, he submitted a proposal and a successful pilot scheme. The next year, the HRD ministry announced that all NCERT books across India would have QR codes embedded in them. This was something that no one in the country imagined to do before. Implementing this brilliant idea, Ranjitsinh became a trailblazer. Not just that, but Ranjitsinh with a determined goal decided to take a step and help people make aware about the issues pertaining to teenage marriage. So he worked hard to spread awareness on the ills of teenage marriages and the importance of education for girls. Being successful at doing that, now, the village sees 100 percent attendance of girls at the school and no teenage marriage has been reported in long, according to a PTI report. A true hero in real life, his work has made huge changes in the education realm and also in his region.

Students now reflect on, discuss and showcase what they are learning to a far greater extent – developing communication, creativity and real-world problem-solving skills. As a result of these efforts, the school was awarded Best School for the district in 2016 and 98 percent of students have achieved their expected learning outcomes before completing the school year.

Moment of Receiving the Prize
Ranjitsinh’s reaction was one to watch as veteran British actor and writer Stephen Fry announced his win during a virtual ceremony broadcast from the Natural History Museum in London on Thursday. He burst out in excitement at the news and was enveloped in warm hugs by his parents who were seated on either side of him. Like a youngster, he applauded in joy and his father called in another relative into the live camera to hug the incredible teacher and offer congratulations. “Looks like it’s your whole extended family now, Oh wonderful my dear fellow,” Stephen Fry commented watching Disale’s family celebrate.

“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,” said Ranjitsinh, as per PTI. “Teachers are the real change-makers who are changing the lives of their students with a mixture of chalk and challenges. They always believe in giving and sharing,” he said. “I believe, together, we can change this world because sharing is growing,” Ranjitsinh added.

Valuable Wishes what he Accumulated
Ranjitsingh didn’t just win the title but justified the true meaning of Global Teacher Prize 2020. He showed the world how the ideal teacher should be that the award tries to highlight. His achievement gathered good wishes and congratulations from people around the world including the Dalai Lama, Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray, Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor and others.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama that Ranjitsingh has set an example of ‘compassion in action’. His tweet states “I’d like to congratulate Ranjitsinh Disale on being named the world’s most exceptional teacher and to express my admiration for his generosity in sharing half the prize money with runners up in the competition. He has set an example of compassion in action”.

“By sharing the prize money, you teach the world the importance of giving,” said Indian education philanthropist Sunny Varkey, the founder of the prize. “I now encourage you to use this platform to give all teachers a voice. There is not a moment to lose as it will fall on young people to find solutions to problems that their parents and grandparents have lacked the will to solve, including climate change, conflict and global pandemics,” he said, as per PTI.

“Teachers like Ranjitsinh will stop climate change and build more peaceful and just societies. Teachers like Ranjitsinh will eliminate inequalities and drive forward economic growth. Teachers like Ranjitsinh will save our future,” said Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director General for Education at UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), a partner of the initiative.

Shashi Tharoor’s tweet says “What an inspiring story from India! Top teacher wins $1m and gives half away”.