Srinagar: Roohi Sultana’s day starts with collecting scrap from the roads and shops in the old city. For the 49-year-old government school teacher, collecting chips wrappers, soap covers, empty tetra packs, mango seeds, and butter papers are cost-effective tools for teaching tiny tots.
“I write Huroof-i-Tehji on white plastic butter containers. I ask students to identify particular alphabets. I then ask them to pronounce the word and make a sentence. They enjoy learning and do not feel bored,” she said.
For her unconventional teaching and dedication, she was conferred prestigious National Award for Teachers 2020 by the Ministry of Education, Government of India.
Hailing from Nowshera area of Srinagar, Roohi is posted at Government Primary School Danger Pora, Tailbal. Most of the students are from a poor background and the school has only one classroom for six classes.
“I many times purchased powdered lime from my own pocket to whitewash classrooms. I myself whitewashed the walls and do not feel any shame,” Roohi said.
She has been inventing many innovative and creative methods of teaching to make education interesting for rural kids.
“I feel no shame for asking leftover from the shopkeepers. Last time I went to a diagnostic lab to get some tests done. They were installing a new machine and throwing off its wrappings. I requested them to give the wrapping paper to me and carried that to my school. I pasted that on the lower wall of the classroom so that students can use it for writing,” Roohi said.
Roohi has shunned the traditional ways of teaching. Rather than asking students to mug up things, she encourages them to assemble different shapes and alphabets from the scrap in order to clear their concept.
“I do not force students to use a pencil or paper. Rather I made them do things practically. This way they did not get bored and motivate others to join the school,” she said.
Teaching has been a passion for 49-year-old Roohi since her childhood. She always wanted to become a teacher not just to earn money but to educate the poor which she thinks is the service to God.
“I am passionate about my profession and I enjoy every day spent in school. I joined the education department in 2008. I am associated with producing e-content for Diksha. I am also the content creator for J&K BOSE,” Roohi added.
It has been over a year since Roohi Sultana visited her school. Yet the memories of students are fresh in her mind.
“On mud day, I along with the students collected dry mud in buckets. Students later mixed water with it and made different items including shapes, fruits, faces, and dolls. Students love the way we do things. That is why they continue to stay in touch with me even after working hours,” she said.
A well-qualified teacher, she holds two master’s degrees in Urdu and Kashmiri, a degree in Calligraphy, a certificate in Hindi and diploma in special education.
“Last year, my friend insisted to apply for the award. She was sure that I will win it, but I had no interest. This year she took details and submitted my form,” Roohi said.
Roohi gave an online presentation to the committee before she shortlisted for the award. “Jury was impressed by my presentation. I was hopeful that this year I will win the award will,” she added.
(The article first appeared in The Kashmir Monitor)