One personality, inspiring many: Meet Goutam Dev Sharma

“I was not born to just teach. I was born to inspire others, to change people, and to never give up even when facing challenges that seems impossible.” This is the attitude which Goutam carry.

“Teachers encourage minds to think, hands to create and hearts to love.” The live example of this is Goutam Dev Sharma, the only teacher from Assam to get the National Teacher Award, 2020. On receiving this award he says, “I am happy though, this award is not for me. It is for those teachers who taught me, my well-wishers, community members, guardians, and students of this unprivileged area. I am just a representative of this community.”  He is serving in Kokrajhar Government Higher secondary and Multipurpose school in Assam.

A life changing incident

Taking the inspiration from his father who himself was a teacher and obeying the suggestions of his own teachers he joined the profession of teaching. On 4th February 2006 as an assistant teacher of science, he got appointed in this school of remote area. This is the only government higher secondary school in the entire borderline territorial area. Kokrajhar then used to be a renowned place for violence. No one wants to come here. It was in the year 2012, communal violence took place in this area. In front of his eyes, Goutam saw the burning books in the houses which completely changed his perspective and life track. On that particular day, only he decided to do this particular job at this particular place to change the scenario.

Barriers of language

“One teacher, one book and one pen can change the world” said Malala Yousafzai. With these words in mind, he started teaching and reaching to every student of this backward remote area. Here people from different community used to live and their dialect, as well as accent, used to vary from each other. The medium of instruction was Assamese, yet he learnt four to five local languages of this area. Thus making himself capable to motivate students in the classroom from the very beginning of the session, discussing and interacting them in their own language.

ICT: One tool many solutions

To cope up with the problem of irregularity, he took the help of ICT: made WhatsApp group, taught students how to record and sent his recorded class on it. Further, he made a group of these students and instructed different groups to visit different houses on Sunday’s to reach to those students who do not have access to smartphones. He is still following the same practice in this time of lockdown. He has created his own YouTube channel for the benefit of students. He had trained, encouraged many teachers, how to use this ICT for the purpose of teaching and learning. His contents are also on Diksha platform.

Blending Science and Enlightenment

As a science teacher, he put more stress on it. In 2015, he got one lab named Basic Laboratory in Senior Secondary and in 2018, he got 30 pieces of Foldscope (a paper microscope ) from the Department of Biotechnology. He trained the teachers as well as students about how to use it in his village as well as in other villages. As a result, students became interested in exploring the new microorganisms in their houses and in the nearby locality. They shared their findings with others in the WhatsApp group. This area is very rich in flora and fauna. Thus he himself roamed around in jungles and found about many microstructures. He did not confine his findings to his place only but uploaded it on the Stanford University website-

After uploading his work was acknowledged worldwide and research scholars, teachers and students visited Kokrajhar from different schools and universities such as Karnataka School of Science, Commerce and Arts, Amravati Junior College, Savitri Bai Phule University, Tripura and thus collaborative learning took place. This developed a keen interest in science among students of this place. Earlier only 5 to 10 students used to choose science stream as they considered it a very tough subject but now 30% of students are taking admission in the science stream.

TLM, a creative way of Learning

Goutam says, “parrot learning does not work in maths and science.” Therefore to grab the attention of students, he made TLM using different scattered small things which were considered waste and of no use, to illustrate some basic principles of science and mathematics. He used it in the class as well as outside the class for the purpose of teaching and learning. Now children are also expert in making such TLM’s.

Community development

“If the interior villages of our country will not develop, how we will see the dream of developed India?” With this vision in mind, he started working for community development. He went from village to village interior, rural, remote areas till  Indo-Bhutan borders to create awareness about the importance of Education. He adopted a village called Bailguri which was a tribal-dominated area, and famous for drop out students. Only two-person of this village were matriculated and that was the highest qualification in this entire village. He mentions, “As a teacher in the classroom I was satisfied but if you limit yourself and your teaching to classrooms only; there will be no development in the environment, community and mindset of people.”

Difficult but doable

Now the time was for action. First of all, he went to the home of the village head, motivated him first and with the help of social informer called a meeting of villagers and convinced them for education. He began teaching standard 9 and 10 and developed a chain assigning them the responsibility of teaching younger one’s basic numeracy and letters. He spent all his leisure hours, holidays, Sunday’s for the sake of this community. He even spent one-fourth part of his salary for providing them with some materials and form filling. He formed a village education committee with the seniors of this village and they are now looking after the boys, what they are doing, whether studying or not. He faced mockery of people, has gone through physical as well as mental trauma, yet he continued to move ahead. Now the scenario is changing, children are studying, and the number of matriculated students have also increased.

He believed, “for development of education, economic development to some extent is very essential.” In these villages people especially women were involved in making wine as it was their custom as well as their business also. He stopped this evil practice and with the help of the Department of Biotechnology gave them free training for mushroom cultivation. He has also actively organised anti-drug campaigns in the interior part of the village.

“I was not born to just teach. I was born to inspire others, to change people, and to never give up even when facing challenges that seems impossible.” This is the attitude which Goutam carry. On asking what he wants to convey to the Prime Minister and Education Minister he says, “I will request them to do something for tribal people of Assam who are far behind the mainstream.” salutes such selfless teacher. We congratulate him on his immense success so far and for getting this prestigious award.

(With Puja Kumari)

About the author: Abhishek Ranjan

Abhishek Ranjan is the Founder and Director of SarkariSchool.IN

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