On October 5, we honor the men and women around the globe who have dedicated their lives to the noble profession of educating the world’s children. At Room to Read, we have an important bond with the teachers who work in our School Room and Reading Room programs because they are the critical link to educating the next generation. The following story about one of our teacher-librarians in India is an example of the extraordinary commitment that teachers make in our schools. Room to Read is equally committed to providing the resources and training these important individuals require so that they can be as effective in their work to educate the next generation of eager learners.
Being a widow in India carries with it more than the loneliness of no longer having a spouse. Because a woman’s status in many regions of India is solely tied to her husband, the loss of a spouse can mean complete ostracism from family and community for the grieving wife and her children. The widow is often viewed as bad luck and blamed for her husband’s death -- and in the end, she finds herself suddenly cast into the position of being a non-person in society.
Some women, primarily those who are educated, are able to rise above cultural norms. Bharti Devi is such a woman. After the death of her husband, Bharti was rarely able to leave her home. But being the determined woman that she is, she finally convinced her in-laws that she should work as a teacher in the nearby school.
However, when Bharti started teaching at the government middle school in her small village within the Indian state of Jharkhand, she quickly realized there was not a lot of interest in innovative teaching plus students were not being given proper attention, resulting in poor academic progress. As fate would have it, shortly after Bharti's arrival, Room to Read began making plans to establish a library at her school. This was thrilling news to the new teacher, for she saw this as a great opportunity to build a fun learning atmosphere in the school. When a library training was announced for teachers at the school, Bharti jumped at the chance to attend and, once the library opened, Bharti was put in charge of running it!
Though she was initially nervous about her new role and received little support from the other teachers, she began by opening the library early, before the morning assembly, so that children had time to come and check out books. She decorated the library with colorful posters and paintings made by the students, and made the library a very welcoming place to read and learn.
With encouragement from Bharti, the other teachers soon recognized that the library was an important resource for learning and could actually help them teach more effectively in their classrooms. Older students helped younger students by reading stories to them, and other activities such as word games, poetry reading and drawing became very popular in both the library and the classrooms. The atmosphere in the school started to charge, and, before long, many teachers shared Bharti’s enthusiasm.
Bharti still has a lot of work ahead of her as she continues to promote the library and its value within the school environment and for this, she continues to return every morning, two hours before school begins, to welcome hundreds of eager children into her special world of books. On World Teacher's Day, we salute Bharti and her commitment to educating her students and shaping the learning environment.