asima Jan is an educator par excellence hailing from the culturally rich region of Bandipora in Jammu and Kashmir. Her remarkable journey in education is marked by a deep-rooted passion for literature and an unwavering commitment to nurturing young minds. From her early school days to receiving the prestigious Best Teacher Award, Aasima's story is one of dedication, innovation, and community impact.
Aasima's initiatives, including the 'Shrug Off Fear: School is Here' project, have not only increased student enrollment but also transformed the lives of her students by addressing their emotional well-being. In an exclusive chat with Rising Kashmir's reporter Noor Mohi ud din, Aasima enlightens on her journey and achievement.
Kindly tell us about your education and your journey of teaching.
My name is Aasima Jan, and I come from Bandipora, which is celebrated for its scholars, literature, and scenic waters. I began my educational journey at Iqbal Memorial School, where I received my primary education. My passion for literature led me to pursue a Master's degree in English literature, complemented by various certifications that deepened my expertise in the subject. My journey as an educator started unexpectedly while pursuing an engineering degree when I was offered a teaching position under SRO.
This serendipitous moment altered the course of my life, revealing teaching as not just a profession but my true calling. Inspired by my late mother, a revered educator in Bandipora, I embraced this path, dedicating myself to education and fostering a love for literature among my students. This unexpected journey has shaped my destiny, and I remain committed to nurturing young potential and advancing the cause of education.
What was your reaction when you came to know about the Best Teacher Award?
Receiving the Best Teacher Award at the UT level from our Honorable Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, Chief Secretary, and Director School Education Kashmir was an incredibly humbling moment in my career. It prompted deep reflection on the dedication and effort I have invested in my role as an educator over the years. I've always believed that recognition and fulfillment follow every challenge and hard-fought endeavor.
Could you tell us more about the "Shrug Off Fear: School is Here" project? What inspired you to initiate it, and what were the key outcomes you observed?
After the pandemic, I noticed that our students were struggling with depression and various pressures, leading to hesitancy in opening up. During this pivotal period, I introduced a game of hopscotch (saz kater) with my students, which evolved into a means for them to share their thoughts and concerns with me. This interaction served as the catalyst for the 'Shrug Off Fear: School is Here' project. The project aimed to create an environment where students could return to school without fear and with eagerness to embrace learning. While increasing enrollment was a priority, nurturing students' self-esteem and overall well-being were equally crucial. Throughout the initiative, we observed remarkable outcomes, including reduced fears and anxieties, increased trust and solidarity within the school community, improved academic performance, and a renewed passion for learning.
Your efforts resulted in a significant increase in student enrollment at High School Binner. Can you elaborate on the strategies you used encouraging students to join the school?
Over the past 15 years, I have actively engaged in intensive enrollment drives across various schools. Even when enrollment drives were less common, I initiated home visits to personally motivate parents to send their children to government schools. I established direct connections with Sarpanchs and community members, seeking their assistance. Maintaining ongoing connections with students and parents has been crucial in creating a lasting impact on children's education.
Can you share some of your experiences in promoting women's hygiene, empowerment, and addressing drug abuse issues within the community?
I have supported individuals struggling with drug addiction, provided counseling, and witnessed successful recoveries. Additionally, I have served on the Internal Complaints Committee in Bandipora and Baramulla districts, addressing important community issues. My involvement extends to advocating for menstrual hygiene, women's empowerment, organizing programs for Children with Special Needs (CWSN), combating dowry-related issues, and promoting cultural programs to unite communities.
You mentioned successful workshops with various organizations. Could you give us some insights into the impact of these workshops and the topics they covered?
I have actively participated in workshops covering topics such as School Based Assignments, NEP-2020, TLM Development, and Item Development related to foundational literacy and numeracy. The insights gained from these workshops have been integrated into my classroom practices, contributing to my ongoing learning and personal growth.
How do you envision the future of education, particularly in the context of Jammu and Kashmir, and what role do you see yourself playing in it?
I envision a future in education that emphasizes inclusivity, digital literacy, and a holistic approach. My role will be that of a facilitator and advocate for these essential changes.
What advice would you give to aspiring educators who are passionate about making a positive impact on the students and communities?
Small efforts can create significant impacts. Connect with students on their level to elevate their potential.
Any special moments/experiences you want to share?
Teaching my former school teachers when I was assigned as a mentor for teaching Bed students was a remarkable experience. My school teachers became my students, and they remarked that they saw in me their exceptional work. It's truly a unique experience to be a teacher to those who once taught you during your childhood.
Lastly, what are your future goals and projects in the field of education and community development?
My primary focus is on empowering students with academic knowledge and life skills. I aim to provide equal access to quality education for every student and mentor fellow educators. Additionally, I will continue addressing social issues in my community, promoting inclusivity and community development.