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Nazir Ahmad Bhat: A teacher who brought inconspicuous village school to fame
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Nazir Ahmad Bhat: A teacher who brought inconspicuous village school to fame

Post by on Monday, July 25, 2022

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Students at Government Primary School in Peerpora village of South Kashmir’s Shopian district have been witnessing unusual footfall of visitors to their campus for the past couple of years. Journalists, education officials and representatives of various non-government organizations frequently visit this school for sharing its success story, appreciating the teaching staff and recognizing their hard work in turning an otherwise shabby structure into a model for primary education in Kashmir.

After cursory look visitors appreciate the hard work of teachers at this school as they have created an amazingly class teaching learning environment.A square lawn between a modest single storey and a comparatively well constructed double storey building has the aura of a recreation park; it grows varieties of fruit bearing and ornamental plants including Peach, Plum, Cherry, Fig, Cypress and Chinar interspersed with flowering plants of different kinds.

The peripheries of the land grow green leafy vegetables like Collards, Cauliflower, Hybrid Tomato, Bean, Maize and Cucumber.

Decorated walls of both the school buildings present many concepts like water cycle, afforestation and source of food through beautifully drawn designs and paintings. Flash cards hanging from the ceiling of class rooms, walls treated with colorful charts and posters are some of the attention grabbers for students.

Each card, chart and poster carries a theme including introduction to basic alphabets, counting numerals, parts of the body, living and non-living things etc.

The students from 1st standard have wooden benches and kindergarten kids, neat and clean rugs to sit on. The primary school has acquired some desktop computers for video lessons and is well knit with surrounding locality through social media and regular village education committee meetings.

Head teacher, Nazir Ahmad Bhat, 45, describes the aura of his school as a home-like environment where students learn by doing.“We create joyful situations for students to learn in a play way method,” he said, adding that they have adopted an interactive two way teaching –learning process.

In one such interactive lesson for prime numbers, Nazir stands surrounded by a group of students from class 4th, each student is handed a chart with a numeral from 1 to 20 written on it, one of the class student is asked to write numerals on a white board, other students who hold factors (cards) for that numeral are asked to front row, they display the factors to rest of the class. 

The class has acquired an understanding of factors in the previous lesson. After this activity, the teacher summarizes that prime numbers are the natural numbers greater than 1 with exactly two factors, 1 and the number itself. 

“This type of activity involves every student actively, learning by such methods is enjoyed by students,” Nazir said, adding that his students have adapted to this type of teaching and on every normal day before formal school work the students rehearse themselves with the class representative (CR) taking the role of a teacher. The others follow his command.

For bringing his otherwise inconspicuous village school into prominence, Nazir worked tirelessly for seven long years beyond his class rooms.He mobilized parents for uplifting the standard of basic infrastructure, won confidence of officials from rural development department for provision of land and motivated non-government organizations for donating equipments besides coordinating with senior officers of education department for funds and other legal formalities.

Gradually, Nazir’s efforts were recognized. After receiving a best teacher award for 2020, he won a place in 100 eminent academicians of 2021 by International Institute of Organised Research (I2OR), a registered MSME with the Ministry of MSME which works for advocating academic research and programs. 

“It is our mountainous pleasure that you have achieved an impressive benchmark through your exclusive hard work and the unparalleled display of appealing educational competence in a very conforming manner.

The most congratulatory paraphrase has been determined according to the very compelling analytical review of our acclaimed jury members from the perspective of your both qualitative and quantitative introspection in enriching the deserving virtuoso of research for refining sustainable base of learning,” I2OR noted for this exceptional teacher.

Besides, he holds distinction of receiving Kashmir young achievers award 2021 by wac book of records, best teacher award 2020 by pratibha samman, golden peacock award 2020 and national e-innovation award 2020. 

Only seven years ago Government Primary School Peerpora, which is seen as an exemplary institution for elementary education, had a different story to tell. 

Nazir recalled that in September of 2015 he was posted at his native village as head teacher for the primary school.To his surprise, the village school was in utter shambles; the three room school building was deficient in space to accommodate five classes, and it was lacking basic infrastructure.

A small piece of land near the terrace of the modest school building was littered with cow dung; it was used by villagers for dumping all sorts of garbage. Besides, the school had no path of its own; students would reach their school after crossing through a patch of land owned by the rural development department.

The stinking environment and dingy class rooms were repelling students, and parents were unwilling to admit their wards into the school.The enrollment dwindled to mere 30 students in a population of 150 households.

Nazir, who had a dream of setting up a benchmark for elementary school education in his village which others would emulate, determined to overhaul this ailing educational institution.

He aimed at creating a home like neat and clean environment for his students, majority of whom belonged to farming families.

Simultaneously, he set objectives for increasing enrollment of students at the school for which building infrastructure and adapting innovative teaching methods were must. 

He held a series of village education committee meetings with villagers for mobilizing them; the prime task was to lift garbage from school premises and provide a clean environment for students.

“The teaching staff took a lead in lifting the garbage,” Nazir said, adding that their efforts encouraged other villagers to join in and within days the mission was accomplished.

The second challenge was creating space for five classes.He started visiting village panchayat house adjacent to the school building and persuaded them to accommodate two of his classes temporarily.He motivated officials there for transferring two kanals of land to the school.

“I told them that education is imperative for rural development, it struck them and they passed a resolution for donating two kanals of the land for our school,” Nazir recalled, adding that officials of the social forestry and floriculture department were invited to the campus for plantation drive. Many tree species and flowering bushes were planted.

The teachers along with their students worked after school hours and it took them some time to turn a portion out of these two kanals of land into a lush green lawn and a nutrition garden.

After land became available, the higher authorities of the school education department were requested to construct a new building.

“Funds for the new building were sanctioned multiple times, they would lapse as no land was available then,” the head teacher said.

The temporary classes from the panchayat house building were relocated to the newly constructed two storey building.

For two years, Nazir said, he and his three colleagues worked many hours daily for making and designing cards, charts and posters for creating a colorful and attractive ambience in the school.

Once the lawn was ready, the teachers conducted outdoor classes and all learning activities were recorded and shared through the school's facebook page.

“The streaming of innovative activities demonstrated before villagers that this school too can impart skill based knowledge and parents were convinced that their wards are at a right place,” Mohammad Ayoub, another teacher said, adding that enrollment of students rose to 95.

Students in government primary schools usually sit squat on mats laid out on the floor. However, in this school students have a different facility; the higher authorities of the school education department have provided them with benches and chairs.

“The reposing of faith in us by members of locality encouraged us to have two sets of uniform for students,” the teachers said, adding they also framed a code forbidding fast food at the school campus.

The school has also taken a lead in their surroundings by introducing a kindergarten class consisting of around 28 students. 

The teachers spent around rupees 19000 from their pockets for purchasing matting and various teaching learning materials for this class.

“Ours is a small step for drawing students back to government schools in Jammu and Kashmir but vivid enough to demonstrate how it is done, “Nazir said. 

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