His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Friday lauded the winner of this year’s Global Teacher Prize, Indian village teacher Ranjitsinh Disale, for his generosity and selflessness, and emphasized the fundamental importance of education in social transformation and empowerment. “Educating young children, especially from poor and needy backgrounds, is perhaps the best way to help them as individuals, and actively contributes to creating a better world,” His Holiness said. (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
Thirty-one-year-old Disale, who hails from the western Indian state of Maharashtra, received the award for his work educating young girls, most of them from poor tribal communities. During his acceptance speech for the Global Teacher Prize on 3 December, Disale made the extraordinary announcement that he would share half of the US$1 million in prize money with his nine fellow finalists, meaning they would each receive a little over US$55,000.
In a personal letter to Disale, the Dalai Lama wrote:
I would like to congratulate you on being named the world’s most exceptional teacher and to express my admiration for your generosity in sharing half the prize money with runners up in the competition. Educating young children, especially from poor and needy backgrounds is perhaps the best way to help them as individuals, and actively contributes to creating a better world.
Your work to ensure that disadvantaged girls go to school, as well as your efforts to prepare study materials for them in their own language, the online science lessons you offer pupils in 83 countries, and your project building connections between young people in conflict zones are all vivid examples of compassion in action.
When you say, “Together we can make a difference—we can make this world a better place,” you are absolutely right. I am sure your exemplary service will encourage other brothers and sisters to follow in your footsteps. (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
Disale has earned renown for his innovative approaches to teaching, which include demonstrating scientific experiments from his self-built home science laboratory, and adding QR codes to text books so that his students can access related audio recordings, video lectures, assignments, and other content—a strategy that has since been adopted by India’s National Council of Educational Research and Training throughout the country. Disale has also campaigned to ban adolescent marriages and to encourage education for girls.
“Indian village teacher Ranjitsinh Disale, who transformed the life chances of young girls at Zilla Parishad Primary School, Paritewadi, Solapur, Maharashtra, India, has been named the winner of the Global Teacher Prize 2020, in partnership with UNESCO,” the prize organizers stated in an announcement. “Mr. Disale was selected from over 12,000 nominations and applications from over 140 countries around the world.” (Global Teacher Prize)
Disale first became a teacher at Zilla Parishad Primary School in 2009, when the school was little more than a dilapidated building standing beside a cattle shed. Most of the girls came from tribal communities where school attendance could sometimes be as low as 2 per cent and teenage marriage was commonplace. For the girls that were able to attend school, the curriculum was not in their primary language, leaving many students unable to learn at all. After Disale moved to the village, he not only took the time to learn the local language, he also translated textbooks for his students. Disale also spent time analyzing the responses and reactions of his students so that he could tailor the content, learning activities, and assignments to create a more personalized learning experience for each student, according to their needs.
As a direct result of Disale’s initiatives and interventions, the award organizers stated, there are now no teenage marriages in the village, and the school has recorded 100 per cent attendance by its female students. The school was also recently named the best school in the district, with 85 per cent of Disale’s students achieving A grades in their annual examinations. One girl from the village has graduated from university—an achievement considered inconceivable prior to Disale’s influence.
“Ranjitsinh is also passionate about building peace between young people across conflict zones,” the prize organizer said. “His ‘Let’s Cross the Borders’ project connects young people from India and Pakistan, Palestine and Israel, Iraq and Iran and the USA and North Korea. Over a six-week program, students are matched with a peace buddy from other countries with whom they closely interact—preparing presentations and listening to guest speakers together to understand their similarities. So far, Ranjitsinh has initiated an incredible 19,000 students from eight countries into this program.” (Global Teacher Prize)
The Global Teacher Prize is an annual US$1 million award from the London-headquartered Varkey Foundation for teachers who make an outstanding contribution to the profession and to draw attention to the vital role of teachers in society. This year’s award was presented by British actor and author Stephen Fry during a virtual ceremony live-streamed from London’s Natural History Museum.