Age is just a number

Dipali Dey, A head teacher who has been receiving training from Swanirvar (one Vibha’s partners)

-Interviewed and written by Asha Devi

Is age just a number or does it make us old to do something different in our life, something our heart always persuaded us to go for? This question always comes to my mind when I hear narratives of people saying how they are unable to pursue their dreams as they are aging. I would have believed age can be a barrier for us to pursue dreams that matter to us until I heard Dipali Dey’s story.

A 60-year-old woman, Dipali Dey has not only worked to earn a livelihood for her family but also has been contributing to the lives of others who are often overlooked due to their socio-economic status. Dipali was a head teacher in South Sherpur Shishu Shiksha Kendra of Baduria Block in West Bengal until she retired in October 2019. She was a class teacher of the 4th standard, where she taught Mathematics and English. She has been teaching since 2007. After her retirement, she is still supporting a teacher who replaced her in the school. She is a resource teacher (a teacher who acts as a mentor to other teachers). She has been receiving teachers’ training conducted by Swanirvar since the past eight years. 

I asked Dipali, “What changes have you noticed in yourself due to this training?” “At personal level, I am capable of conducting training for other teachers now. I am able to interact with other teachers more confidentially and help them enhance their participation in their classes more effectively than before. When I give suggestions to them, I see that they are incorporating my inputs in their classes, which eventually contributes to increasing their class learning levels. Most importantly, now I can speak in public without fear.” She added that through Swanirvar’s training, she realized that she can work well in groups, where she is not just learning but also helping others learn by sharing her experience. She believes the arts and crafts that she learnt during the training has not only helped her in her classroom but also in her household. 

According to Dipali, her teaching skills have improved. She thinks that the training that she got for action rhymes for English class, is one of the best skills that she has learnt through these training sessions, because she believes that not only are they important for making the study sessions more engaging, but also her students learn more through these action rhymes because they all love them. 

She has received a lot of inputs on her Teaching Learning Method (TLM) through the trainings conducted by Swanirvar. I asked further; “How has TLM helped your students? She said; “The TLM has actually changed the entire atmosphere of the classrooms. The students are motivated, highly active for TLMs. They are more engaged with the  fun oriented activities, making the classrooms more joyful. The attendance level of the students has increased and the dropout rate has reduced, She sees the training adding a lot of value to the overall development of the school. 

Dipali further mentioned; “With such a joyful learning environment our school is being noticed by people in the community. The school has been given an award for the best school at a ‘block’ level. Teachers from other schools are curious to know more about our teaching methods. Time to time, we receive requests from other schools to share our best teaching practices with them. And it gives me a feeling of immense pride. This has been possible only because of the constant support from Swanirwar.”

“Have the parents noted any changes in their children?” I inquired further. She said; “The parents say that they have noticed that their children are more motivated and inspired to study. 

During parents-teachers-meetings, parents share their gratitude by saying that their children are ecstatic about going to school every morning. Seeing their children’s excitement, even these parents have started taking personal interest in their children’s education.”

Because this school was built just as a supporting school to another school about 1.5 kms away, and because it is located in a minority community, it lacked proper infrastructure. It was made of using bamboo, in a tent-like house. However, teachers like Dipali, constantly reached out to the block officers, local community members as well as parents to understand the importance of a proper school. After seeing the teachers’ commitment, the students’ performance and constant persuasion from Dipali, just two years ago the government allocated funds to rebuild the school. Dipali Dey, therefore, is a well-known personality in the community.

In the later part of our interaction, I asked Deepali; “Have you heard about Vibha?” She said; “Yes of course. Because Vibha supports Swanirvar to uplift schools like ours, which are often overlooked as minority schools, reformation of these schools have been possible. Because Vibha has been supporting Swanirwar not only financially but also by providing them with required resources and necessary skills, children in school like ours are able to receive holistic education. I am grateful to Vibha for that. There are many teachers like me who have made a huge impact in other children’s lives with Vibha’s support.”

Vibha has been supporting Swanirvar’s teacher’s training program since 2006. Apart from providing resources, Vibha has been closely working with Swanirvar to enhance their strategy and organizational structure through constant mentoring. Vibha has always acknowledged the dedication and commitment of teachers like Dipali Dey who have dedicated their lives to the amelioration of the young minds.

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