In the picturesque region of Jammu and Kashmir, where the snow-capped mountains and serene valleys paint a serene picture, a remarkable revolution has been quietly unfolding. This transformation is not one of political upheaval or economic reform but rather a subtle yet significant change in the field of education. The unsung heroes of this change are the Rehbar-e-Taleem (ReT) teachers. These dedicated individuals have taken it upon themselves to illuminate the minds of young learners in remote and underprivileged areas, where education was once a distant dream.
The Birth of Rehbar-e-Taleem
In a time when the state of education in Kashmir faced the threat of extinction, the government, recognizing the urgent need for change, initiated the recruitment of Rehbar-e-Taleem (ReT) teachers. These educators, who could have pursued lucrative careers elsewhere, chose a less travelled path. It was not merely for the meagre 1500 rupees per month and 50 rupees per day; it was to kindle the flame of knowledge in the hearts of young minds. As the renowned poet Rumi said, “In the garden of existence, my words bloom, revealing the fragrance of ancient whispers. “These teachers embarked on their journey with a burning passion for education.
Qualification and Dedication
It’s imperative to acknowledge that these teachers were appointed based on their merit. Among them, there is a long list of individuals who could have held high positions in various fields due to their qualifications. They hold Masters, MPhil, PhD, HET, SET, JRE, Gold Medals and other national or state-level qualifications. These individuals, akin to Iqbal’s “Shaheen” championed the cause of education in hilly areas and villages where education had little value. They were the torchbearers in places where the education system was stuck in the Stone Age.
They served not only as educators but also as key players in local elections, ensuring that the process was carried out efficiently. Schools in remote villages continued to exist because of their unwavering commitment.
Education Sector Woes
While it is undeniable that the education sector in Jammu and Kashmir faces its fair share of challenges, placing the burden on ReT teachers alone is unjust. Administrative shortcomings, curriculum issues and parental negligence are problems that afflict the entire system. The attack on the honour of these teachers is furled by jealousy, as many feel threatened by the prosperity and happiness they bring to their communities.
ReT teachers have managed educational issues up to the higher secondary level with efficiency. The shortcomings of a few individuals can be found in every sector, from primary schools to universities. These are considered as individual weaknesses. Still, collectively, the ReT teachers have dedicated their promising futures to education, a commitment that deserves recognition and respect.
It is important to recognize the challenging environment in which ReT teachers operate. Parents’’ misbehaviour and ignorance persist in some areas, reminiscent of an age of ignorance. However, these teachers persevere in the face of these challenges, undeterred by political and social criticism. They echo the famous line, Har Kadam Ek Nayi Dastaan Hai Mere Liye, Apni Kismat Ko Banata Hoon, Jalata Hoon Sapno Mein, as they continue to light the way for young minds.
The Power of Education
Education is a powerful tool that can shape the future of any nation. It is a lifelong journey that requires the guidance of dedicated teachers. As the famous quote by A. P. J Abdul Kalam goes, “I believe there is no other profession in the world that is more important to society than that of a teacher. “However, in the case of ReT teachers, this sentiment seems to have been forgotten.
The Plight of ReT Teachers
Rehbar-e-Taleem (ReT) teachers, initially engaged under the SSA program, now find themselves in a precarious situation. No transfers have been done for them and only when two teachers at different schools mutually agree to transfer, it is allowed. This is a disservice to them, considering the exceptional work they have done at the grassroots level. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when many hesitated to venture outside, these Rehbar-e-Taleem teachers became unsung heroes, working day and night on the ground. They are actively participating in elections and various government programs.
A Call for Unity
Targeting one section of teachers on various pretexts is not only discriminatory but also detrimental to the overall educational system. It is high time for policymakers to consider consolidating these different categories of teachers into a single cadre, thereby improving the efficiency of the system.
Dedication Beyond the Classroom
The dedication of ReT teachers goes far beyond the four walls of the classroom. They serve as mentors, guides and sources of inspiration for their students. Many of these teachers have become integral parts of their respective communities, actively participating in local events and initiatives. They have organized educational camps, cleanliness drives and awareness programs to uplift the areas they serve.
Their dedication can be seen in their willingness to adapt to challenging circumstances. In regions where access to education is hindered by harsh weather conditions and lack of infrastructure, ReT teachers have displayed remarkable resilience. They have walked through snow-covered paths, crossed turbulent rivers and braved adverse weather conditions to ensure that their students receive an education. Their determination to bring the light of knowledge to the darkest corners of Jammu and Kashmir is a testament to their unwavering dedication.
Hard Work and Innovation
Rehbar-e-Taleem teachers are not just dedicated, they are also hardworking and innovative. In resource-constrained environments, they have displayed remarkable creativity. They have devised teaching methods that make the most of the limited resources available, using local materials and engaging students in hands-on learning experiences. Their ability to adapt and find solutions to challenges is truly commendable.
Moreover, these teachers continually invest in their professional development. They attend workshops, seminars and training sessions to enhance their teaching skills. They stay up-to-date with the latest educational trends and incorporate modern teaching techniques into their lessons. Their commitment to self-improvement and their determination to provide the best education possible is evident in the success of their students.
A Beacon of Hope
Rehbar-e-Taleem teachers are bacons of hope in regions where hope was in short supply. They have changed the trajectory of countless lives, offering students a chance at a better future. These teachers have demonstrated that education is not just a profession; it is a calling. Their unwavering dedication and hard work have inspired generations of students to dream big and work hard to achieve their goals.
A Resounding Call for Appreciation and Advocacy
In conclusion, the remarkable journey of Rehbar-e-Taleem (ReT) teachers in Jammu and Kashmir is an inspiring narrative that deserves recognition, appreciation and steadfast support. Contrary to recent portrayals, these educators are not threats but invaluable assets to the educational system of the region. Their qualifications, unwavering dedication and innovative approaches to education are commendable and should be celebrated as catalysts for positive change.
The government’s focus should shift from viewing ReT teachers as potential threats to embracing them as the driving force behind transformative educational initiatives in Jammu and Kashmir. It is essential to acknowledge and amplify their commitment to shaping young minds and overcoming multifaceted challenges. The narrative should transition from an unwarranted critique to one that appreciates and supports the pivotal role these educators play in fostering a brighter future for the region’s education.
In the ‘JK Vision Document 2047, ‘the government outlines ambitious goals for the future of education. However, it is disheartening to note that a recent report from the Planning Development and Monitoring Department highlights a perceived lack of qualifications within the teaching workforce, specifically pointing to the regularization of over 36, 000 ReTs and RReTs without meeting desired qualification levels.
Rather than perpetuating a narrative that undermines the contributions of ReT teachers, it is crucial to address this concern with nuance and a genuine understanding of the challenges they face. The regularization of these educators, far from being a detriment, is a testament to their years of service, dedication and merit-based contributions to the education sector. Instead of viewing this as a shortcoming, it should be seen as an opportunity to acknowledge the wealth of experience and expertise that these teachers bring to the table.
The focus should be on creating an environment that fosters continuous professional development, recognizing the practical expertise that ReT teachers have acquired over their years of service. By doing so, the government can leverage the wealth of experience within the teaching workforce to enhance the overall quality of education in the region.
In this era of educational evolution, it is imperative to appreciate the adaptability and resilience demonstrated by ReT teachers. Their innovative approaches to education, often born out of necessity in resource-constrained environments, should be celebrated as examples of effective pedagogy. instead of being perceived as a threat, their ability to find creative solutions to challenges should be recognized as an asset that enriches the educational landscape.
It is time for a paradigm shift in how Rehbar-e-Taleem teachers are perceived and valued. They are not obstacles but navigators, steering the educational ship through turbulent waters. The government should initiate proactive measures to provide the necessary support and recognition, ensuring that these educators continue to play a vital role in shaping the educational destiny of Jammu and Kashmir.
In the spirit of collaboration, stakeholders including the government, educational institutions and the community, should come together to create an ecosystem that fosters the growth, development and appreciation of ReT teachers. By acknowledging their contributions and addressing concerns constructively, we can build a foundation for an educational landscape where every child has access to quality learning facilitated by dedicated and experienced educators like the Rehbar-e-Taleem teachers of Jammu and Kashmir.
(The author can be reached at [email protected])