A Zilla Parishad (ZP) teacher from Solapur district in Maharashtra, Ranjitsinh Disale, who is heading to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship after winning the Global Teacher Award, has found himself in the spotlight for a completely different. Last week, an investigation report against him by the ZP administration revealed that he had been absent from work for 34 months despite being paid a salary for the period. Disale, who already tendered his resignation earlier this month, speaks to Pallavi Smart about the allegations and his future plans. Excerpts from an interview:
On the one hand, you gain worldwide notoriety and on the other hand, your equation deteriorates with the ZP administration where you started your journey as a teacher. What do you think led to this?
I will hold a press conference to reveal several other aspects of this whole episode, which have not yet come to light. This shouldn’t happen with other teachers who are inspired to go beyond the traditional box for their students. I have been in the system for 13 years now and if there was anything wrong with me it would have surfaced a long time ago and not just during the tenure of these particular officers. Everything that happened reflects negatively on the way teachers are treated in the education system of this country. It is important for the system to do some soul-searching and see what went wrong. I plan to present this whole experience in an elaborate way in my book. My book was almost ready but developments in the past led me to a different ending. I’m writing an extra chapter now.
What are your comments on the report of the commission of inquiry?
They made their allegations of how I received a salary wrongly. But issuing pay is purely a process by the system. However, compliance with the rules is also the responsibility of the officer who issues the salary. If there was any irregularity on the part of this person, it is his mistake. I have already filed a 2,000-page explanation with the inquiry committee. I was never told that I was absent at the time of the deputation. These are the main conclusions of the investigation which should still go through several stages, which also include legal aspects. As long as the investigation report is not declared final, it will be urgent to comment on it.
Your scholarship leave has been approved. So why did you quit? Did something lead you there?
I will not make the connection with the challenges I have faced in the recent past. I worked to bring about change at the local school level. But after receiving wide exposure through the global award, I realized that learning additional skills would help me make a similar difference on a larger scale. I was looking for a window of opportunity. Now that I intend to pursue higher education in the United States, my stay will be extended. My ZP school students should not suffer any academic loss because of this. If I resign, the government will appoint a full-time teacher. I am not quitting teaching but only the government system.
Having the experience of a larger platform of global teachers, how do you compare the education system in India with that of other countries?
Compared to other countries, we have a greater number of teachers who are more emotionally invested in their students and therefore willing to think outside the box. But there is a total lack of support system. The education sector is not driven by incentives that might motivate a teacher to perform. The lack of recognition for extra effort leads to a complacent approach among some teachers. In other countries, after the initial training, a teacher obtains his work permit. It must be renewed at regular intervals showing how the candidate has developed professionally through several training courses and workshops, among others, which can be adapted to their needs. In the government education system here, we have “suitable for all” training that is more focused on content rather than teaching methodology. A Nandurbar teacher may need a completely different set of skills than one teaching in urban areas such as Mumbai and Pune.
Tell us about your Fulbright scholarship and your future plans.
This is a distinguished award for international teachers. A total of 34 teachers from 17 countries have been selected for this fully-funded scholarship. My research topic will be “Peace in Education” in which I plan to research how to promote peace through education. After completing the scholarship, I plan to pursue graduate studies at Arizona State University in the area of educational policy and research.