Maharashtra teacher wins global prize for educating girls

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Ranjitsinh Disale has been awarded this year’s Global Teacher Prize for his work helping girls, most of them coming from poor tribal communities, at a village school in western India. Disale immediately announced he would share the $1 million prize money with the nine other finalists. The prize organisers said he was honoured for having “transformed the life chances” of girls at the Zilla Parishad Primary School in Paritewadi, in Maharashtra state.

 A thrilled Disale heard the news at home in India, surrounded by his family. The announcement was made by actor and writer Stephen Fry at a virtual ceremony broadcast from the Natural History Museum in London. He started teaching at the school in 2009, when it was in a rundown building next to cattle shed, according to organizers. 

Teenage marriage was common and school attendance was low. The curriculum was not even in the girls’ native language, Kannada. Disale moved to the village, learned the language and translated the class textbooks. He also familiarised digital learning tools and came up with personalized programmes for each student. His system of QR Coded Textbooks is now used across India. 

School attendance today is 100 per cent, and one girl from the village has graduated from university, the organizers said. His “Let’s Cross the Borders” project connects young people from India and Pakistan, Palestine and Israel, Iraq and Iran, and the United States and North Korea to promote world peace and has also initiated environmental projects in the drought-prone district.

The award was established by the Varkey Foundation and is given in partnership with UNESCO. In his winning speech, Disale said he would share half the prize money with his nine fellow finalists, meaning they would receive about $55,000 each.

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