Here's a Warangal government teacher's earnest crusade for girl child education

Warangal-based Fullbright scholar Thoutam Niharika is a Math teacher who is aware of how much more girls need to be encouraged to study and this is all that she is doing to balance the scales
Speaking up | (Pic: Thoutam Niharika)
Speaking up | (Pic: Thoutam Niharika)

With Thoutam Niharika, the question isn't why teach? But why not? Why not opt to teach in remote government schools? Why not dedicate oneself to the cause of girl child education? All these questions have led this Math teacher, who teaches at Zilla Parishad High School, Gorrekunta, Warangal, Telangana, to explore so many avenues.  

Having fun while learning

The high school teacher decides to tell us her story from the time when she worked as an Assistant Officer, Girl Child Development, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan from 2009 to 2013. She was incharge of drafting proceedings and monitoring the percentage of girls studying in 352 government schools. One of the many things she enabled was accompanying girls to a five-day vocational training workshop at NIFT. She was even working on setting up early education centres for girl children under the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV), a residential secondary school for girls. In this way, the cause of girl child education grew closer to her heart. "After I came to Gorrekunta, I continued to work for the cause. Two instances come to mind, once when I had to rush to stop a child marriage and even involve the police. The second was adolescent infatuation, where the girl was so utterly heartbroken that she wanted to die by suicide," shares the Fulbright Scholar.

As a Fulbright Scholar, she pursued the International Leadership programme from Arizona State University

Since December 2018, in collaboration with the alumni of the schools, this teacher has been arranging sanitary napkins for her school girls. "During the lockdown, I would visit as many of them as I could every three months and help them stock up on pads. Alternatively, I would request them to visit the school on one predetermined day and collect the pads," she shares. She has also purchased two Google Home devices for her school. Ask her why and pat comes the reply, "Students are scared of asking teachers questions, especially when the questions are silly. Or sometimes, they are afraid to get the pronunciation of English words wrong. So Google Home removes the fear factor and encourages them to simply ask, no matter what," she explains. The more we think about it, the more sense this starts to make! She is also conscious of the fact that the proverbial Math teachers are strict and relentless, so she consciously tries to subvert that image by being open and interactive. That's where her ever-smiling and friendly demeanour comes from.

Learning by doing

Now, coming to Niharika's classroom, it's as colourful and inviting as it could be. Multiplication tables splashed across the walls, vibrant charts and so much more. "What I try to drive in them is that without Math, life gets difficult. Learning Math helps make real-life situations easier," she informs. Even the simple colourful cardboard pieces she uses to teach fractions is a delight to her students. "I believe multiplication tables is key, once the child knows the tables from 1 to 20, they get a certain confidence that they can apply to other areas of Math," she says, with 22 years of teaching experience dripping from every word. She has an MSc in Psychology from Kakatiya University and now, she is pursuing a course in Guidance and Counselling from Regional Institute of Education (Mysuru?) so that along with being an effective teacher to the students, she can be a friend and a confidant as well.  

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