Published: 30th August 2021
India's Best Teachers 2021: Here's how this National Award-winning teacher from Odisha created an alumni network to provide scholarships to marginalised students
Satpathy has managed to convince economically deprived families in his town to send their children to school. He has managed to get fifty children back to school
The abysmal condition of school infrastructure in government-run schools often overshadows the efforts taken by the school teachers in the overall development of the child. This was the case with Ashok Kumar Satpathy who teaches in a Zilla Government School in Odisha's Bhadrak district. It was only this year that Satpathy won the National Award for Teachers for increasing school enrollment over the past 20 years and retaining children in school through outreach programmes and by providing financial aid.
But Satpathy was not doing this alone. He built a sustainable network that will continuously help disadvantaged students. "I created an alumni network of more than 1,000 ex-students and connected them to school to sponsor scholarships for those who come from weaker economic sections and fund their study material," he says with a sense of pride and adds that many of the ex-students have been either working or studying abroad. "That makes me happy. One of my students is now in Finland while another is now preparing to be a doctor. All my students are well connected to me, all of them are my favourites," he says.
Since 2001, Satpathy has managed to convince economically deprived families in his town to send their children to school. As a result, he has managed to get fifty children back to school who would've otherwise been deprived of basic education. But the pandemic brought along an additional set of worries for this teacher, like many others across the country — the much-talked-about digital divide. "Many of my students do not have smartphones at home. Even those families that do have it, it is usually operated by the child's father," he says. As per the Odisha Economic Survey of 2018-19, more than 20 per cent of the 51,311 villages in the state do not have mobile phone connectivity. Even internet penetration in the state is 28.22 per cent compared to the national average of 38.02 per cent.
Even as the schools have reopened for students in Class 9 to 12, Satpathy says that not everyone is back. "Less than 60 per cent of children are back in school," Satpathy says. The school, currently, has 650 students from Class 6 to 10.