Solapur ZP teacher bags $1-million Global Teacher Prize

Solapur Zilla Parishad teacher Ranjitsinh Disale bags $1-million Global Teacher Prize 2020

In a first, Disale has decided to share half the prize money with the nine other finalists

Ranjitsinh Disale. Credit: Global Teacher Award

A primary school teacher from Solapur district of Maharashtra – Ranjitsinh Disale – who redesigned textbooks for Kannada students, has won the Global Teacher Prize on Thursday.

Disale (32) works with the Zilla Parishad Primary School at Paritewadi in Madha in Solapur district.

"I am overwhelmed…it is a great honour for me and India," Disale told DH over the phone from his home in Solapur hours after the awards were announced at the Natural History Museum in London in a virtual ceremony.

"One of the major aspects of the award is that it reposes faith in education in government’s schools," he said, adding that he had been teaching for nearly a decade. "Teachers were game-changers, are game-changers and will remain game-changers," he said.

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The Global Teacher Prize is an annual award given away by the Varkey Foundation, in partnership with UNESCO, to a teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.

The award carries a purse of US $1 million (Rs 7.37 crore). Disale has decided to share half the prize money with the nine other finalists.

This is the first time in the Global Teacher Prize's six-year history that the overall winner has shared the prize money with other finalists.

Disale initially wanted to be an IT engineer, but after engineering college did not work out as he anticipated, his father suggested teacher training as an alternative.

Disale enrolled himself in a teachers' training college after he gave up on engineering dreams. He saw that teachers are the real change-makers in the world, and decided to become one.

The first school he taught in was in a dilapidated building, sandwiched between a cattle shed and a storeroom.

Most of the girls were from tribal communities that did not prioritise girls’ education, and the practice of teenage marriage was common. Additionally, the curriculum was in Marathi and not in the students' primary Kannada language, which meant that many students were unable to achieve expected learning outcome.

Disale learned Kannada and redesigned all the textbooks of Grades 1 to 4 for better comprehension, along with unique QR codes that embedded audio poems, video lectures, stories and assignments in Kannada.

"The impact of Ranjitsinh (Disale's) interventions has been extraordinary: there are now no teenage marriages in the village and 100% attendance by girls at the school. The school was also recently awarded the best school in the district with 85% of his students achieving A grades in annual exams. One girl from the village has now graduated from a university, something seen as an impossible dream before Ranjitsinh arrived," says the official citation on the GTP website.

In terms of his wider impact, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has recognized Disale’s work as one of three stories from India in his book Hit Refresh.

The central government had named Disale as Innovative Researcher of the Year 2016. He also won the National Innovation Foundation's Innovator of the Year award in 2018.