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Indian school teacher wins $1-million Global Teacher Prize for promoting girls’ education

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bY S VENKAT NARAYAN,

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI. A primary school teacher from India was on Thursday named the winner of the $1-million annual Global Teacher Prize 2020 in recognition of his efforts to promote girls’ education and trigger a quick-response (QR) coded textbook revolution in India. 

Ranjitsinh Disale, 32, from Paritewadi village in Maharashtra state’s Solapur district, emerged the winner from 10 finalists from across the world for the annual prize founded by the Varkey Foundation in 2014 to recognise an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.

Disale, who believes that teachers are the world’s real change-makers, announced that he will be sharing 50% of his prize money with his fellow finalists to support their incredible work.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has exposed education and the communities it serves in a multitude of ways. But in this hard time, teachers are giving their best to make sure every student has access to their birth right of a good education, said Disale.

 

“Teachers are the real change-makers who are changing the lives of their students with a mixture of chalk and challenges. They always believe in giving and sharing. And, therefore, I am very pleased to announce that I will share 50% of the prize money equally among my fellow top 10 finalists to support their incredible work. I believe, together, we can change this world because sharing is growing,” he said.

 His generous gesture means the other nine finalists will receive just over $55,000 each as he made history as the first winner to share his prize money. By sharing the prize money, you teach the world the importance of giving, said Indian education philanthropist Sunny Varkey, the founder of the prize.

“I now encourage you to use this platform to give all teachers a voice. There is not a moment to lose as it will fall on young people to find solutions to problems that their parents and grandparents have lacked the will to solve, including climate change, conflict and global pandemics,” he said.

In another first, the Global Teacher Prize 2020 winner’s announcement was made at a virtual ceremony broadcast from the Natural History Museum in London by British actor-broadcaster Stephen Fry. 

“Teachers like Ranjitsinh will stop climate change and build more peaceful and just societies. Teachers like Ranjitsinh will eliminate inequalities and drive forward economic growth. Teachers like Ranjitsinh will save our future,” said Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director General for Education at UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), a partner of the initiative.

When Disale arrived at the Zilla Parishad Primary School at Paritewadi in Solapur in 2009, it was a dilapidated building, sandwiched between a cattle-shed and a storeroom.

He took on the task of turning things around and ensuring the textbooks were available in the local language for the pupils and not only translated the class textbooks into his pupils’ mother tongue Marathi, but also embedded them with unique QR codes to give students access to audio poems, video lectures, stories and assignments.

The impact of his interventions has been that there are now no reported teenage marriages in the village and 100% attendance of girls at the school.

Disale’s school went on to become the first in the State of Maharashtra to introduce QR codes and after submitting a proposal and successful pilot scheme, the State Ministry announced in 2017 that they would introduce QR coded textbooks across the State for all grades.

In 2018, the Human Resources Development Ministry announced that all the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) textbooks would have embedded QR codes.

Disale is equally passionate about building peace between young people across conflict zones and through a “Let’s Cross the Borders” project, he connects young people from India and Pakistan, Palestine and Israel, Iraq and Iran, and the United States and North Korea.

Over a six-week programme, students are matched with a peace buddy from other countries with whom they closely interact. So far, Disale has initiated an incredible 19,000 students from eight countries into this programme.

Besides, with the use of the Microsoft Educator Community platform, the enterprising teacher spends his weekends taking students from schools around the world with depleted resources on virtual field trips. He is well-known for demonstrating scientific experiments from the science lab he has built in his home.

Disale was selected in the final 10 from over 12,000 nominations and applications from over 140 countries, alongside Olasunkanmi Opeifa from Nigeria, Jamie Frost from the UK, Carlo Mazzone from Italy, Mokhudu Cynthia Machaba from South Africa, Leah Juelke from the US, Yun Jeong-hyun from South Korea, Samuel Isaiah from Malaysia, Doani Emanuela Bertan from Brazil and one from Vietnam.

The Global Teacher Prize is paid out in equal instalments over 10 years, with the Varkey Foundation providing winners with financial counselling and support through an ambassadorial role for the profession.

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre

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By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments

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The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.

 

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