Mrs. Neeru Dutta Sharma - A journey from doing a hunger strike in order to get higher education to shaping young minds today.
As Octavia Butler has famously said - “In order to rise from its own ashes, a Phoenix first must burn.” The story of Mrs. Neeru Dutta Sharma is itself an inspiration. From doing a hunger strike in order to get higher education to educating and shaping young minds today, Mrs. Neeru Dutta Sharma, Principal of Kimberley The International School is truly a force to reckon with. She is indeed a living inspiration to everybody and a true Change Maker who believes that learning is a continuous process.
Question 1: Please let us know more about your journey, how and from where you started?
I have not only seen those days when girls were not allowed to go to school and getting higher education was a dream but also have gone through the same. I had to fight for my rights and life has been full of challenges. Going to college was a very big task when the family was not in favor. But I was also determined to go to college, I had to do a hunger strike to fulfill my demands to get an education. Overcoming a great opposition from the family, I completed my post-graduation in Economics and accomplished bank exams for a banking job. I had seen my grandmother’s change in her behavior when I started earning money. She would cook the best food for me because the family was going through financial difficulties. We are five siblings and I am the one who got the highest education and settled in a bank job. After one year there was a marriage proposal for me and all the arrangements for the wedding were done by me only because my two brothers were in Europe and could not come for some reason and younger brother and sister were too young. But after marriage, I had to give up my job as my husband was not in favor of working women. But I didn’t give up learning and kept on studying with correspondence like journalism and Sanskrit classes. I had seen lots of ups and downs in my married life and thought of starting a career in teaching at the age of 38 and finished and B.Ed and M.Ed.In this course of time, my husband passed away and I moved to a boarding school with my two children and got a chance to learn the international curriculum. After that, I never looked back and kept positive thinking. Travelling and working in many parts of the world made me a better teacher and a capable Principal. My expertise is in international curricula like Cambridge education and International Baccalaureate. It was not easy to reach here, where I am now. I am financially independent, professionally strong and emotionally balanced. Life has taught me many lessons and given me a lot of opportunities to enhance my knowledge and chance to travel in 45 countries to learn about the education systems.
Question 2: What advice would you give to a new teacher?
My mantra to new teachers is punctuality and commitment. More than knowledge teachers need to be caring, committed and punctual.
Question 3: What would be your ideal school environment, and how would you encourage that kind of culture?
The ideal school environment is where teachers take their own responsibility and there is no requirement of supervision. I would love to encourage this kind of culture in India. In Finland, school teachers are given full freedom to create their own curriculum and follow.
Question 4: Please let us know how you would reach out to people from various demographics to make sure all students and community members are included?
India is a vast country, it is not easy to reach various demographics but at the same time, not impossible too. I would spread my voice to all students and communities through media, write-ups or by the digital world.
Question 5: What message would you like to share with aspiring teachers?
When we decide to be a teacher, we should be a teacher by heart not just by profession. If they have already aspired then there is no message for them, they should always stay with this aspiration.
Question 6: What kind of support you can provide to teachers and fellow educators?
As we all know sharing is caring, I always enjoyed sharing my experiences. I was lucky to work in countries like Botswana, China, and the USA. I believe in sharing innovative ways to improve the teaching of students and leading schools to inspire anyone seeking to better their work. I am living my dreams and I wish all women could live their dreams.
My message to all teachers and fellow educators is to stay passionate, keep motivating, be an inspiration to others and always have empathy with children.
Question 7: Do you feel there are any gaps in the present education system? If so, how do you feel one can fill those gaps?
I believe in lifelong learning so I am still trying to acquire knowledge. I have a passion to improve the education system in India. This passion took me to many countries to learn new systems. I went all the way to Finland to learn as Finland has skill-based education which is unique in the whole world. And on the other hand, I experienced in the USA while working and visiting many State and private schools that they give a lot of emphasis on practical and research-based education from Primary onwards. My experience in China was totally different; they ensure full discipline and compulsory army training before graduating from school. This makes their lives positive and inculcates patriotic feelings for their nation. And children learn to respect each other and do not indulge in any crime. And I believe we should also prepare our children as good human beings and civilized people. There should be one month or two months compulsory army training should be for all children before passing out from schools to teach them discipline. The best part of my acquiring knowledge was when I was in Botswana (Africa). I learned that every child has learning potential. We need to motivate them to learn by caring and sharing. Every child has unique qualities and we need to recognize them and work on them.
Question 8: Your message to your readers.
Education is not merely getting degrees; it means the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits. True education is beyond earning degrees as I just mentioned it is more than bookish knowledge. Education means inculcating moral values, positive thinking, and attitude of helping, attitude of giving to society and ethical values. These kinds of students are only able to bring changes in society.
I like to conclude with this quote by Daniell Koepke, “You don’t have to solve your whole life overnight. And you don’t have to feel ashamed for being where you are. All you have to focus on is one small thing you can do today to get closer to where you want to be. Slowly and lightly, one step at a time. You can get there.”
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