Beyond Teachers’ Day

K Rajeshwar Sharma

There is no one who was not guided or taught by a teacher. Everyone has a teacher or guru or mentor in his or her life. It is said that parents are the first teachers. Thomas Alva Edison, the great American inventor had no formal education but he had Nancy Elliot Edison, his mother as his one and only teacher. Letizia Ramolino mentored his son Napoleon, the French emperor. Lord Krishna was Arjuna’s guide or teacher. So was Aristotle to Alexander, the great.
The role of a teacher in one’s life is so important that one’s success or failure in life depends much on what one was taught. In India Teachers’ Day is celebrated every year on the 5th of September the birthday of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan the second President of India, who started his career as a teacher. He was not only a teacher but he was also a philosopher, politician and a writer. In recognition of his dedicated work towards the improvement of education particularly in India, Dr Radhakrishnan’s birthday was declared as Teachers’ Day in India to honour him as well as all the teachers in India.
The first Teachers’ Day was celebrated on his 77th birthday in 1962 when he became the President of India. Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born on 5th September 1888 at Tirutani, Madras (Now Tamil Nadu) in a poor Bramhin family. As he was a bright student, Radhakrishnan supported most of his education with scholarships from the Government. Although his father wanted him to be a pPriest, he continued to study higher till he got his MA degree in Philosophy. In 1909, he joined the Madras Presidency College as Assistant Lecturer, where he mastered the classics of Hindu Philosophy such as the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, Brahmasutra and commentaries of Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhava.
In 1918, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was appointed as Professor of Philosophy at the University of Mysore. After three years of serving at the university, he was nominated as Professor of Philosophy at the University of Calcutta in 1921. His book “Indian Philosophy” was published in 1923. The book was hailed and described as “a philosophical classic and a literary masterpiece”. In 1931, Dr. Radhakrishnan became the Vice Chancellor of Andhra University. Then he became the Vice Chancellor of Benares Hindu University in 1939. After independence, Dr. Radhakrishnan was appointed as Ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1949. During his tenure, a strong foundation of friendship with the Soviet Union was laid by him. In 1952, Dr. Radhakrishnan was elected as Vice President of India under Dr. Rajendra Prasad the first President of India. After serving two terms as Vice President of India, Dr. Radhakrishnan was elected as the second President of India in 1962.
He retired as President of India in 1967, and passed away on 17th April 1975 in Madras (Now Chennai). His contributions in the field of education earned Dr. Radhakrishnan Bharat Ratna the highest civilian award. He even received the knighthood from the British emperor King George V in 1931 for his excellence in teaching. Not only was Dr. Radhakrishnan a teacher and philosopher, but he was also a great Parliamentarian.  As the Chairman of Rajya Sabha, he managed to conduct the proceedings of the Upper House smoothly.
Teaching is a noble, selfless profession. In teaching, the more knowledge you impart, the more respected you are. In the ancient Gurukul system, the guru was teacher, mentor and parent. Students were taught life skills and religious education at ashrams. They learned how to behave with others and how to cook, clean and take care of their ashrams besides martial arts to defend themselves against wild animals and thugs. The relationship between guru and his student was a divine relationship. Students worshipped their gurus. Nowadays such a divine relationship is hard to find anywhere perhaps because there is no deserving teacher who can command divine respect from his students.
In Manipur Teachers’ Day is celebrated by the Education Department every year on the 5th of September to honour a few selected teachers in recognition of their “dedicated work”. Students in private schools as well as Government schools celebrate Teachers’ Day on other days with dance, music and skits to honour their teachers. It is perhaps the only day when teachers are remembered and respected for their role in building a Nation, or else they are in oblivion, for they have no bureaucratic power. Not only is Teachers’ Day observed to remember and respect teachers for their role in building a Nation, but it is also observed to remind teachers of their great responsibilities to the society and to the Nation as well.
In States like Manipur, it is often reported in newspapers about schools and colleges where teachers were found to be absent or missing for days or even months. It is also said that there are some “Ghost Professors” in some colleges in the hill districts of Manipur. One may wonder whether these unscrupulous and irresponsible teachers deserve to be honoured on Teachers’ Day. Schools and colleges in Manipur cannot afford to cohabit with recalcitrant teachers. They need to be revamped thoroughly. Or else the National Education Policy 2020 will not be more than a white elephant.
There is a need for a viable system to continuously assess the performance of teachers and Professors in schools and colleges. Teachers should take the responsibilities for drop outs and failures of students in their schools and colleges. They should be rewarded for the achievements of their students as it is done in games and sports. When Mary Kom won bronze medal in boxing in the Olympics, her coach Mr Ibomcha was also rewarded. With the same spirit of encouragement, teachers of a particular school or college should also be rewarded when its students become toppers in university examinations, scientists, and crack the civil service examinations. On the other hand, teachers should always try to keep in touch with their former students so that they should make some contributions to their alma mater as it is done in Harvard, MIT and other universities in the United States.