Two UAE-based school principals were among 10 globally to have won the Indian Humanitarian Award 2020. Anubha Nijhawan, Principal of Indian Public High School, Ras Al Khaimah, and Pramod Mahajan, Director-Principal of Sharjah Indian School, were selected from over 1,200 school head teachers from India, the UAE, Nepal, Bangladesh and Maldives.
Organised by the Global Talk Education Foundation, a training and assessment body under the Government of India, a jury of specialists selected these head teachers as “they found a humanitarian streak in them while going forward with their teaching and learning processes”.
Compassion amid Covid crisis
Anubha Nijhawan is no stranger to awards. She received the Indian national teacher’s award in 2006, getting the honour from the late Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
Her renewed efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic have brought her another honour. “I am very passionate about teaching and education. It brings me mental satisfaction. But during Covid-19 times, helping and caring for others and being compassionate towards their problems has been key. So we’ve tried to establish strong connections, especially with those who have been in dire straits due to medical or financial problems.”
She believes that education has a very significant role in teaching students the core values of life.
“Teachers have emerged like warriors, particularly in these challenging times. I am humbled by this award, but I feel a natural urge to do everything possible to alleviate the condition of my students and their parents. Schools play an important role in students’ educational achievement, health, and wellbeing. That feeling goes beyond any award and is not intended for one.”
She said she runs the school “like a personal home with a personal touch and everybody is like a family”. “I have always maintained that education of a child must not be stopped and should continue irrespective of whatever conditions one is faced with. Therefore, we have provided Internet connections and even tablets to parents who cannot afford them or have come to us with their problems narrating financial distress.”
Pramod Mahajan said the schooling community has to constantly update “humanitarian trends”. “Covid-19 has thrown additional challenges at the teaching community. So being able to implement changes effectively so that the student community can benefit in the maximum possible way is imperative.”
The educator explained how the school identified students who needed motivation based on their examination performances and then aided them to bridge the gaps. “I feel every child is equally good but what they eventually turn out to be greatly depends on the kind of motivation they receive. Therefore, we have incorporated concepts like ‘hole in the wall’ by Sugata Mitra that throws light on the idea of minimum intervention … so that they understand and learn on their own. It emphasises unsupervised study rather than imposing.”
Another progressive concept is ‘school in the cloud’. This explores the impact on students by creating child-driven learning environments to be able to think critically. “Develop questions that encourage children to offer theories, work collaboratively and use reason.”