His unconventional method of teaching helped him transform a government school in a way that two shifts were needed to manage the rush. It also earned him a Fulbright Fellowship in US. Jibran Nazir reports
In 2008, after completing his graduation from Baramulla, Waseem Aziz went to face a job interview in Delhi.
When the interviewers asked him a few questions, he stood up and gave them demonstration on a whiteboard.
One of the interviewers told Waseem, ‘You will make a great teacher one day’.
Later, when he was called to join the company, he chose to teach instead.
Same year Waseem joined St. Joseph’s Higher Secondary School, Baramulla as a teacher. Six years later Waseem was appointed in the state education department.
Recently, Waseem got selected for Fulbright Fellowship Program in United States, a first one for a Kashmiri teacher. “
Waseem’s journey as a model teacher started two years back from two dilapidated buildings, housing government high school, Bunglowbagh (locally known as Jabri School). The school had a few hundred students, most of them from economically weaker sections of the society.
“I was keen to use my experience as teacher in a top private school for these underprivileged kids,” said Waseem.
But given the limited resources at his disposal, replicating a financially sound private school was not easy. “In first few days I realised that these kids are eager to learn. In fact their parents wanted them to study hard too,” said Waseem.
Then defying conventions Waseem began applying his ideas in the school. The first thing Waseem did was to introduce audio/visual methods of teaching in classes. “I burrowed a projector from a friend and started using inside the classroom,” said Waseem.
In less than two years, Waseem’s school was recognized as a ‘model’ high school by the government.
“It made us feel proud of what we were doing,” said Mrs Jameela Showkat, headmistress of the school.
But apart from recognition there was no up gradation in budget allocation. “We were used to work under tight budgets. So it was not an issue for us,” said Waseem.
The next change came when Waseem introduced school diaries, helping students to feel connected. “They started maintaining their school dairies regularly,” said Waseem.
The introduction of school dairies in a government school was never done before.
Waseem feels that the current educational system is obsolete; it has not been up graded accordingly.
“In last fifty years we could only replace chalks with markers and black boards with white boards. Rest is same,” rues Waseem. “We are far behind global standards of education.”
A passionate teacher Waseem rejected lucrative offers from outside the state, and decided to dedicate himself to help under privilege kids grow.
During his college days Waseem was sought by his classmates, who would ask him to repeat lectures for them.
“They would find my way of explaining more comprehensive than our professors,” recalls Waseem. “I was always keen to grab a chalk and lecture my classmates.”
In September, on Teacher’s Day eve, Waseem prepared students to participate at an event in Kashmir University. “It was satisfying to see those kids perform with confidence in front of a huge gathering,” said Waseem.
As the news of Waseem’s success story spread in the area, request for admissions peaked.
“The number of applications doubled within just two years,” said Waseem. “We lacked space to accommodate such a huge rush.”
But Waseem was in no mood to disappoint anybody, so he started taking classes in two shifts. “The administration responded positively,” said Waseem.
The new timing for school before recent unrest was from 7 am till 5 pm. “Almost every staff member volunteered for this noble cause,” said Waseem.
The school now conducts entrance test for admissions, a first for a government run school in Kashmir.