Archana Nooguri, headmistress of a government primary school in Mancherial, Telangana, has been tirelessly working towards increasing the enrollment numbers and reducing dropouts from her school by arranging transportation and extra classes using her own money.
Archana Nooguri has been a teacher at the Mandal Parishad primary school in Rebbenapally, Mancherial in Telangana for more than 20 years. Teaching Telugu, English, and Mathematics, she says that ever since she was a little girl, she had a single goal in life – to be a teacher.
“I became a government school teacher when I was 19. I didn’t even do my graduation then as I wanted to start teaching as soon as I could. All I did was complete the teachers’ training programme and appear for its qualifying exam,” Archana tells The Better India.
On 5 September 2023, she received the National Teachers Award from President Droupadi Murmu at the Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi. These awards are conferred by the Ministry of Education to the finest school teachers in the country who have improved the quality of education and brought about change in the lives of their students. This award was the culmination of her hard work and dedication towards the teaching profession.
The 42-year-old headmistress first started as a primary school class teacher here in Telangana. From a non-descript centre of learning with just a few students, this educator has transformed the school into a mecca of learning, offering holistic growth through a variety of extra-curricular activities.
The seeds of change were sown in Archana’s mind at home. She saw her grandfather, a teacher, serve students. “My grandfather would teach a lot of tribal students. He used to teach them at our house and helped them in their higher studies. I aspired to be like him and help students,” adds the teacher.
Where it all began
Rebbenapally, where the school is located, faces a lot of challenges in terms of infrastructure, access to education, and healthcare to name a few. When Archana joined the school in November 2000, it had just 34 students.
Hailing from Mancherial district, she was acquainted with the troubles faced by the locals and why they weren’t sending their children to the school. She wanted to use the transformative power of education to help these students attend school daily.
“There are a few tribal hamlets in this village. The occupation of the residents is to collect raw materials from the forest. There are no transport facilities to these hamlets as they don’t even have a pucca road. When I joined, my first mission was to ensure that these children come to school,” says Archana to The Better India.
Archana embarked on a mission to get those children to school. She started visiting those tribal hamlets and spoke to the parents.
“They don’t have proper houses or even clothes to wear. They were not aware of the school as no one from there was enrolled. I visited them daily for 15 days to convince them. I told them how essential education is and how it can help their children lead a better life,” adds Archana.
She exalted the benefits of education and the change it enables.
“I would show them videos of people who came from similar backgrounds and are in a good position today. Through education, they were able to transform their lives. I urged these parents to give their children the same opportunity to progress,” she adds.
Many Problems Laced The Journey to Success
Archana was able to convince the parents and the children soon started coming to school. However, she soon started seeing students drop out. On enquiry, she realised that transportation was a major challenge. How would these children come to the school which was over 5 km away with just a kaccha road leading to it?
To solve this problem, Archana arranged an auto to pick up and drop off the students daily, at her own expense. Through her tireless efforts to ensure that the tribal students in the village are educated, she has increased the strength to 275 students today, with 103 being girls.
Apart from this, she also worked on developing the school infrastructure. For this, she enlisted the help of a former student of her school, Rajendra Prasad, who now lives abroad. NGOs like Bring a Smile Foundation, Padmavati Charitable Trust and local politicians also joined hands to support her.
She was able to procure a borewell, purified water plant, furniture, and most importantly, built a beautiful library with 1000 books, through their help.
“Rajendra has helped tremendously in the growth of the school. He is the person through whom we got most of the donations. The Washington Telangana Association (WATA) helped us get 40 benches for the school because of his efforts. A local MLA installed the borewell and an RO plant in the school,” she adds.
To make learning more fun, through digital technology and the central government’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) initiative, she procured five computers, two LED projectors and two additional classrooms.
The ICT Information and Communication Technology School Scheme was launched in December 2004 to provide opportunities to secondary stage students to mainly build their capacity on ICT skills and make them learn through the computer-aided learning process. She proudly states that her students are now able to use computers proficiently.
“We are living in an era of globalisation. To be a global citizen, digital education is a must. I want my students to know how to operate computers well and therefore, am exposing them to the technology at the grassroots level,” adds the headmistress.
Giving holistic education a must for this school
Smt. Archana Nooguri, a National Awardee Teacher 2023 from Telangana, works on improving enrolment rates & reducing dropouts. She develops low-cost teaching-learning material. She involved the community in setting up water purification plant, library etc.#OurTeachersOurPrerna… pic.twitter.com/eU7InH6xFN— Ministry of Education (@EduMinOfIndia) September 5, 2023
With more than 100 girl students, Archana wanted them to learn self-defence. She arranged for karate classes twice a week through a private instructor.
“Just having bookish knowledge is not enough. I want the students to excel in all aspects of life. Sports should play an important role in student’s lives. I arranged for a karate and dance class for students. The students have excelled in karate competitions at both state and national levels and one student even secured admission at a sports school in Hyderabad,” she adds.
At the parents’ request, Archana also introduced English as the medium of education at the school in 2016. She says that this is the first English medium government primary school in their district.
“Many parents were starting to enrol their children in private English schools. They wanted their wards to get educated in that language. So, we reached out to the government and got approval to start teaching in the medium then. This helped improve our enrollment numbers tremendously,” adds the educator.
Girija, a parent whose daughter is a first-generation student in the same district, feels that English is a must to succeed in life.
“After school, everyone has to study further in English. They have to attempt entrance exams in English. They also need to know the language to work anywhere and be equal to students who come from more privileged backgrounds. We don’t want our children to lose out on any opportunity just because they don’t know English. It opens doors to a better future,” adds Girija.
While the government provides two teachers, Archana has enlisted the services of four private teachers. She says that she pays salaries for two of them with the help of the NGOs and two from her own pocket. She spends more than Rs 20,000 from her own pocket for this, the transportation of students and extra classes.
“I know the importance of education, it is the only tool supporting me in life. The only way ahead for these students is education. I want every student to earn a good livelihood,” she adds.
Marking a Proud Legacy
Many of her students are today engineers, working in the private sector, and one is even in the army, she states with pride.
She also mentors teachers and helps them to embrace innovative pedagogical approaches and stay abreast of the latest advancements. She has published two papers in international journals, based on her learnings as a teacher in Mancherial 2017 and 2018. She has also authored a book called ‘Transforming India by means of National Education Policy 2020’.
The teacher is continuing her education today by pursuing a PhD in the ‘Role of education played for the socio-cultural, political and economic development of women’ from Shridhar University, Pilani, Rajasthan.
“As I was not able to finish my graduation as I started teaching at 19, I wanted to complete it. I have always been a curious person, wanting to learn new things. If I don’t keep updating and educating myself, how can I teach my children? To update my knowledge, I finished my graduation and am pursuing this PhD now,” she adds.
Meanwhile, she wants to open a school for orphans post her retirement.
“My father was so happy when I received this award. I want the parents of my students to feel the same happiness and pride in their children. That’s what I’m working tirelessly towards. Education is the only means to a better tomorrow,” says Archana.
Edited by Padmashree Pande