Mr PM, I Want To Be A Teacher

(Pratyaksha Jha is a Class XI student of Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, New Delhi.)

I will be voting in the 2019 general elections. Many headlines in the last two days have suggested that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Teacher's Day address - that we the next-time voters, currently students, had to stay back in school for - had an underlying motive.

I entered the auditorium wondering if that is what this was. I left about 90 minutes later, chewing on the many pertinent points about the current state of education in our country that he had raised.

It was a slightly disoriented crowd that sat down to watch the screening of Mr. Modi's speech at my school, the reason being a complete change in school timings and schedule for the day. The promise of his eloquence and expertise in speechmaking, well known to all, was not enough to quell an initial sense of indignation that we were being made to stay in school till 5 in the evening. It was only when the program began that this indignation seemed to melt away into curiosity and enthusiasm.

A brief address by Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani was followed by several school students speaking on the life of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. When Mr. Modi finally began his speech, he started off by talking about the position teachers occupy in our country today.

He brought forth what I believe is an extremely pressing issue - a massive decline in the number of people who want to take up teaching as a profession today. He had my attention from that moment on - my life's ambition is a career in academics and teaching and I wanted to raise my hand and say "Mr Prime Minister, I will be a teacher."

I thought his point that every educated, literate person, irrespective of his or her profession, can take out time out to teach schoolchildren for one 'period' every week, was extremely simple but effective.

In the Prime Minister's question-answer session with schoolchildren, it was gratifying to see the man and not the politician. The questions ranged from the expected and the generic to some that brought up issues of great relevance. Intermingled with things that one would expect to hear during a Teacher's Day address were some important issues that the Prime Minister brought up - conservation of the environment and educating the girl child among them.

Here was the country's leader taking the hand of the country's young. Yes, it was an important moment. In the auditorium, the yawns had ceased long ago. We were listening. The somewhat reluctant crowd that sat down to listen to the speech, emerged seemingly pensive and lost in thought.

If Mr. Modi set out to leave a lasting impact on students through this address, whatever may have been the reason behind his wanting to do so, I daresay he achieved his goal.

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