Zareena Qureshi is the principal of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya Nagpur. She has achieved National Incentive Award from Commissioner Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti and achieved National Award from UNFPA for best work in India for Adolescence Education Program. She is a Master trainer of the Adolescence Education Programme. Qureshi is known for raising the quality of education in school. Excerpts from an exclusive interaction
With nearly 35 years of educational experience, you have done wonders in the educational field winning many awards. Apart from academic results you also concentrate on students’ overall development – something rare among teaching professionals. How would you define yourself as a different teaching professional from this perspective?
Yes, my teaching journey is exceptional. It’s been over three decades and I am still enjoying this golden period of my life. I believe it’s a path carved for the youth of India and the students of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Nagpur graced my journey. As a teacher, I always believed in creating an environment that encouraged students to seek knowledge that embarks on a brighter and safer career choice. My teaching includes the inculcation of life skills, moral values, behaviourism, cognitive, constructivism, humanism, transmission, development and nurturing of talent. My eternal zeal to excel in every field makes my work praiseworthy and rewards me with prestigious awards. This token of appreciation motivates me to focus more on the overall development of students making me a special working persona with a holistic vision.
You played a key role in organising the National Youth Parliament of Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, a programme initiated by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, what important role does this Parliament play and how does it benefit students?
The purpose of conducting the ‘Youth Parliament’ is to educate students about the parliamentary functioning and procedures. The motto is to create awareness among students about public issues and form their opinions on the shrine of democracy training the student the technique of group discussion. The Parliament further provides an opportunity for students to be involved in school governance and decision-making.
As a Master trainer of the Adolescence Education Programme, how do you teach or introduce this topic to students? Is there a certain curriculum for the subject and also how often do schools take this topic seriously?
Having done my masters in Adolescence Educational Training Programme, I now play this important role at the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti programme. I have successfully conducted many training programs for nodal teachers and supported the functioning of trained teachers and the group of peer educators. I believe in developing a conducive environment for adolescents’ educational programmes in school and as a principal, I did that for my school by encouraging students to maximise their participation in planning, designing and implementing scholastic and co-scholastic activities.
Today, along with students it’s important to make their parents aware of adolescent education because, in the end, they are the ones to foster the child. So, I concentrated on advocating for parents along with teachers and other community leaders. The advocating meetings which I conducted at the school, district and community levels received a great response. In a nutshell, my training programme helped in creating a supportive environment for capacity-building training and formed networks that encouraged and promoted healthy living, sustaining motivation. Further, the organised community camps on adolescent learning include activities and case studies among the students and parents for understanding and decoding the stereotyped myths and challenges.
Poor quality education is leading to poor learning outcomes in India. Also, many countries are still lagging in the race for quality education. Amidst such circumstances, you are known for introducing many innovative ideas for raising the quality of education in schools. It would be great to know that in detail.
Today, as the world is technology driven, introducing high-tech classrooms helps students with digitalised high-end learning. So, to enhance the actual learning and develop interest among students against traditional teaching practices, our Vidyalaya has been converted into a digital learning hub with the support of Nagpur’s district collector. A Rs one crore help from the centre to develop the school into a digital hub transformed our classrooms, allowing student-teacher interaction like never before. Our labs and departments too have interactive boards, and on the whole our school is a broadband-facilitated institute. Today I can proudly say my students are exposed to tabs laptops, LCDs and projectors for teaching, learning and doubt clearance. Our digital mission is supported by Atal Tinkering Lab, Allen Kota Faculty, Avanti Classes, and Ex-Navodaya Foundation Classes.
You are known for running the ‘Vigyan Jyoti Project’ along with 50 girls that promote the study of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) among girls. Please explain that in detail.
To attract women into the STEM field, the Department of Science & Technology has started Vigyan Jyoti Programme. Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti is implementing the project in partnership with DST in Vigyan Jyoti Initiative.
Vigyan Jyoti Scheme is aimed at bringing gender parity to STEM. The main objective of this component is:
– To motivate girls to adopt careers in STEM
– To enhance girls’ participation in underrepresented areas of STEM
– To ensure gender parity
To provide the enabling environment that adds to STEM education
– Exposure to various scientific careers
– A platform that counsels students as well as parents
So, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya Nagpur is one of the knowledge hubs promoting this amazing, unique project. Other monthly activities under Vigyan Jyoti are Science Camp, Visit of KPs, Workshop at ATL, Interaction with Role Model, Student-Parent Counselling, Visit to other R&D Lab and Industries, NGOs, Lectures and Special Classes. To add to this a scholarship of Rs 1,000 per month and study materials worth Rs 8,000 per year are provided by DST to girl students.
You recently participated in the contribution of women’s programmes in all walks of life, including the 108th Indian Science Congress. How important are such kinds of programmes for future educational developments?
Yes, I did participate in the programme, as such gatherings are someway helping to motivate a girl student to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It creates a foundation that inspires them to make their career in STEM, providing an enabling environment for scientific and technology-driven careers. So, participation in such programmes plays a key role in my educational vision. The ‘Vigyan Jyoti Scholar’ programme is one initiative that was initiated after interacting with eminent scientist at the 108th National Science Congress organised by Nagpur University.
You play a significant role in nurturing young talent from rural areas. What does this initiative involve?
This initiative is special as we are providing excellent quality modern education, including a stronger cultural component, inculcation of values, environmental awareness, adventurous activities and physical education among talented children predominantly belonging to rural areas. It’s about significantly promoting national integration giving emphasis on the overall development of students.
You are known for producing outstanding academic results and also being accoladed with awards for the same. It would be great if you put light on this achievement.
My goal is to excel and evolve as the best in every under-taken task. As an educator all my career policies are child-centred. I believe in working continuously for producing an excellent outcome. As a principal today my biggest motto is quality results in CBSE Board and Non-Board classes. Currently, my efforts are in the same direction and with great support from my Navodaya team, the outstanding outcomes were considered by the Ministry of Education. Achieving this national accolade was not like having a cup of tea. Preparation, execution and identification of challenges were the baby steps leading me and my excellent teaching team to achieve desired outcomes. Student cooperation also played a major role and cannot be side-lined. The CBSE has also reckoned the assessment as a ‘par excellence’ assessment. My administration is based on the idea of flexibility and all the staff members complete their work within the stipulated time frame.
Apart from just teaching, your other academic contribution also include providing guidance to the teachers for professional development. How do you manage this role?
I believe in encouraging teachers and providing them with a number of opportunities to enhance their professional path. Regular staff meetings, guidance and discussion related to various issues and doubts help me update teachers with the latest development in the field of teaching and pedagogy. I also believe in encouraging the teaching staff to adopt technology in the teaching-learning process. Things observed and learned in various training programmes also add to the guidance of the teachers. The training programmes that played a key role in helping the teaching staff include NVS, Indian Institute of Public Administration, Delhi, IIM Bhubaneswar, IIM Nagpur, Academy Nainital, Manali, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, NVS Noida, Chandigarh, Haridwar, Ghaziabad, Delhi, etc.
You are actively involved in participating and initiating social causes in Vidyalaya and nearby villages. From managing an educational institute to a social cause how do you play this dual role?
As a conservationist, I believe in protecting our environment and ecosystems. So, I make sure to actively participate in an initiative that supports the environmental cause. I strongly support the government campaign as well. The ‘Clean India Green India’ campaign functioning in our school is one of the models our school follows. Making the surroundings eco-friendly is the core vision I carry daily and subsequently assure to spread the cleanliness awareness among all. We have seen the villages lack a sense of cleanliness, so educating nearby villages is my biggest motto and I am doing it in the best possible ways carrying rallies for sanitation. The other social cause includes developing Navodaya Vidyalaya as a pacesetter for social activities. The school helps rural kids to use computers, the library and other resources. Stationery is also distributed to rural students. Other school initiatives include awareness campaigns regarding voting and cleanliness, cleaning of water bodies, cleaning villages and hospitals etc.