Having started with teaching her own children, she is now the director of three schools.
“Creativity is the key to success in the future, and primary education is where teachers can bring creativity in children at that level,” said the late APJ Abdul Kalam, the former President of India. The value of this statement is not lost on Nisha Jaiswal, a 46-old-year woman in the small town of Hazaribagh, Jharkhand, who has been working in this direction for the last 20 years. Having started with teaching her own children, she taught in a tiny garage school before becoming the director of three schools. All her efforts are geared towards improving the standard of education in her small town.
Born and raised in Girdhi, another small town in Jharkhand, Nisha is the eldest among three sisters. Talking about her family, she says, “My mother, a housewife, was a great source of inspiration. My father was a Hindi film director. Therefore, as a child, I visited movie sets on several occasions and also had a chance to meet quite a few actors.”
She was married at the age of 18 and therefore completed her education after marriage. She was fully supported by her in-laws and husband. She says about her days as a young mother, “My first born was a boy, and teaching him used to be my favourite thing to do. Every time I would go to drop him to school, I would stay back and talk to his principal, Mrs Verma (the owner of Wonderland School), about my love for teaching. Then my daughter was born in 1995 and by the time both my kids were relatively grown up, I was still very young and had a lot of free time. In early 1998, I asked Mrs Verma for a teaching opportunity. She readily agreed and that was my first experience as a teacher.”
Wonderland, Mrs Verma’s Montessori school, was originally a little garage in her backyard, and this was where Nisha had her first official teaching stint, lasting a little over a year.
Her love for spending time with small kids and hoping to make a difference in the way the tiny tots were taught made her think about opening her own school. She says,
I wanted a place where children would love to come every day and studies would be fun, along with co-curricular activities.
For this endeavour, she received wholehearted support from her principal as well as from her family, especially brother-in-law Prashant and husband Manish.
Despite all this support, Nisha could not escape the initial jitters. However, her passion pushed her to continue.
About the time when she was selling the forms, she says,
I still remember that day. I was sitting all alone and selling the forms, waiting for hours for people to drop in. On the first day, only two forms were sold, and I felt really disappointed. The next day was worse as no one showed up and I felt like giving up and couldn’t sleep the whole night.
It was on the third day that “things changed as it was five forms and then it picked up from there. Finally, nearly 30 forms were sold and 25 children did take admission.”
The next challenge lay in figuring out how to be different from the others and produce better results, all while keeping the children’s best interests in mind. Therefore, Nisha visited all the good Montessori schools to observe and compare their teaching patterns. It was only after six months that she was ready with the syllabus, a different teaching method, and her own books and copies. With 25 students, she started a new phase of life. She remarks, “It was just the beginning and there were many more challenges to come.”
One hurdle in her way was parents, and she states, “Some parents were stuck with an old traditional method of education and were not open to the idea of an interactive classroom, which made me go berserk. Initially, dealing with some parents was a real task; they had this notion that once a child was admitted to school their responsibility was over. It was difficult to make them understand that without their cooperation nothing could be done.”
However, what kept her going was
“little toddlers with their innocent smiles and their queries. And now I had not one but 25 of them. I wanted to fulfil the promise made to the parents and repay the trust they had shown in me.” All in all, she was happy with her decision to make a difference.
With time, Little Angels grew into a full-fledged Montessori, different from the others in town. Generally, Montessori schools would be small buildings with seven–eight rooms but Little Angels, a heritage building on three acres, seems straight out of a fairytale, with murals depicting poems, colourful paint on the wall, a huge playground, and young and energetic teachers.
Nisha has come a long way in the last 19 years, and her Montessori school has now grown into a higher secondary school. It is now not just one but two schools — Angel High School and Delhi Public School — which she heads.
On being able to afford all the necessary facilities, Nisha says, “One should never compromise with the amenities a school should have nor with its maintenance nor in getting learned and hardworking faculty and their pay scale to get results. In order to do so, the fee structure should be enough to take care of the needs. But that really does not mean that we are not flexible with the fee structure or do not give scholarships to deserving students. We give relief in fees in case of financial problems, distribute free books and copies to the needy, and the economically weaker students get free education as per the guidelines of the government.”
The three school have approximately 200 employees, inclusive of teaching and non-teaching staff. The teaching staff is employed as per CBSE norms.
Talking about education in small towns, she says, “Education makes the biggest contribution to any profession and the country owes all its development to this sector, but in smaller towns like ours, teachers do not get their due respect and credit, which is very sad.”
Another big problem she highlights is that “Most of the students are first-generation learners, hence we get very little support from their parents. They are eager to teach but not ready to be learners themselves, not willing to give time and abide by the rules.”
Nisha’s journey from being a teacher to a director of three schools is filled with thousands of stories. About herself, she proudly says,
I am the mother to my lovely 5,000 children, who are going to be future doctors, engineers, scientists, actors, and chefs, and make our country proud.
Her dream to open her own school could never have come true without the backing of her family.“For a woman to do well professionally, it is important to have a supportive family. I was backed by my husband and my in-laws, who supported me all the way and never cribbed while I was away at school and they took care of my children and home.”
Lastly, Nisha says she is not done yet as, “I won’t stop learning, growing, exploring. I want this family to grow from 5,000 to 50,000 and keep on contributing to our society in small ways,” and reminds of the famous lines by Robert Frost:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep/ But I have promises to keep/ And miles to go before I sleep/ And miles to go before I sleep.