Inspirational Indian village teacher Ranjitsinh Disale wins US $1million Global Teacher Prize and gives half to fellow finalists

Indian village teacher Ranjitsinh Disale, who transformed the life chances of young girls at the Zilla Parishad Primary School, Paritewadi, Solapur, Maharashtra, India, has been named the winner of the Global Teacher Prize 2020, in partnership with UNESCO. 

Mr Disale announced during the live virtual ceremony that he would share half of his prize award with the other exceptional top 10 finalists, resulting in the other nine finalists receiving just over US$55,000 each. This is the first time in the Global Teacher Prize’s six-year history that the overall winner has shared the prize money with other finalists.

The US$1 million award established in Dubai by the Varkey Foundation, celebrates inspirational and dedicated teachers from all over the world who are making a powerful impact in the life of their students and the community. Mr Disale was selected from over 12,000 nominations and applications from over 140 countries around the world.

When Ranjitsinh arrived at the Zilla Parishad Primary School in 2009 it was a dilapidated building, sandwiched between a cattle shed and a storeroom. Most of the girls were from tribal communities where school attendance could sometimes be as low as 2% and teenage marriage was common. For those that did make it to school, the curriculum was not in their primary language (Kannada), leaving many students unable to learn at all.

Ranjitsinh was determined to turn this around, moving to the village and going to great efforts to learn the local language. Ranjitsinh then not only translated the class textbooks into his pupils’ mother tongue but also embedded them with unique QR codes to give students access to audio poems, video lectures, stories and assignments. Crucially, Ranjitsinh would also change the content, activities and assignments in the QR coded textbooks to create a personalized learning experience for each student. Further to this, he upgraded the QR Coded Textbooks with an immersive reader and Flipgrid tools to aid girls with special needs. 

The impact of Ranjitsinh’s interventions has been extraordinary: there are now no teenage marriages in the village and 100 per cent attendance by girls at the school. The school was also recently awarded the best school in the district with 85% of his students achieving A grades in annual exams. One girl from the village has now graduated from University, something seen as an impossible dream before Ranjitsinh arrived. 

On winning the Global Teacher Prize 2020Ranjitsinh Disale said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed education and the communities it serves in a multitude of ways. But in this hard time, teachers are giving their best to make sure every student has access to their birthright of a good education. 

Teachers are the real change-makers who are changing the lives of their students with a mixture of chalk and challenges. They always believe in giving and sharing. I believe, together, we can change this world because sharing is growing.”  

For the first time, the Global Teacher Prize announcement was made at a virtual ceremony broadcast from the Natural History Museum in London, with comedian, actor, writer and presenter Stephen Fry announcing the winner. The ceremony also included a special recognition for one teacher – a COVID hero – who has gone above and beyond to keep young people learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The US$45,000 COVID Hero Award, supported by CVC Capital Partners, was given to UK Maths teacher Jamie Frost, whose free DrFrostMaths became a lifeline for students shut out of classrooms all around the world.