Thousand Splendid Steps
Of Bringing About Empathetic Change

“Path to overcome a challenge starts with acknowledging that the challenge exists.”

Not all heroes wear capes, now do they? And neither does the hero of our story. A warm hearted woman, who understands that teachers are constantly under a lot of pressure teaching multiple subjects, handling school admin work and several government initiatives along the way. Mrs. Rekha Srivastav is a dedicated leader whose mere words explaining her day will fill you with high energies. That’s what happened with us when our team sat down to hear about the transformational work she is working towards in the Kanpur district.

Mrs. Rekha Srivastava, a lady with strong will and immense wisdom, is the principal of District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) Kanpur Nagar. She believes that with the right attitude and an open mind, even the most difficult challenge

can be overcome. Sharing with us an instance of a school located in a remote area whose teachers were almost on the verge of giving up and quitting the school after facing commuting challenges to reach school on time due to inaccessible roads. Mrs. Srivastava swayed the group with positivity and high spirits in the first meeting itself. She has a strong belief that any path to overcome a challenge starts with acknowledging that the challenge exists. She took the group into confidence by listening empathetically to their struggles and allowing them to attend school with flexible hours without hampering students’ learning which led to good results. And that changed it all for that school, its teachers and especially its students.

Ma’am presenting a booklet at a block level event

Rekha ma’am considers listening with empathy to be the much needed attribute in a change maker like herself and to facilitate a smooth and uninterrupted flow of information. She has set up multiple meetings with different agendas. Some focus strictly on maintaining the momentum and motivating the stakeholders. She also leads a dedicated Core Team, comprising 3 BEOs, 1 SRG and 2 DIET mentors who work towards laying down the foundation with a strong strategy and action plan ensuring that teachers understand and are able to implement various schemes and policies. At monthly Janpad (district level) meetings including ARGs, SRGs and DIET mentors she makes sure there’s a strong agenda that gets taken care of by the end. It proves to be a space that works wonders for them, as most of the time it changes into a workshop where every time 5 blocks present the work and new initiatives that are being done in their respective blocks and the positive effects it’s creating. This exercise makes sure that their efforts are acknowledged and creates the healthy competition environment in the district as she says,

“Vo meeting khush hokar aate hai, aur khush hi jate hai. Vo bojh nahi balki aura acha karne ka motivation leke jate hai.”

“They come to meetings with happy faces and leave in the end with the same feeling. They walk away not with burden but with motivation to give their best.”

For successfully implementing the instructions that come from higher education authorities, the team lead by Rekha ma’am holds a weekly meeting where they create curiosity among the BEOs and DIET Mentors about the same. And the best way to achieve that is by opening up the conversation with a thoughtful question, for example what steps will they take to overcome a particular challenge that makes them wonder about the same. This in turn increases the probability of an open mind approach and acceptability among them.

The Core Group

2019-20 has been the time period that saw a shift in the established norms, where the challenge wasn’t just limited to fighting the virus, but it brought along the wave of unexpected consequences in the form of emotional setbacks, geographical distance, lethargy due to repetitive routine work, work-home imbalance etc created havoc at all levels. In order to stay connected and support students and their parents, her team found point of contacts among the community who could reach out to them like- Gram Pradhan, the cook, ‘Shiksha MItra’ instead of pressurizing teachers to commute daily to their homes and assist them in whichever way they can.

 Rekha Ma’am interacting with teachers to understand the challenges

She is an epitome of inspiration and a perfect leader who knows very well that overburdening her subordinates with the pressure of making things happen will make any challenge more difficult to overcome. Instead, listening with empathy and making the maze simpler for her team and the teachers is what this leader stands for and the reason we idolize Mrs. Rekha Srivastava as the hero of this story.

Sonal Bhasin

Sonal Bhasin

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