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Finalist Bijal Damani Inspires Student Change Makers

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Featured image from Bijal Damani’s Google+ account.

Bijal Damani is an education innovator and was a Top 50 Finalist for the 2015 Global Teacher Prize. Her work to change traditional education practices has benefited thousands of girls in India and has brought practical entrepreneurial skills to the forefront of Indian education.

Today, the eve of  Teachers’ Day in India, the Prime Minister of India honoured National Awardee Teachers including Bijal, urging them to keep abreast of technology, encourage creativity, and cultivate good habits among students.

Narendramodi PM Teachers India Bijal Damani

 

Photo from narendramodi.in

In addition to being a teacher of commerce and economics, Bijal runs the social entrepreneurship project Galaxy Bazaar, a market held during the festival of Diwali. The Bazaar is a hub for local artisans and wholesalers, providing all festival-related goods under one roof at less than retail prices. Her school generates a substantial profit from the project, and the profit is used to offer educational opportunities to underprivileged girls. The impact of this project will extend for decades and has won the People’s Award of the School Enterprise Challenge.

Bijal presents her results and classroom practices at international conferences, has had been featured in EdTechReview and in Forbes. Because it’s India Teacher Day this weekend, we touched base with Bijal and asked her some questions!

1. Was there a particularly special moment you can share with us since being announced as a Teacher Prize finalist?

There was news coverage in many renowned newspapers in my country but I was happy to hear when ShareAmerica wanted to interview me and write about me. ShareAmerica is the site managed by the Bureau of International Information Programs within the U.S. Department of State.

2. What’s one thing that people may not know about you?

Apart from being a business teacher, I am a black belt holder in Karate and brown belt holder in Judo. Apart from that, I also play Tabla (Indian Drums) and love writing Ghazals (Poems).

3. What was your own education experience like?

I had a fantastic schooling experience with Sister Nivedita School, in Rajkot. I was never interested in bookish knowledge. Though in India students are evaluated on the basis of examinations (based on rote learning), my teachers always understood and appreciated my inquiring mind. I clearly remember that during language classes when the teacher was teaching a poem on Spring, I would be lost looking outside the window writing a poem or forming a couple of Haikus. I would the show the poem/haiku to my teacher at the end of the class. My teachers always gave me the creative space that I needed. And I will always be grateful to them.

Now as a Teacher, I build on my own experience and respect the individual learning styles of my students. And it is amazing to see so many ‘non achievers’ on the tests turn out to be great learners.

4. What exciting and innovative projects have you been working on since your Global Teacher Prize announcement? Can you tell us more about them, aims and impact?

Presently I am continuing with two exciting projects which are very close to my heart. Project Galaxy Bazaar is a social entrepreneurship project which aims at bridging the opportunity gap in the community. It is the project for the students by the students. Students explore the market, get the goods from manufacturers or wholesalers and set up a bazaar. Students get a hands on experience of business by handling various tasks like stock taking, pricing, demand forecasting, understanding customer psychology, cash handling, accounting, marketing, team work etc. The net profits generated are donated to provide equal educational opportunity for underprivileged girls in the community. Project Galaxy Bazaar has managed to raise more than 42,00,000 Indian Rupees (Approx $70,000) and touch the lives of many children in the community. The beauty of this project is I can teach corporate social responsibility and business ethics to students who are going to be future entrepreneurs.

I would like to develop an E-Commerce site so that we can carry Galaxy Bazaar electronically year round.

My second project is  the Innovative Product and Marketing Competition wherein students look around the community, find a problem and solve the problem by creating an innovative product. They also create an entire marketing plan needed to launch the product e.g. newspaper advertisement, magazine advertisement, radio jingle, website, social media advertisement etc. I have a bank of more than 75 such innovative product ideas with me. This project helps students  solve a great deal because now they have started looking at the PROBLEM as an OPPORTUNITY to INNOVATE. I would like to convert some of these ideas into real marketable products. That is the next goal for this project.

Follow her on twitter @bijaldamani

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Bio: You can learn more about Teacher Prize finalist Bijal Damani in her Teacher Prize profile.

 

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