After our parents, the people who most significantly impact our lives – and a life-long love or dislike for a particular subject – are our teachers. Teachers’ Day is an occasion to celebrate this unique role that gives adults the power to shape young minds and thereby the future of a country.
At every stage of life, the significance of the Day evolves but it never diminishes. For the middle-schoolers, it means getting roses and chocolates and making cards to profess their affection for their teachers. While for those in senior school, it is a day of role reversal and celebration. And when school and college become distant memories, our appreciation and respect for our teachers only grows.
The man behind it all
Though World Teachers’ Day falls on October 5, every country celebrates it on different dates. In India, it is observed on September 5 – the birthday of a great teacher, philosopher and statesman, Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan. Dr Radhakrishnan always held that “teachers should be the best minds in the country.”
Dr Radhakrishnan was the first Vice President of India (1952–1962) and the second President of India from 1962 to 1967. He was born in a village in the erstwhile Madras Presidency near the border of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. He was a bright student, who despite lack of finances, completed his education by winning scholarships. After completing his MA in Philosophy in 1908, Radhakrishnan taught the subject at Madras Presidency College.
He held the post of the Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University from 1931 to 1936 and succeeded Madan Mohan Malviya as the Vice-Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in 1939. He was knighted in 1931, was awarded the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India, in 1954, and made an honorary member of the British Royal Order of Merit in 1963.
The story goes that when Dr Radhakrishan became the President of India in 1962, his students approached him for permission to celebrate September 5 as a special day. But he in turn made a request of them, which was to observe September 5 “as Teachers’ Day,” to recognise the contribution of teachers to society.
How Teachers’ Day is celebrated
In India, Teachers’ Day is celebrated across schools on his birthday. Cultural programmes and events are organised in schools and colleges. Students bring flowers, sweets and cards for their teachers to express their gratitude and love. Senior students dress up in formals and take/supervise classes so that teachers can take a break and enjoy the celebrations. The role reversal also helps them put themselves in their teachers’ shoes.