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Mother Teresa, the Educator

posted Sep 1, 2017, 8:33 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 1, 2017, 8:33 AM ]
As we remember our beloved Mother Teresa on her 20th death anniversary, which coincides with Teacher's Day, it would be appropriate to recall her role as a model teacher. She began her religious training in Dublin, and later came to India to continue her formation. After making her vows as a religious sister, she was assigned to teach at a girl's high school in Bengal. She later went on to become the Principal. She was a loved teacher and skillfully combined spiritual growth with intellectual development. 

Her exemplary life indicates that despite being enclosed within a safe and secure academic environment in the convent school, she was open and attentive to the happenings outside the walls. This is perhaps one of the important lessons she teaches us. Teachers and students can grow accustomed to thinking that a major part of education happens within the walls of the classroom. It is when textbooks take precedence over life that education ceases, and brainwashing begins. It is very important for teachers and students alike to always remain open and sensitive to the happenings in their surroundings. Education happens to a fuller extent, when what is learnt in the classroom is applied to regular life. 

In principle, both teacher and student may learn of the health hazards of littering and uncleanliness, but in practice, the very same teacher and student may continue to dispose garbage and waste in open spaces or on the streets, contributing to pollution. This disparity between theory and practice clearly depicts the failure of education. It is important to ask whether education broadens the horizons of the mind to face the challenges of reality, or is it simply a collection of information that must be memorised and reproduced in order to score the highest marks? 

Mother Teresa had a profound respect for human life, even the unborn in the womb, and bequeathed that respect to her sisters - the Missionaries of Charity. In the 1971 war between East and West Pakistan, an estimated 200,000 women were raped. Some women committed suicide. Many wanted to abort their babies. Mother Teresa begged them to have their babies and give them to her, assuring them that, 'Her sisters will take care of them and provide these children with a good home'. 

Mother Teresa is a shining example of a pro-lifer. Value for life is not expressed merely in a classroom situation; it is rather realised in a concrete circumstance. Mother Teresa expressed her pro-life opinion, concretely spelling it out in the urgent demanding situation of war. Her respect and love for life did not permit her to turn a blind eye to the impending genocide. Besides, her respect for life was not restricted to saving another's life. Her pro-life attitude continued in the daily routine of showing care and concern for the sick and aged as a normal practice of her congregation. 

Mother Teresa is a shining example of vision, persistence and commitment. Despite having her life set before her, she was willing to respond to a need that she felt was not receiving sufficient attention, even though it meant losing her security. She dared to choose what is right over what is comfortable. 

Once she had established herself and her followers, she was proactive in envisioning projects that could foster a better outreach to those in need, and she never gave up. Once a goal has been set, one requires to put everything one has into achieving it. "Sacrifices will have to be made, but faith and vision must never be lost" was her axiom in life. 

Mother Teresa is a wonderful teacher, and her life has a lot to offer us. Mother Teresa is a witness to the values that education ought to bring us. Her life is an inspiration to teachers and students alike. 

Ian Pinto SDB is currently pursuing his Master's degree in Philosophy at Divyadaan, Nashik.