From burqa-clad girls in madrasas to children in blue government school uniforms, millions of Indian students tuned in to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Teachers’ Day address beamed across the country on Friday.
In remote parts of Odisha where Maoists hold sway and many schools do not have access to TV sets, electricity and generators, students heard the PM’s speech on battery-operated radio sets.
At Lucknow’s Eram-Lil-Binaat madrasa, hundreds of girls, their faces covered, kept their eyes fixed on a big projector set up for the day. They cheered as “Modi sir” stepped up to deliver his televised speech.
When the Prime Minister said there was no room for discrimination, it touched 22-year-old Rafiya Bano, one of the students at the all-girls madrasa. “This was a good gesture and the message will go down well with the community (which) normally dislikes (the) right wing,” Rafiya said.
Over three million children and their parents in Punjab watched the programme live via edusat, television sets and projectors in schools, as even banquet halls were booked for the biggest show of the day.
However, poor Internet speeds ruined the webcast in several Mumbai schools. At the Parle Tilak Vidyalaya, the constant glitches forced teachers to let the students leave after 45 minutes. “The children were bored and did not enjoy it,” said Swapna Triloke, a teacher.
In Indore, girls at Ahilya Ashram Higher Secondary School were seen plating each other’s hair and boys at another school were engrossed in chatter as Modi advised them to work hard and play hard from a big screen.
Students at a government-run institute for hearing-speech impaired children in Jaipur were more enthusiastic as they watched their teachers translate the PM’s words in sign language.
“It was a unique event for us and it was nice to see that our leader is so concerned about children. Hope he does something for us as well,” said Pankaj Jhajharia, a student at the institute.
The language barrier also fazed many children in Chennai, but Modi’s affability and quips more than made up for this. “It was a trifle difficult to understand the Hindi. But the fact that the PM thought it fit to speak directly to students gave me a high,” said R Sundaram, a Class 10 student of Bala Vidya Mandir.