By Syed Zafar Mehdi
Ismail Azerinejad took up teaching years ago not as a profession but as an egalitarian mission — to contribute to society, and in particular, the less fortunate.
He travels from village to village in central Iran’s Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province with the zeal of a missionary and the passion of an activist, looking for children who cannot afford to go to schools or buy books.
Speaking to the Press TV website, the cleric with humble background said he decided to dedicate himself to the education of children in villages as he considers books as a key catalyst to “develop societies”.
“Knowledge can help society grow. In villages, kids had no access to books and that’s why I started going to villages with books. I read books (to children) and we talk to each other,” he said with humility.
On Tuesday, May 2, Iran marked National Teachers’ Day, which coincides with the martyrdom anniversary of legendary Iranian scholar Ayatollah Morteza Mutahhari, known commonly as ‘Ustaad Mutahhari’.
Azerinejad said he has been tremendously influenced by the life and scholarly legacy of Ayatollah Mutahhari, who authored several seminal books during his life on a range of subjects — from sacred to temporal.
“I have been reading Ustaad Mutahhari’s books since I was a teenager. I still read them and I believe he was a free-thinking scholar with a scientific temper,” he said in an interview with the Press TV website.
Azerinejad said the great Iranian martyr defined education “as a means of preparing the ground for people to grow and evolve”.
He believes that society needs “creative students and children”, which he sees as a “missing link” in the educational system.
“So we are making every effort to help foster creativity and imagination in children through games, arts, storytelling and other activities,” he remarked, elaborating on his endeavors.
He said his small team delivers books to children in far-flung villages, making education accessible and affordable for them and then Azerinejad personally gives lessons to them, mostly in open spaces, sometimes under the shade of trees.
His Twitter page is replete with pictures of children in villages, sitting in a class in an open field, or a roofless room with mud-plastered walls, or engaged in creative activities or book-reading sessions.
“We have a network that delivers books to children in villages, and one of my tasks is to supply books to this network and go to villages with books for children and to read stories to them,” he noted.
“We give books to about 13,000 children in various villages and cities of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province.”
Azerinejad’s small team also provides help to village schools in construction works, fixing equipment, or simply painting the walls. He also helps in constructing toilets in schools.
The teacher believes a person can only be educated when the ground is prepared for him to learn, not through force or coercion.
“Our future plan is to train more tutors and teachers so that they can engage in different activities with children in villages and cities.”
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