She did not have a definite plan to go into teaching. But now she has not only made a name for herself in this profession, but has also won the hearts of her students.
Thanjual Bawm has already worked as the headteacher at several government primary schools in Bandarban, one of the remotest districts in the southeastern corner of Bangladesh. Now she is the headteacher at Kachinghata Government Primary School in Bandarban Sadar upazila.
"I became a teacher by chance. Later, I realised it is not like other professions. Success in this profession is not possible without helping children grow through an understanding of their psychology," she told The Business Standard.
At the beginning of her career, she worked at a school in a very remote area in Ruma upazila. The institution was located 20 kilometres from Bandarban Sadar. It was a hilly route and there was no transport.
"I had to walk to school every day. The commute took the whole day," she recalled.
Even though the commute would leave her exhausted at the end of the day, she did not quit teaching. Rather than commute to her workplace every day, she moved to the area where the school was located and rented a house.
"I endured all this as I thought about the future of the underprivileged students in the remote area."
She then joined a school in Bandarban Sadar where students' attendance was irregular.
"The school was in a precarious condition, and students' results were not satisfactory."
Thanjual took an initiative to overhaul how the school was run. She would hold regular meetings with parents and also took several steps to improve the quality of education.
"It was in 2011. For the first time that year, several students at the school received primary scholarship. Then, I won the best teacher award in the district," she said.
In 2016, she got the opportunity to go to Thailand on a seven-day official tour. She visited many schools there and learned a lot about the Thai way of running schools.
Born in Ruma, Thanjual passed her higher secondary certificate exams from Bandarban Government College. She obtained her bachelor's and master's degrees from Chittagong College. She also got a B.Ed degree from Government Teachers' Training College in Chattogram.
She is a Bawm, an indigenous community, and has two children.
She does not consider distance of the workplace a barrier to her profession. That is why she is interested in teaching in a remote area again, if need be.
"As I have a small child, I applied for a transfer to a school in Sadar upazila. In future, I will go to an underdeveloped area and teach students there," she told The Business Standard.
She said students in hilly areas face many difficulties.
"They live in remote areas where the communication system is poor. They also have language barriers. Therefore, they lag behind students living in the mainland," Thanjual explained.
In addition to teaching, she is involved in various social activities. She is the central general secretary of Bawm Women's Association, the female wing of Bawm Social Council that represents the Bawm community.
She said Bawm women come to her for suggestions to deal with different problems in their lives and the society.
"Bawm women face issues with property inheritance. They do not enjoy their rights. They also face financial problems during illness."
Thanjual Bawm said she always tries to help her fellow Bawm women.
Riyakanunmawai Bawm, an orphan in a remote area of Ruma, was on the verge of dropping out after both his parents passed away. Thanjual helped him, and he is now continuing his studies.
Siyamfen Bawm, a resident of the remote area of Remakri in Thanchi upazila, had been suffering from anemia. After learning about her illness, Thanjual collected funds in various ways and arranged better treatment for her.
"When I was ill, I had nobody to look after me," said Siyamfen, adding that she was grateful for what Thanjual had done for her.
Mang E Marma of Shualok area said Thanjual develops a bond with her students quite easily.
"Whatever school she works at, the quality of education there improves within several years."